Up Close: Katherine Pohlidal

Up Close: Katherine Pohlidal

UP CLOSE & PERSONAL
WITH ALAN K. STOUT

Katherine Pohlidal is the director of Ruth Matthews Bourger Women with Children Program at Misericordia University. A native of Glen Lyon, she is a graduate of Bishop Hoban High School and Penn State University, where she earned a degree in sociology and psychology. She earned a master’s degree in education in counseling psychology from Penn State and an master’s degree in business administration from Alvernia University. She lives in Shavertown.
Meet Katherine Pohlidal …

Tell us a little about the Women with Children program at Misericordia.
It was started in 2000 by Sister Jean Messaros, who is now the vice president of mission integration at Misericordia. She discovered that there were a lot of single moms in the area that were trying to get into college but just couldn’t afford it. It was not a feasible option. And so she decided that she wanted to help single moms living at the poverty level get their four-year degree. Since then, we have been slowly building, and in 2017, we are up to three homes on our lower campus that house up to 16 families. Our target group is single mothers living at the poverty level in the Luzerne, Lackawanna and Wyoming county area, but we also accept women from all over the country. We’re one of only eight programs of its kind in the country. It’s a very, very unique program.

So the women studying in the program live on campus with their children?
Yes. It’s actually a pretty incredible program. Each house is community living, so our families share the space. Each mom and child get their own bedrooms, but it’s common living space on the main floor. The housing, for up to four years, is free. And it’s a gift from the university. We’re the only program in the country that does that. The women do pay for their tuition, but we’re constantly grant-writing and fundraising for scholarship dollars to keep their debt loads down. Our goal, for when they get their degree, is that they’re going to go off and be successful, which they are. We have 100-percent success if you graduate from our program. The goal is to break down the barriers of poverty, two generations at a time. And it works.

Besides economic status, what other prerequisites are there for these moms to be involved in the program? You also must be looking for people that are highly committed to finishing school.
It’s a tall order. And it’s not for everyone, because the rigor of the academics and the pressure that our women are under is pretty tremendous. A woman first has to be accepted to the university before they’re eligible for our program, so that creates that threshold of academic eligibility. But once they come in, our women are very high performers. They’re extremely committed. They’re full-time students/full-time moms, and they generally graduate at the top of their classes because they just work so hard.

What do you enjoy about it the most?
It’s very rewarding because you see these wonderful outcomes. Providing people that might not necessarily have a shot, the opportunity to get their degree and go on to fulfill their dreams, whether that be professionally or personally, is just tremendous. I am a firm believer that you can really make an impact if you give people an opportunity and a chance to do better for themselves.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I love trail-running with my two dogs. I have two black Labs, and I love being outdoors and in nature. I also love to play tennis. I’m an avid tennis player.

Do you have any hobbies?
I love looking for antiques and old finds, and rehabbing old furniture. I always think that’s fun.

Favorite music?
My tastes are pretty eclectic. It could be anything from old throwbacks like Ella Fitzgerald to Wynton Marsalis or Diana Krall. Or U2, or classic rock. And I love Led Zeppelin. It just depends on my mood.

Do you follow sports?
Penn State football and all Big Ten sports with Penn State. But especially football.

Favorite city?
Philadelphia. I lived outside of Philly for almost 10 years. Before this job, I worked at Ursinus, and I just love Philly. I just love the history and the people.

Favorite vacation spot?
Cape Cod.

Favorite thing about NEPA?
The people. There’s just a unique type of person around here, which I think you recognize especially if you grew up around here. People are just sort of naturally more friendly. You’re in line at Wegmans, and people just start talking to you. And there’s just something about that. It’s part of our legacy. I appreciate the local culture.

Favorite food?
My mom’s lasagna.

All-time favorite movie?
“Casablanca.” I like old things. I think maybe I’m just an old soul, but I trend towards older things, and I think that movie is just perfect in any way.

Favorite TV show?
I just watched “The Crown” series on Netflix and loved it.

Favorite holiday?
Christmas. Just because of my family and all of the traditions that come with it.

Favorite quote or catchphrase?
“You’re never wrong to do the right thing” — Mark Twain.

Favorite book or author?
I love American history. And a book that really stands out is “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln,” by Doris Kearns Goodwin.

Biggest pet peeve?
When people are smoking in their car and they flick the butt out the window. I hate that. It drives me nuts.

Guilty pleasure?
Great red wine and Belgian chocolate. Preferably together.

Is there anything about you that might surprise even your friends?
I love motorcycles. I won’t get one, because I’d probably be doomed, but maybe someday. (Laughs) I actually have my permit. I was the only woman at the class at Harley-Davidson with all of these guys. It was just something I wanted to do. I love them. And that might surprise some people. There’s something freeing about it. One day I’d like to plan a trip and just go. I think it would be really cool to motorcycle through Europe.

Have you had a moment or experience that has helped shape you as a person?
I had a great opportunity to visit India around 2009. …. Being exposed to that dynamic of abject poverty really had a big impact on my perspective, in that people can still live and survive through a lot of different things. And at the same time, being at the Taj Mahal — it’s so immense and so beautiful. Seeing the juxtaposition of the two — there’s so many beautiful things in the world, and there’s so many harsh things in the world — and how do you find that middle ground? It gave me a lot of perspective, just about appreciating your life. And it’s helped to drive a lot of what I do, just because I think one person can make a difference, and one person can have an impact.

UP CLOSE & PERSONAL with ALAN K. STOUT is a regular feature in electric city, profiling people from all walks of life throughout NEPA. Reach Alan at alankstout@comcast.net.

photos by emma black

Up Close: Amanda Krieg

Up Close: Amanda Krieg

UP CLOSE & PERSONAL
WITH ALAN K. STOUT

Amanda Krieg is owner and operator of Amanda Krieg Photography, a Clarks Summit studio that opened in 2015. Krieg is a native of Scranton but moved to Factoryville when she was 12. She is a graduate of Lackawanna Trail Junior-Senior High School and Keystone College, where she received a degree in visual arts. She and her husband, Taylor, have a daughter, Isabella, 17 months. They live in Clarks Summit.
Meet Amanda Krieg …

When did you first realize that you loved photography?
In college. It was one of my art electives. It was just a film photography class, and I just kind of lived in the dark room all the time. All of my other classes just fell to the wayside. I remember my teacher saying, “You’ve got to get out of the dark room. The chemicals aren’t good for you.” I’d spend 10 hours in there. I just loved it. I don’t do that now. I shoot digitally. But I do love film. That’s how I learned.

Is that when you knew you might want to make it a career?
Originally, just from seeing some of my postings online of things I was working on at school, a friend of mine asked if I’d photograph her wedding. And I said, “No way.” I said, “I don’t photograph people. I photograph barns and country roads.” (Laughs) But I was talking to my mom about it, and she said, “But what if you really like it? What if you do like photographing people?” So I went back to her and told her that I was honored that she asked me, and that though I had already told her, “No,” was there any chance that if she had already hired a professional, that I could still come and just check it out and see what they’re doing, and also take some photos at no cost. She had hired someone at that point, and they allowed me to go, and I brought my camera. And I stayed the longest. I just fell in love with it. And then from that wedding I got another, and then another, and it just spiraled. And I think that’s because I love it. I got told that a lot from the couples that I work with — that they can tell that I love what I do. And I think that’s really important.
When was that first wedding that you photographed?
That was 2011. This will be my seventh wedding season.

What else do you specialize in besides weddings?
Newborns, children, families … I really like to shoot outside. I think if we lived in a place where it was warmer, I wouldn’t even have a studio. But we live in Northeast PA, and not everyone wants to take their kids out in the snow for pictures. (Laughs) But I like the studio. It’s a nice place to meet my wedding couples.

What do you enjoy the most about the work?
For me, the thing about photography … I’ve had family members pass away, and my sister passed away, and after somebody passes, all you really have are your memories and your pictures. So for me, I think about that every single time I do a shoot. It’s a big deal. These are things that people are going to look back on. Photos last a lifetime and bring back so many memories.

What has been your most memorable shoot?
That first wedding that I shot was kind of a “eureka” moment for me. Even that day, I thought about not going. But I’m so glad I listened to my mom. It was amazing. I loved it. It was like a light switch for me. I can still remember how I felt and how exciting it was just to try and get all of the different views that I would want if it were my wedding. I’ve done so many, but that one stands out the most because it was such a turning point.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
Playing with my daughter. She loves “Sesame Street,” and we watch a lot of “Sesame Street.” I love book-making, which I learned in school. I like painting and up-cycling old furniture. I love music, and I love to travel. And I just recently got into cooking, and I love it.

Who are some of your favorite musical artists?
Coldplay, Dave Matthews Band, Jack Johnson and the Avett Brothers.

Favorite color?
Turquoise.

Favorite city?
San Francisco.

Favorite vacation spot?
Disney World. Probably because of our daughter.

Favorite thing about NEPA?
I love the seasons. Each season seems to bring out something different in me, even in my work.

Favorite food?
Italian. Specifically, pizza.

All-time favorite movie?
“Cruel Intentions.”

Favorite TV show?
“Fixer Upper.”

Favorite holiday?
I love Halloween and Christmas, and the Fourth of July, because my birthday is on the fifth.

Favorite quote or catchphrase?
“Isn’t it funny how, day by day, nothing changes, but when you look back, everything is different” — C.S. Lewis. It’s on my website. It kind of relates to how I feel about what I do. Pictures kind of bring us back to that.

Favorite book or author?
I’m a serial reader. I like to read series. Right now I’m reading “The Magnolia Story.”

Do you have any pets?
Two dogs. A husky, Riley, and a Pomeranian, Lucy.

Guilty pleasure?
Chocolate.

Biggest pet peeve?
The sound of people chewing too loudly. Including my husband. (Laughs)

Who, if anyone, has had the greatest influence on your life?
Absolutely my mom. She supports me with everything. Good or bad, she’s always there. She’s a really strong person. Her mom passed away when she was only 15. All of her siblings passed away, as did two of her children. She’s had a lot of loss, but you would meet her and never know. She’s just so strong. She always looks to the future and just keeps pushing. She’s definitely my biggest role model.

UP CLOSE & PERSONAL with ALAN K. STOUT is a regular feature in electric city, profiling people from all walks of life throughout NEPA. Reach Alan at alankstout@comcast.net.

photos by emma black

 

Up Close: Rory Flynn

Up Close: Rory Flynn

UP CLOSE & PERSONAL
WITH ALAN K. STOUT

Rory Flynn is the executive chef and kitchen manager at Ale Mary’s in Scranton. He has held the position for three years. He is a graduate of Scranton Preparatory School and Kutztown University, where he received a degree in social work. He also received an associate degree in culinary arts at Luzerne County Community College. He and his wife, Nicole, live in Scranton.
Meet Rory Flynn …

You have degrees in social work and culinary arts. How did you end up choosing a career in cooking?
Cooking was always something I was fond of. Both of my grandmothers always cooked Sunday and holiday meals, and I was always watching and learning. After I graduated from Kutztown, I worked at the Friendship House, which basically paid for me to go to culinary school. While I worked there, I was also going to school part-time for culinary. I was also working part-time at the Waldorf, a social club up on the East Mountain. My neighbor, from where I grew up, was the head chef there, and he brought me in to learn. Even when I was at Kutztown, I talked to my parents about how I always really wanted to go to culinary school. And it even stems back to high school, when I went on a service trip Mexico, and I saw a different culture with food. Wanting to help people is what brought me on the path to social work, but food was always in the back of my head.

What do you like about it?
Seeing the enjoyment that everyone else gets by eating your food. There’s a lot more that goes into running a kitchen than just the cooking aspect, but it’s really about seeing others enjoy your food and feeling good about it. I always say my food is “feel-good food.” When you break up with your boyfriend or girlfriend and you just want to pig out, it’s the type of food you’re going to eat. (Laughs.)

What are some of your favorite items on your own menu?
I’m constantly changing it up. Right now we’re in the process of putting out a new menu, and I think we’re going back to the basics and some previous items that we had that customers have been requesting that we bring back. We used to have a chicken parm sandwich called the “Parmageddon,” which we’re putting back on. Mac and cheese is also always popular and is a house favorite, as are the pulled-pork nachos. And the wings are always a hit. We’ve won some awards. There are a lot of things people enjoy.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
Relaxing. I like listening to music. I like getting tattooed. Reading. And just hanging out with my wife and my dog. The simple things.

Do you have any hobbies? Are you a collector?
Sneakers. I’m a big Vans guy. I probably have about 15 pairs.

Favorite music?
Old hip-hop, A Tribe Called Quest, Wu-Tang Clan, Rage Against the Machine, My Morning Jacket. It all depends on my mood.

Do you follow sports?
Buffalo Bills. I grew up with my father and brother being Dallas Cowboys fans, so I always rooted against them. (Laughs) And, for college, Duke basketball.

All-time favorite movie?
“The Goonies.”

Favorite city?
I don’t really like big cities. If I were to visit anywhere, it would be Jim Thorpe.

Favorite thing about NEPA?
The memories. Growing up here with family and friends. And trying to make new memories.

Favorite food?
A peanut butter and jelly sandwich with sliced bananas. When people ask me that question, that always shocks them. But I think it’s the simpler stuff that I like. That’s my favorite: chunky peanut butter, grape jelly and sliced bananas.

Favorite holiday?
Any that I get to spend with my family.

Favorite book or author?
“The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein. I have a tattoo of it. Just the whole concept of the book is something I grew up with. It holds a lot of meaning to me.

Biggest pet peeve?
Things not being in place. Even in the kitchen, I always feel everything has to have a spot. Some say it’s OCD, but I think everything should have its own little place. I like to be organized.

Guilty pleasure?
Big Macs from McDonald’s.

You mentioned your dog. What type do you have?
A bulldog named Henry. He’s my right-hand man. He’s actually going to be my next tattoo.

Is there anything about you that might surprise even your friends?
With my close friends, there’s nothing that really surprises them. I always say that my close friends understand me for who I am. I guess I have two different personalities with work and outside of work. I’m a friendly outgoing person outside of work, and at work, it’s strictly business. And with my close friends, there is really nothing that would surprise them.

Have you had a moment or a time period in your life that has helped shape you into the person you are today?
My service trip to Mexico. It was just before my senior year of high school. It was my first time travelling, and it was just an eye-opener … to see how really grateful I should be for what I have. Being in Mexico City and seeing a whole different side of the world — it was just the small things that you might take for granted, that I don’t take for granted anymore. I’m very grateful for what I have.
UP CLOSE & PERSONAL with ALAN K. STOUT is a regular feature in electric city, profiling people from all walks of life throughout NEPA. Reach Alan at alankstout@comcast.net.

photos by emma black

Up Close: Tyler Pawelzik

Up Close: Tyler Pawelzik

UP CLOSE & PERSONAL
WITH ALAN K. STOUT

Tyler Pawelzik is the owner and operator of Black Casket Tattoo in Dickson City, which opened in 2013. Pawelzik is a native of Factoryville and a graduate a Lackawanna Trail Junior-Senior High School. He lives in Dickson City.
Meet Tyler Pawelzik …

What was it, initially, that first made you want to become a tattoo artist?
I always drew, so I always knew that I wanted to do something that had to do with art or drawing. And a lot of the music that I listened to when I was a teenager — all of the guys in the bands were heavily tattooed, so that was naturally an influence on me. The whole lifestyle that I was into at that time with music, and the fact that I drew, just went hand-in-hand.

It’s an exceptional skill. You have to be really good. People are trusting you with their body and their appearance and even their health. Where, or how, does one learn how to become a tattoo artist?
Honestly, I was mostly self-taught. I did practice on friends, but I got into a shop basically a month after I graduated high school, so that was my opportunity to try it. But the people that I was learning under … the kid was only tattooing for three months, so he wasn’t a tattooer. He had been trying it for three months, and then he was going to try and teach me. But obviously, what are you going to teach me if you don’t know how to do it yet.? So it was basically trial and error. But I had a natural knack for it. And though I caught on quickly, it took me years and years to learn good composition, and what real tattooing is, and what to reference. I caught on quickly in being able to do good lines and solid shading, but learning the educational side of tattooing, on how it’s supposed to be done, is what took me years and years to figure out.

What are some of the more memorable tattoos that you have done on people? Is there anyone out there in NEPA that you’ve pretty much covered from head-to-toe?
Not head-to-toe, but actually, one kid, almost head-to-toe. I’ve tattooed him down as low as his ankle, and I’ve also tattooed around his head. I’m the only one that’s tattooed him, and he’s probably my favorite client to date.

Is there a particular tattoo that you’ve done that’s the most memorable?
I don’t think the most memorable ones are appropriate for newspaper print. (Laughs.)

What was the most unusual request you’ve ever had for a tattoo?
Same answer. (Laughs). I couldn’t believe the girl wanted it, but she wanted it, and the significance was strange. But I did it.

Do you ever try to talk anyone out of a tattoo? Such as when an 18 year-old kid wants his girlfriend’s name tattooed across his back?
Illogical tattoos and racist tattoos, I would turn away, or try to talk them out of. With the illogical ones, if they still want to get them after I’ve told them it isn’t a good idea, I’d still do it, because they’re just going to go to someone else. But racist, I wouldn’t do regardless. I wouldn’t want to be associated with that.

What do you enjoy about the work the most?
The environment, the freedom and my clients. That’s pretty much it. I couldn’t ask for more. All of those things make it great.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I used to go to the gym a lot, but not as much anymore, so I just lightly train. I like to do physical activity. I’m athletic, so I don’t like to just sit around, because I sit as work. But recently, I’ve gotten into more art-related stuff outside of work, like painting, so I’m sitting down. (Laughs.) I mostly like to utilize my time into doing things that are going to make me more successful. I like to put 80 or 90 percent of my efforts into my business and tattooing, or anything that goes along with it. It might be separate things, but it’s all working towards the same goal.

Who are some of your favorite musical artists?
Pink Floyd. Drake. Future. I know it’s a weird mix, but that’s who is most commonly being played by me. I do listen to some heavy music, too.

Do you follow sports?
Dallas Cowboys.

Favorite city?
New York. I’m not a big fan of cities, but if I had to pick one, it would be New York City.

Favorite vacation spot?
I don’t like vacations. I have two days off every week, so in my eyes, you get a vacation every week. There’s nothing that makes me feel more worthless than going a full week of doing absolutely nothing. I don’t need that much time to relax. I’m off Sunday and Monday, but this Monday, I came in and tattooed. Usually even one day off is plenty for me. I’d rather be working.

Favorite thing about NEPA?
The four seasons. And the mountains are pretty.

Favorite food?
Ribs. Sushi. And hot wing pizza.

All-time favorite movie?
“The Crow.” And “Step Brothers,” “Elf” and anything Will Ferrell.

Favorite holiday?
I enjoy most holidays, but you really can’t beat Christmas.

Favorite quote or catchphrase?
“The best or nothing.” It’s a slogan used by Mercedes. Why do anything if you’re not doing your best at it?

Any pets?
Three cats: Flex, Meek and Lilith.

Guilty pleasure?
I don’t think I feel guilty about anything that gives me pleasure. Anything that I enjoy, I don’t care who knows it.

Have you had a defining personal moment?
Opening my business was probably the biggest thing in my life. It changed my goals. It changed my outlook on life. With time, I just find out more about who I really am. The older I get, the more I get it. The more I understand and comprehend everything. And opening my own business changed my work, for the better, instantly, because I created an environment that was inspiring. And it reflected in my work.

UP CLOSE & PERSONAL with ALAN K. STOUT is a regular feature in electric city, profiling people from all walks of life throughout NEPA. Reach Alan at alankstout@comcast.net.

photos by emma black

Up Close: Jordan Ramirez

Up Close: Jordan Ramirez

UP CLOSE & PERSONAL WITH ALAN K. STOUT

Jordan Ramirez is a professional musician whose work combines elements of hip-hop and soul. He has released a solo album, “Ink,” and also is the lead singer of rock/funk band Half Dollar, which recently dropped its self-titled album. In addition, he is a copy editor and video editor with Petroleum Service Co. and recently launched his own record label, Going Up? Records. Several of his music videos can be found on YouTube. Ramirez is a native of Plains Twp. and a graduate of Coughlin High School and Wilkes University, where he received a degree in English literature and creative writing. He and his girlfriend, Kamri, live in Kingston.
Meet Jordan Ramirez …

Let’s talk, first, about your solo material. You write your songs alone, on a guitar, and yet your music is not presented in the typical singer/songwriter style. What inspired your unique sound?
The percussive element of old-school hip-hop is what I always related to. But really, I genuinely love all African-American music. Blues, soul, funk and hip-hop. That’s what I love. I have a tendency, if I write a song, for it to be hip-hop from the get-go, sonically. I’m not a great rapper. I’m a singer. But I like the sound of hip-hop. So, I usually sing over a hip-hop sound. But I’d say, with my songwriting, with just a guitar, it’s more soul.

And what about your work with Half Dollar?
It’s fun. And that is the main thing. It’s supposed to be fun. One thing that comes with a rock band is that it’s loud. (Laughs) I like that, but there’s something to be said about the simplicity of an acoustic guitar, a singer, particularly with the words, for someone who’s an English guy and concentrates on content. But the band is fun. It’s almost cathartic in a way to play music loudly and get people moving. It’s about dancing and grooving, whereas the solo stuff is more about the narrative, the lyrics and the personal feeling behind it. It’s like my solo stuff is for me and the other stuff is for the people that we’re playing for. I want everybody to enjoy it, but the rock band is specifically for fun.

What’s the goal of your record label?
I mix and produce music, and I produce music videos. And it’s about collaboration and the idea that musicians should be working together, particularly independent local musicians. There are people in bands, and we’ll see each other in passing, and we won’t talk about music. The label is about working with musicians.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I really enjoy a good cup of coffee. (Laughs.) And I really like hiking and camping. And I like exercising. But usually, if I’m not at work, at my 9-to-5 job, I’m working on music.

Do you have any hobbies? Are you a collector?
Guitars. I have about 12, but about eight of them are broken, so I don’t know if that counts. (Laughs). The other thing is video games. That’s one thing I never throw away. I have them from when I was a kid until now.

Who are some of your favorite musical artists?
Early Busta Rhymes, Ray Lamontagne, Marvin Gaye and Al Green.

Do you follow sports?
I’m a huge Mets fan. People usually identify me by my Mets hat. I’m always wearing it.

Favorite city?
At the moment, Philadelphia. New York’s too crazy. Philadelphia’s got all of the art and the music and the food, but it’s just a little more relaxed.

Favorite vacation spot?
A close one is the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon. That’s probably my spot. To get away for a couple of days, that’s where I’d go. I’m not a big beach guy.

Favorite thing about NEPA?
It has a certain charm that many people struggle to recognize. I don’t have any desire to “get out of here.” That’s what so many people’s aspirations are. They want to make a hit record so they can leave Wilkes-Barre. I want to put Wilkes-Barre on the map because there are so many great artists here. There is some serious talent. There are a lot of artistic people here and kindred spirits.

Favorite food?
Pizza.

All-time favorite movie?
“The Matrix” and “Eastern Promises.”

Favorite TV show?
“Vikings.”

Favorite holiday?
Christmas.

Favorite author?
Leo Tolstoy.

Favorite book?
“Lord of the Rings.”

Any pets?
A cat, Viggo.

Is there anything about you that might surprise people?
I really like gospel music. And sometimes being angsty and rocking out on stage, I don’t think people would get that idea. But I love sweet, soulful, positive, passionate stuff. I’m pretty spiritual and religious. And that’s another thing to be battling with in the 21st century as a singer/songwriter. Those ideas aren’t the most common raw materials for songwriting, this day and age, so I guess sometimes you have to disguise it a little bit.

Biggest pet peeve?
When people think they’re smarter than me and don’t realize that there’s multiple criteria to base that on. They’ll use something like being socially adept, or anything, such as the subject of religion or God, and people will say that because you think a certain way, you’re stupid. That really drives me nuts. Nothing gets me fired up, but that does.

Have you had a moment in your life that has helped shape you into the person you are today?
I don’t know. It all just happens pretty effortlessly. Life just kind of falls into place for you, and you see where your strengths lie. If you’re looking, it’s pretty easy to find that you’re better at doing “this” than “that.” I like to think that my self-awareness is what brought me down this path of being a musician. Trying to relate to people through music … it’s the universal language. And I think I’m most inclined to be able to help somebody through music.

UP CLOSE & PERSONAL with ALAN K. STOUT is a regular feature in electric city, profiling people from all walks of life throughout NEPA. Reach Alan at alankstout@comcast.net.

photos by emma black

 

Up Close: Aaron Fink

Up Close: Aaron Fink

UP CLOSE & PERSONAL
WITH ALAN K. STOUT

Aaron Fink is a professional musician who will release his third solo album, “Galaxies,” on Jan. 20. Fink is a native of Rochester, New York, but grew up in Selinsgrove and has lived in the Wyoming Valley/Luzerne County area for the past 18 years. He studied music at Duquesne University and received a degree in music engineering from Full Sail University. Before launching his solo career, he was lead guitarist for Breaking Benjamin and a member of Lifer, both national recording artists. In addition to his solo work, he plays with the band Gentleman East. He has a son, Gavin, 15. He lives in Dallas.
Meet Aaron Fink …

“Galaxies” is your third solo album in just three years, and you continue to be very prolific as an artist. I can’t think of any other regional songwriter who has released more music in recent years. What do you attribute that to?
I’m just writing a lot. I started writing, like it’s my job, six or seven years ago, so I’ve cataloged quite a number of songs. There’s a song on “Galaxies” that’s 12 years old. Some were songs that were just laying around and I dusted off. I chip away at it. And I also overwrite. For every song that I release out into the wild, I may have written 10.

But still, even though you’ve taken a workman-like approach to writing, you need to be inspired. What’s your muse these days when it comes to songwriting?
Life. It’s as simple as that. And, a) I think I’m an old soul, and b) I had all of this crazy (stuff) happen to me before I was 25 years old. By the time I was 25, I was a father, I was on my second record deal, I owned a house, and then all of this other stuff happened beyond that. I certainly haven’t had a boring life. It’s been quite eventful, and sometimes with extreme highs and extreme lows, so I feel like I have a lot to draw from. I guess everybody does, but I guess I just figured out a way to channel that into lyrics and melodies and something that fits around some chords on a guitar. Some stuff is personal, and some is more relatable to everybody. I think all great songs may start personally, but they’re open-ended enough that someone could say, “That means something to me,” and you could put yourself in it.
You’re not only a guitarist but also a multi-instrumentalist and vocalist. You even play drums, and you’re a producer and a songwriter. What do you consider yourself the most?
On a good day, I think I’m a good guitar player. Although if I practiced more, I’d probably be better. And I think I’m blossoming into a good songwriter. I use the guitar as a tool, but the thing I care about the most is good songs. I like good songs. I think everybody does. And that helps me as a producer or playing other instruments, because I’m not just focused on the guitar.

“Galaxies” was recorded at S.I. Studios in Old Forge, and you’ve now recorded three solo albums at three studios. Why have you chosen to keep moving around?
Mostly just to mix it up and keep it fresh. And maybe just to get some different sounds and meet some different people that might push me in a way I haven’t been pushed. To me, I equate making a record to making a movie, and you wouldn’t make the same movie in the same location over and over.

Your time with Breaking Benjamin was remarkable, in that you were a part of several gold and platinum albums. And yet your departure from the band was fairly turbulent. How does it feel to you today when you hear one of those songs on the radio?
I have mixed emotions. I guess it depends on the song and what was going on at that time. But that’s a good problem to have. I’m pretty OK with all of that at this juncture. It’s been quite a few years, and I’m moving on with different stuff. I feel comfortable with what I’m doing now and comfortable with my past. It was a good band, and the songs I was a part of were good songs.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
First and foremost, for me, is being a dad and being the best father I can be. Other than that, I guess I’m a bit of a movie buff. I don’t go to the theaters as much as I used to, but I digest a lot at home on Netflix.

Who are some of your all-time favorite musical artists?
I like a lot of oddball stuff, but I always come back to the same stuff that everyone else likes: the Beatles, Tom Petty, Zeppelin, Floyd … I really like Dave Matthews and Pearl Jam and a lot of that early ’90s stuff. Chili Peppers, Soundgarden and Alice in Chains. And I like old-school hip-hop, like Run-D.M.C. and Ice-T. I like a little bit of it all.

Do you follow sports?
I like nerdy sports, like golf and tennis, but If I had to pick a city I associate with the most, it’s Pittsburgh. The Steelers, Pirates and Penguins.

Do you remember your first car?
Yes, unfortunately. It was a 1983 maroon Nissan Sentra station wagon with a hole on the driver’s side floor. When it rained, it would fill up an inch or two, and I’d have to let it air out. Pretty rugged. But you’ve got to start somewhere.

Favorite food?
Either sushi of good Mexican.

You’ve toured the entire country several times. What’s your favorite city?
The ones that I’ve always liked were northern and kind of mountainous and had some water going on. That’s Seattle. That’s Pittsburgh; Portland, Oregon; and Portland, Maine. And San Francisco is great. But if I had to pick one, Seattle.

Favorite thing about Northeast Pennsylvania?
Probably the people. I’ve garnered quite a few really good, lifelong friends here. And this city has been very generous to me in terms of my career, which I’m thankful for.

All-time favorite movie?
I like all of the Kubrick stuff — “The Shining” and “A Clockwork Orange.” I also like “Dazed and Confused” and “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.”

Favorite TV show?
“Breaking Bad.” And I was a huge fan of Miami Vice.”

Favorite book or author?
My favorite author is Jim Harrison, who just passed away last year. He’s best known for “Legends of the Fall,” which was made into a movie, but he’s got a great repertoire of awesome stuff.

Any pets?
My best friend, Lola. She’s a Weimaraner.

Guilty pleasure?
Def Leppard.

Have you had a moment in your life, or a time in your life, that has helped define you and make you the person you are today?
Becoming a father. It keeps me grounded. It keeps me responsible. It keeps me working. It keeps me behaving. It keeps me focused on things that matter. Especially being a professional musician, I think I could have gotten really lost without that. When I came home from the road, being a dad was the thing I could always hang my hat on. It just makes me a better man.

UP CLOSE & PERSONAL with ALAN K. STOUT is a regular feature in electric city, profiling people from all walks of life throughout NEPA. Reach Alan at alankstout@comcast.net.

PHOTOS BY EMMA BLACK

Up Close: Michael Snopkowski

Up Close: Michael Snopkowski

UP CLOSE & PERSONAL
WITH ALAN K. STOUT

Michael Snopkowski is the owner and operator of 12 Inc. Venue Services, a full-service professional sound and lighting company. Snopkowsk is a graduate of Pittston Area High School and founded his company in 2010. He lives in Pittston.
Meet Michael Snopkowski …

How’d you first get involved with production work?
I’m a musician, and my father was a musician for a long time — a drummer. I followed in his footsteps as a drummer and decided to get into strings — guitars and violins and so forth — but throughout my teenage years, I never really did anything with it. As I got out of high school, I had an interest to play. But as a drummer, our music scene, in the early 2000s, sort of fell short. I don’t think anybody wanted to hear the drummer play solo during happy-hour at the corner establishment, so I started playing guitar and stayed with it. I’ve always been a solo musician or have played with my brother-in-law, and we’ve just played acoustic venues. And I met a lot of people through it. That’s how I made all of my connections, musically, from playing guitar and being out performing three or four nights a week. But I always wanted to go a step further, and after buying my first sound system, I knew I wanted to make it bigger and better and do it for other people.

Who are some of your favorite musical artists?
As a guitar player, Stevie Ray Vaughan. As a drummer, my dad and, of course, Gene Krupa. He was an inspiration to me. A lot of younger guys want to say Neil Peart and so on, but I want to go back to where they learned. And playing the violin for many years, I was mesmerized by seeing Charlie Daniels play when I was very young.

When you first launched your company, it initially just offered sound and lighting services for live events. But it’s really developed into much more. Can you tell us a little about it?
We’ve gone from doing productions to handling everything at the venue, such as booking, venue management and security detail. We can do everything. And there are a few places in the area that I do that with. They come to me and say they, “I want to book a show. All I know how to do is book the talent. Where do I go from there? I have technical riders and hospitality riders, and I don’t know what to do.” And we lay it out for them. We tell them what the cost is going to be and the end result and what will probably be the net and the gross. And then instead of renting out production, we have production. We have sound and lighting. And if you’re doing something larger than 100 people, we have licensed security. We can also get your tickets printed and manage them online. We’ve developed into a one-stop shop.

What do you enjoy about it?
I enjoy the initial rush when the show starts. In live sound, as opposed to studio work, there is no second take. When that band comes up, you’ve already gone through the sound check, you agreed to all of the riders, the equipment is in the building … you’ve spent days preparing for this large show, and in that single moment, when it’s show time, anything can go wrong. And it does. And what I enjoy about it is the way I handle it.

The name of the company has a special meaning to it, correct?
It stands for my 12 nieces and nephews. Nine nephews and three nieces, from my three older sisters. I’m the youngest of four.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
Boating. If I do have a free day, you’ll find me floating around on the lake with my family. We go to Harveys Lake, and we have family in New York, so we spend some time up there on the water.

Any hobbies? Are you a collector?
Guitars.

Do you follow sports?
Women’s tennis. It’s high-energy. And easy on the eyes. I enjoy watching it.

All-time favorite movie?
“Spaceballs.” Anything with Mel Brooks.

Favorite TV show?
“Family Guy.”

Favorite food?
Gyros.

Favorite city?
Pittsburgh.

Favorite vacation spot?
Don’t really have one, but I’m really itching to go out to Colorado and try some snowboarding.

Favorite thing about NEPA?
I’ve thought numerous times of moving my business out of here and trying it elsewhere, but I always find myself coming back here because of the people. This area had bred and holds some of the best musicals ever. Both young and old. They’re here. And I love the area. I love that it’s easy to jump in the car and take a short trip anywhere … New York, Jersey, Philly.

Favorite quote or catchphrase?
“It’s good to be the king.” — Mel Brooks.

Biggest pet peeve?
When people in front of me at the convenient store are buying $150 worth of lottery tickets.

Guilty pleasure?
Cadillacs. “Guitars and Cadillacs,” that’s what my girlfriend says.

Is there anything about you that might surprise even your friends?
I get nervous before every gig, whether I’m playing or putting the show on. But that’s the rush. It’s what I look for. I look for that three minutes of anxiety.

Have you had a defining personal moment or time in your life?
About nine years ago, I cut a lot of strings in my life that were really holding me back. I cut strings with people that were not letting me go in my direction. I needed to take my own turn. And choosing to do that has allowed me to meet so many people that brought me back into music, which I always wanted to do.

UP CLOSE & PERSONAL with ALAN K. STOUT is a regular feature in electric city, profiling people from all walks of life throughout NEPA. Reach Alan at alankstout@comcast.net.

photos by emma black

Up Close: Tim Meyers

Up Close: Tim Meyers

UP CLOSE & PERSONAL WITH ALAN K. STOUT

Tim Meyers is the brewery manager at the ShawneeCraft Brewing Co., Shawnee On Delaware. Meyers is a native of New Jersey, but he has lived in NEPA since seventh grade. He grew up in Archbald and is a graduate of Valley View High School and Marywood University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in photography and a master’s degree in business. He and his wife, Tiffany, live in Shawnee On Delaware.
Meet Tim Meyers …

You’ve been with the ShawneeCraft Brewing Co. for three years. What first led to you getting into that type of work?
In grad school, while I was taking my business classes, I got into home brewing. I’d been a fan of craft beers from the drinking side, and my friend and I decided to try and make some at home. I found it really interesting and for it to be an interesting business, just because there’s so much creativity in it and so many small start-ups were getting their start at that time. I just kind of happened into it as ShawneeCraft was looking for a part-time salesman in Scranton and Wilkes-Barre. I got my start as a part-time worker, selling beer to bars and restaurants. And over the course of time, (I) worked my way up to a graphic-design role and, as time went on, more of a management role.

What do you enjoy about it?
I definitely enjoy the creativity throughout the entire industry. For me, the most fun part of my job is the graphic-design work. The first time I was able to put my artwork on a can or bottle was pretty neat. It was a fun experience. And the same goes for the merchandise. That’s the part I definitely enjoy the most.

What’s your favorite beer crafted at the brewery?
We end up doing between 20 and 25 throughout the course of the year. And one of the great things about that is that almost all of them are rotating and seasonal. So I always tend to be drinking the newest thing to come out. But I really like hoppy beers, so I tend to stick to our session IPAs.

For those who might not be connoisseurs of craft beers, can you explain a session IPA?
We make a couple of different beers that we call session-style beers. And you’ll see that from other breweries as well. “Session” usually means that it’s lower in alcohol content, so you can have more than one in a session. It’s kind of a code name for a lighter style of beer. We make a session IPA, and we make a session porter. On the other hand, you’ll see imperial beers, which are usually stronger than average in alcohol content. The session IPA is one of the few beers that we do year-round. It’s kind of our reliable IPA, and I tend to really like that one. It’s a style that I really enjoy, and I think we do a good job with it. And it’s nice that it’s nice and light, so you can do a little bit more tasting and not have to worry about having too much to drink.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
Over the past year or so, I’ve gotten into playing hockey in a men’s league. I played a little roller hockey when I was younger, so I’m completely new to it. I’m in the base-level D league in Pittston, and it’s become a really fun hobby. My wife and I also love to go to concerts and see bands and movies.

Who are some of your favorite musical artists?
It’s kind of a wide variety. I really like punk music and that kind of rock. But recently, I’ve gotten more into bluegrass, folk and a little bit of hip-hop. My sister and I recently went to see Local Natives in Philadelphia, and they were amazing. I’ve been really into them lately.

Favorite city?
I love Philadelphia sports: Flyers, Eagles, Phillies. I’ll always have a tie to Philadelphia, because they’re close to us, and I’ve grown up following those teams. But I’ve also spent a little bit of time in Pittsburgh. I lived there my freshman year in college and really fell in love with it out there as well. It’s a little bit of a smaller city, but I really enjoyed my time there. They have a lot to offer.

Favorite vacation spot?
Ocean City, New Jersey. I’ve been going there since I was a kid. It’s kind of our yearly thing, and I have a lot of family that goes to the same place, so it’s a nice way to reconnect with them.

Favorite thing about NEPA?
The arts scene. For (Scranton) being more of a smaller city, there are a lot of people that are really talented and work really, really hard to create and keep a thriving arts culture. Both the visual arts and the music scene are two of my favorite things about this area.

Favorite food?
Cheesesteaks. But I love a good cheeseburger, too. Basically anything with meat and cheese melted on top, I’m happy.

All-time favorite movie?
I love David Fincher movies and Christopher Nolan movies. But on the funny side of things, I love “Step Brothers.” And there’s an Andy Samberg movie called “Hot Rod” that’s a little hidden gem that I love.

Favorite TV show?
“Arrested Development” is one of those shows that I can just re-watch over and over again. Currently, I really like ”House of Cards” and “Game of Thrones.”

Favorite holiday?
Halloween.

Favorite quote or catchphrase?
I’ve got this little card that we picked up at some gift shop, and it’s up on the fridge. I don’t know who the quote is from, but it says, “You were born an original. Don’t die a copy.” And I always think that’s a neat little reminder to try and be more creative or do something original.

Favorite book or author?
I’m more of an articles kind of reader. I like the shorter format. I like Chuck Klosterman’s books. He has almost a magazine kind of writing style. I loved “Killing Yourself To Live.”

Biggest pet peeve?
I always seem to get pretty aggravated when people drive slow in the left lane and kind of camp out there.

Guilty pleasure?
Reality TV. I can watch “Bar Rescue” for hours.

Defining personal moment?
I don’t know if it was a moment, because it was probably a little bit of a longer period of time, but during my time at grad school, so much was changing. I think it was really an important time for me to learn a better work ethic and really get a little more drive. I also decided where I wanted to go in my life and career. It was a big transition time, and it was also the time that I decided I wanted to run with the brewery type of work. And my wife and I were both going through that at the same time, together. So I think it was also important that she was right there with me deciding to do the same thing in her own way. And I’m really kind of proud of the fact that we both decided to go for our passion when it comes to work. It was a time of ups and downs, and finding ourselves a little bit, but it was neat that we were able to go through it together and come out on the other end.

UP CLOSE & PERSONAL with ALAN K. STOUT is a regular feature in electric city, profiling people from all walks of life throughout NEPA. Reach Alan at alankstout@comcast.net.

photos by emma black

Up Close: Aaron Ferranti

Up Close: Aaron Ferranti

UP CLOSE & PERSONAL
WITH ALAN K. STOUT

Aaron Ferranti is the lead vocalist with Clever Clever, an original punk/hardcore band based out of Scranton. The group released a self-titled EP and a full-length CD, “Love.” He works for Scranton School District and is a graduate of Scranton Technical High School and the Art Institute of Philadelphia, where he studied industrial design technology. He has a daughter, Ella, 14. He lives in Scranton.
Meet Aaron Ferranti …

You’ve been with Clever Clever for three years. When did you realize that playing a heavier style of music was something you enjoyed?
As a kid, at the video store, I went to rent a horror movie, and I saw this Iron Maiden video. I took it home and just totally fell in love with metal. In school, I met up with other people like that. Brian Craig and I formed a punk/hardcore band in high school, in 1989 or 1990.

You serve as the band’s principal songwriter, penning most of the songs’ lyrics. What inspires you to write?
My inspiration in my life is my daughter. That tops everything. That’s the love of my life. I write about my feelings and things that happen to me and life’s experiences. I was never a big storyteller type of guy. I approach it where the band has a song, or a riff on the guitar, or I have one in my head, and then I kind of freestyle and get the words and find a hook, and I’ll start thinking about things and write out the lyrics.

It sounds as if your lyrics are inspired by deep sentiments, and yet the music is hard and aggressive. Is that a challenging dynamic for you to combine?
No. It’s actually fun. You get that part of you that wants to scream all the time, that you have to keep back in your normal daily life, and you can let that out. And that’s a good thing. You can let all of that anxiety out and all of that pent-up stuff.

But let’s say you write a sentimental song about your daughter. How does that translate into punk/hardcore? Do you just do it?
Yeah. You just do it. It’s just there. It just happens. (Laughs.)

What’s next for the band?
We’re going into the studio in January to work on another EP. And we’re going to press it on 7-inch vinyl, so we’re going to have a record, which has kind of been a goal since I was kid — to have my voice on a vinyl record. It’s neat.

What do enjoy doing in your free time?
I like to go hiking. It’s beautiful in this area. Most people that live here don’t realize how beautiful it really is. And I blow glass as a hobby, which keeps me in touch with my art side.

Do you have any other hobbies? Are you a collector?
I have tons of designer vinyl toys.

Favorite music?
My all-time favorite group is the Grateful Dead. And on the other spectrum, it’s got to be the Clash. I listen to everything. Maybe pop/country I’m not too into, but there is some of it that I do like. I love all types of music.

Do you follow sports?
I’m a big-time Yankees fan.

Favorite food?
Definitely pizza.

All-time favorite movie?
“Star Wars,” by far.

All-time favorite TV show?
“The Simpsons.”

Favorite city?
New York.

Favorite vacation spot?
Cape Cod.

Favorite thing about NEPA?
I enjoy living here. I enjoy the seasons. You experience every one of them. And it’s my home. Born and raised here.

Do you remember your first car?
It was a 1995 or ’96 silver Nissan Sentra. And I drove it from Scranton to California and back, and it already had over 100,000 miles on it. Standard shift. And when I came back, I still had it for a couple of years. (Laughs.)

Guilty pleasure?
Chocolate.

Biggest pet peeve?
I’m pretty easygoing. I like to be positive. I like to put positivity out there. Positivity comes back to you.

Favorite book or author?
I love “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy. In high school, when I had to read “The Hobbit,” it felt like a chore. Now, I just love it. But I’m more of a comic book guy now. Eric Powell is probably my favorite artist. Anything that he puts out, I’m on top of it.

Any pets?
A beagle named Winston.

Is there anything about you that might surprise even your friends?
I still skateboard. And I’ve been in 48 of the 50 states. All except Hawaii and Alaska.

Have you had a defining personal moment?
I moved out of my parents’ house and kind of lived on my own since I was 18. So I felt like I was an adult since I was 18. But I moved home, back to my parents’, when I was about 26 for about a year. And it was kind of an eye-opener for me to do a little bit more with my life. I got motivated, got a job with the city and started a band. It kind of made my life a lot better. It changed me in a way where it made me realize I had to get something stable, instead of always travelling, because that’s what I did — I just travelled. Finally, I decided it was about time to lay some roots down and live here and make it my home. And I feel like the travel that I did when I was younger let me do that, because I got it all out of my system. I’m happy now.

UP CLOSE & PERSONAL with ALAN K. STOUT is a regular feature in electric city, profiling people from all walks of life throughout NEPA. Reach Alan at alankstout@comcast.net.\

photos by emma black

Up Close: Cole Hastings

Up Close: Cole Hastings

UP CLOSE & PERSONAL
WITH ALAN K. STOUT

Cole Hastings is a professional furniture maker and craftsman. He established his namesake company in 2008. A native of Philadelphia, he is a graduate of Kutztown University, where he received a bachelor’s degree in fine arts, focusing on crafts with a concentration in furniture design. He also received a master’s degree in studio art at Maine College of Art. He and his wife, Rachel, live in Scranton.
Meet Cole Hastings …

Can you give us a basic description of the type of work that you do?
I’m a maker. I make objects. A lot of what we do in the shop is commission-based, so if you have a particular piece that you’re looking to make, such as a dining room table, we’ll go through the whole process that you would have gone through 150 years ago with someone. We’ll start talking about what kind of woods you like and what kind of styles you like. I’ll whittle away at what you actually want, and then I’ll do digital drawings and show you 3-D renders of what the table would look like. I’ll then talk with you about different prices for different woods or different materials, you decide what you want, and we’ll build it.

When did you first realize such work was something you might be interested in?
Before I went to Kutztown, I was a medieval re-enactor. I built medieval armor for a living, and I kind of went down that path of doing commission work. Originally, I just wanted to do it for myself, but then other people were like, “How much would you charge me to do something like that?” So I started building armor for people. I was sending suits of armor to theater departments and different re-enactors all over the country and Europe. And then I got serious about school, and I was looking for a school where I could expand on those skill sets. I was originally thinking about doing jewelry design, but at Kutztown, the furniture teacher kind of stole me away from the jewelry teacher. (Laughs) I got really obsessed with furniture and how important it was in your life.

What do you enjoy about it the most?
It’s such an honest job. There’s this joy that you get when you make a piece that someone’s been dreaming about. Last year, I had a table at the ScrantonMade Holiday Market, and I had a table that was made from a slab of elm wood. A woman and her husband were looking at some tables, and she said, “That’s the one I want,” because she grew up on an Elm Street. Since then, her house has been demolished and the whole area has changed, but now she had an elm table. This year, she actually came back and bought another piece. You kind of build this rapport with people, and it becomes more than just, “I went to IKEA, and I bought this table.” It has a story to it.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
My work is what I do. It’s almost all-consuming. Even when I have downtime, like after dinner, I’ll still be browsing design sites. I’m always in research mode. I’m always watching documentaries about materials and how things are made.

Favorite music?
I’m a very big fan of ’90s pop rock. Lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of Mika and the Fratellis. Lively, upbeat stuff. It’s good for shop work.

Do you follow sports?
I watch the Olympics. I watch archery in the summer and curling in the winter.

Favorite city?
Washington, D.C. The culture … and I love the Smithsonian.

Favorite vacation spot?
We once did a road trip down to the Southeast, and both my wife and I really enjoyed Tennessee. Pigeon Forge is really a lot of fun. It’s kind of surreal. It’s like Las Vegas in the middle of Tennessee.

Favorite thing about NEPA?
I really love the people. And I always think of this as “Little Philadelphia.” There’s the culture, there’s the Italian Festival … you can get good Italian food, or Chinese, or Japanese, or whatever you’re hankering for, but you don’t have the traffic and the violence of Philadelphia. (Laughs.)

Favorite food?
A Jewish dish called kreplach. It’s basically a Jewish dumpling, usually filled with beef.

All-time favorite movies?
“Better Off Dead” and “Grosse Pointe Blank” — both John Cusack movies. I can self-identify with both.

Favorite TV show?
“Star Trek: The Next Generation.” I grew up with it and have great memories of me and my dad watching it.

Favorite holiday?
Thanksgiving.

Favorite quote or catchphrase?
“Make more with less.” — Buckminster Fuller.

Favorite book or author?
“Everything I Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten” by Robert Fulghum. It’s a great collection of short stories. I highly recommend it. I’ve given it out three times and have never gotten it back, so I keep having to require it.

Biggest pet peeve?
People that aren’t team players and don’t think of the betterment of society as a whole. I want to build more community. That’s what I’m always striving for, because I feel there’s always a place for everyone.

Guilty pleasure?
Food. I’m a glutton. (Laughs)

Is there anything about you that might really surprise people?
The medieval renaissance stuff sometimes shocks people. And I like Ariana Grande’s music.

Have you had a defining personal moment?
Meeting my wife. Meeting her and getting to know each other. My mom always said, “There’s a lid for every pot,” and I used to refer back to that and say, “I don’t think I have a lid.” But when I met my wife, I knew it was my lid. Just the constant encouragement that we both give each other, and that really great relationship that we have. … She’s a librarian at the Delaware Valley School District, and that’s what brought us to this area. Every time I’ve ever doubted myself, she’s been right there to give me the encouragement to keep going. All of the success we’ve ever had is basically because of her.

On the web: www.colehastings.com

UP CLOSE & PERSONAL with ALAN K. STOUT is a regular feature in electric city, profiling people from all walks of life throughout NEPA. Reach Alan at alankstout@comcast.net.

 

photos by emma black

Up Close: Amy Everetts

Up Close: Amy Everetts

UP CLOSE & PERSONAL
WITH ALAN K. STOUT

Amy Everetts is the director of development and marketing at the Everhart Museum in Scranton. Everetts is a native of the Green Ridge section of Scranton and is a graduate of Scranton High School and Kutztown University, where she studied electronic media, speech, theater and marketing. She and her husband, A.J., have two children, William, 2, and Emery, 7 months. They live in South Abington Twp.
Meet Amy Everetts …

Tell us a little about your work at the Everhart.
What I do, in a way, is multiple positions. I serve as the director of development, so that means reaching into the community to build relationships with area business partners and soliciting partnerships. It’s a lot of relationship building. I also write all of our grants while working with other staff members. I also do all of our marketing with the assistance of our marketing coordinator.

What do you enjoy about it?
It encompasses everything that I love to do. I love working with people. I love getting out into the community. I love seeing what other organizations are doing and what their passions are, and then connecting that with the museum. The museum has such a diverse collection and such a wide range of programming that whether you are a bank or a fellow nonprofit, we have a connection in some way, shape or form. Any time that we can work with another organization, that’s something we’re interested in doing. I get to talk about a place that I love to work at. What better job is there, when you’re passionate about such a place? And you can let others know that exciting things are happening, and that this community treasure exists. That, to me, is a privilege.

How important are such relationships within the community in regard to keeping the museum moving forward?
It gets people interested in what we’re doing. I think what happens sometimes is that people came through the door when they were 8 years old and say, “I remember the birds, or the bees, or the rocks.” But when was the last time they walked upstairs and saw the second floor and the changing exhibits?

What have been some of your favorite exhibits?
“The Anatomy of Fairy Tales” is currently on display, and I love that exhibit. The story that it tells is so interesting, and it covers a diverse amount of topics. Programmatically, I loved the cocktail exhibit that we did. We had a lot of fun things with that. We did a speakeasy tour of downtown Scranton; we worked with Students Against Destructive Decisions, because there were also some topics on alcoholism and addiction addressed in that exhibit. I really, truly love them all for different reasons.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I love spending time with my children and my husband. I love to be outdoors. Hiking, swimming, skiing and running. And I enjoy seeing comedy shows anytime I can. I love stand-up comedy. And the arts. I love to be able to go out and perform when the opportunity arises.

Where, or how, do you perform?
I just did the Scranton StorySlam. I was one of the storytellers. It could be something as small as that — just to come back to my theater roots that I so enjoyed in college. It allows me to have fun with that part of myself that I don’t necessarily get to do.

Who are some of your favorite musical artists?
Drake, Macklemore, A Tribe Called Quest, a lot of hip-hop. But I really do like a variety of different genres of music. When it’s time to put my baby to sleep and relax and unwind, it’s Nora Jones. I also like Rage Against the Machine and Tool. It’s pretty diverse.

Do you follow sports?
My husband roots for the Red Sox, and we have a lot of Red Sox memorabilia, but I could not tell you the score of one game. I just wear the stuff that’s given to me. (Laughs)

Favorite city?
I love Boston. My husband and I do go to Red Sox games, and I think it has a cool vibe. The people are real there. There’s a lot of history. And every time I go, I find something new that I like. There’s a lot of arts. There’s a lot of culture.

Favorite vacation spot?
Martha’s Vineyard.

Favorite thing about NEPA?
The traditions. Because of our traditions and the stories that our families tell us, we build these incredible memories. For me, for example, seeing The Times tower being lit — I remember that as a kid. When you live here and you’re a lifelong resident, you know the treasures that are in this town. You know what kind of pizza you want, depending on your mood, because there’s so many different types. If you want to go skiing, it’s a five-minute drive. There are so many things. It’s the people. It’s the dialect. It’s the traditions that seem to be passed down from generation to generation. It’s a really unique town.

Favorite food?
Linguini with clam sauce.

Favorite movie?
“Dumb and Dumber.”

Favorite TV show?
“Game of Thrones.”

Favorite holiday?
Thanksgiving.

Favorite quote or catchphrase?
This is something I literally say, and laugh at, and love. I sometimes just randomly burst into people’s offices or my friends’ houses and say, “We got no food. We got no jobs. Our pets’ heads are falling off!” It’s from “Dumb and Dumber.” Believe it or not, that’s something that I say. (Laughs)

Guilty pleasure?
“Say Yes To the Dress” marathons.

Most defining personal moment?
My mom’s passing. She passed away when I was very young. And I think that forced me to grow up a lot more quickly than I necessarily wanted to. I was 24, which seems older, but that’s that pivotal age where, with your mother, you really develop a stronger relationship. To go through my 20s without that person and to kind of discover who I was — because that’s what your 20s are for, figuring out who you are, what your goals are and what you’re doing with your life — to do that, in a lot of ways, on my own was difficult. But I think, in some ways, it made me stronger.

UP CLOSE & PERSONAL with ALAN K. STOUT is a regular feature in electric city, profiling people from all walks of life throughout NEPA. Reach Alan at alankstout@comcast.net.

photos by emma black

Up Close: Phyllis Hopkins

Up Close: Phyllis Hopkins

UP CLOSE & PERSONAL
WITH ALAN K. STOUT

Phyllis Hopkins is a professional musician and guitar instructor who is a member of the Phyllis Hopkins Electric Trio and offers guitar lessons at Rock Street Music, Pittston. She has released three albums. Hopkins, 50, is a native of Pittston and a graduate of Pittston Area High School. She and her husband, Serge Ubiergo, live in Pittston.
Meet Phyllis Hopkins …

How long have you been playing guitar?
I didn’t start until I was 24, so it’s been 26 years. I fooled around with it at 19 or 20 but took it seriously at 24 when I heard Stevie Ray Vaughan. That was it.

What was it about his music that you found so inspiring?
I just never heard a guitar played like that. I always loved guitar and all of the Zeppelin songs. Jimmy Page was my favorite guitarist before I discovered Stevie Ray and all of the blues people. It was always my favorite instrument.

When did you put your first band together?
I was only playing a couple of years. It was Little Sister & the Moneymakers. It was around ’96. It just seemed like that’s what you did. I played guitar, and it was the next step. StingRay (Delpriore) used to have these Monday night jam sessions at Lispi’s, and that’s where I met all of the musicians that I know. George Wesley, Clarence Spady … I met everyone at StingRay’s Monday night jam sessions. I also took lessons from StingRay, and he introduced me to a whole world of blues. Magic Sam and T-Bone Walker … there was no going back after all of the stuff that he introduced me to. I also went to see Ronnie Earl, and he was just amazing. He was at the Rolling Stone in Larksville, and I’d never seen anyone play with such intensity. And that kind of really picked up my guitar playing. He taught at a school in Connecticut, and I took a class for a week. It was a summer workshop.

What do you enjoy the most about performing?
The dynamics. The interaction with people. I like to play with dynamics in the band. Creating on the spot. When you play with dynamics, you bring it lower, and you bring it higher, and I really like doing that. It makes the music more exciting. I also really like surprising the audience. I think a lot of people, when they see a girl with a guitar, expect folk songs or ballads. We present something completely different, with not-so-famous music, and we usually win people over. To me, if you can do that, it speaks volumes about the performers in the band. And I like smaller places, because it’s intimate and everybody’s right there. I don’t like to play at places where you’re too far away from all of the people. Blues music is meant to be intimate. Though I do love playing at the (Scranton) Cultural Center. (Laughs.)

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
Bike riding. My husband and I bike ride and enjoy the outdoors. Or we drive to towns like Jim Thorpe and the Delaware Water Gap. We like to go to little, quaint towns.

Any hobbies?
I collect floor lamps and lanterns. And I’m thinking of taking up painting.

Favorite city?
Paris. It’s absolutely beautiful. I love the culture, the art, everything about it. You don’t have to go to an expensive restaurant. You can just hang out and just walk around, and it’s breathtaking. And the freedom that they have — everybody can be whatever they want in Paris. It’s a great place for musicians and artists.

Favorite vacation spot?
I like to go to cities on vacation. And I’ve been to a whole lot of cities. New Orleans, of course New York, Chicago, L.A., London, Dublin. I like big cities.

Favorite thing about NEPA?
My family.

Favorite food?
Cheese.

All-time favorite movie?
“The Color Purple.”

Favorite TV show?
“Breaking Bad.”

Favorite holiday?
Halloween.

Favorite quote or catch phrase?
I always say to myself, “Always do something that other people think you can’t do.”

Favorite book or author?
“On Becoming Fearless … in Love, Work and Life” by Arianna Huffington.

Any pets?
Connie. She’s a Sheltie/Shepherd mix.

Biggest pet peeve?
Country music.

Guilty pleasure?
Marilyn Manson.

Is there anything about you that might surprise your friends?
The people that I grew up with can’t believe that I play music. If my childhood friends come out to a bar and I’m playing, they’re like, “When did this happen?” — because I started a little later in life.

Have you had a defining personal moment?
Musically, it would be hearing Stevie Ray Vaughan. That made me do what I’m doing now. If I didn’t hear that, maybe I never would have became what I am.

UP CLOSE & PERSONAL with ALAN K. STOUT is a regular feature in electric city, profiling people from all walks of life throughout NEPA. Reach Alan at alankstout@comcast.net.

photos by emma black

Up Close: Joe Wegleski

Up Close: Joe Wegleski

UP CLOSE & PERSONAL
WITH ALAN K. STOUT

Joe Wegleski works a sound engineer at S.I. Studios in Old Forge. The 45-year-old is a native of Moosic and a graduate of Riverside High School and New York University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in music, studying music technology. He also is a member the band Jigsaw Johnny and a former member of Jugdish. He has a daughter, Nadia, 19. He and his girlfriend of 12 years, Janine, live in Scranton.
Meet Joe Wegleski …

It seems as though you’ve been at S.I. Studios forever. How long has it been?
I interned there while I was in college for a summer or two, and when I graduated in 1993, I was hired by (owner Tom Borthwick). And I’ve been there since, so it’s almost 24 years.

What was it that first made you seek out a career in audio production?
When I was a teenager, I was in a hard-rock band, and we recorded with Tom. And we were intrigued by it. We thought it was cool, it was fun, and it was another outlet. We got involved in the whole recording process and, for me, when it was time to choose my career path after high school, I knew there were a million guitar players out there. And I wanted to study in the city, and I wanted to purse something in music. Audio recording was the way to go. For me, it was NYU or bust. I really didn’t apply to any other colleges. I wanted to study music technology. And I’m glad I did.

How many projects have you worked on?
I couldn’t tell you. I don’t know. If I did one project a week, for 52 weeks, times 23 years … it’s definitely hundreds. It might be in the thousands.

What is it that you enjoy the most about making records?
It’s something different every night. That’s one great thing about living here — the diversity in our music. What I enjoy the most is that I get to help artists achieve their goals. It nice to help them along and see them with a smile on their face when they’re done with their record.

Does any particular project stick out?
Some of the harder projects that I worked on were the Dakota records. One of my first solo engineering sessions was with Jerry Hludzik of Dakota. Jerry wanted to do guitar overdubs, and I had to do it myself. It was the first time that I walked into a session and it was like, “OK, I’m in charge.” Jerry worked my tail off. I learned how to punch in and punch out and edit. Jerry always liked to push our abilities, and we always accepted the challenge and met it. And we worked with him for 20-some years after that.

You’ve also played in some really good bands over the years. Tell us a little about that part of your life.
I’ve been gigging longer than I’ve been in the studio. It’s been more than 25 years. It’s kind of like my other musical side. It’s a chance for me to be on the other side of the window, so to speak, as opposed to the recording studio. I love playing live music. It’s just in there. It’s in your blood. And it’s got to come out.

Who are some of your all-time favorite bands?
From an early age, it was the Who. I have two sisters that are 10 and 12 years older than me, so when I was a little kid, I was just surrounded by music all the time. Cool music. Bowie and Alice Cooper and all of the good stuff. It’s always been there. My dad listened to Hank Williams. My mom liked Tom Jones. I was a big KISS fan for a while. There was always cool stuff, but for me it was the Who. In my teens, I also got into some of that L.A. hard-rock stuff, like Guns N’ Roses. And I’m a big fan of the Cult.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I love the outdoors. I usually need to be doing something outside. I really like hiking. Luckily for me, most of my band does, too. We hike as much as we can. It’s good for your soul.

Do you follow sports?
I’m an Oakland Raiders fan.

Do you remember your first car?
It was a blue 1985 Ford Escort. I loved that little thing. It was a good little car.

Favorite city?
It’s a three-way tie. New York City is New York City. There’s no comparison. But Asheville, North Carolina, that’s where it’s at. That’s a great city. That’s what this town should be. I always think this town has the blueprint to be another Asheville. It’s a great town, because people are happy and happy to be there. On the same token, we go to Lake Placid, (New York). Our band plays up there. And it’s the same thing. It’s a good vibe.

Favorite thing about NEPA?
The people. There’s a great cast of characters here in Northeast Pennsylvania, and I’ve met some really great people here. And it’s our people that define our town.

Favorite food?
Mexican.

Favorite movie?
“2001: A Space Odyssey” and “Animal House.”

All-time favorite TV show?
“Three’s Company.”

Favorite quote or catchphrase?
“I got a Gibson without a case. But I can’t get that even-tanned look on my face. Ill-fitting clothes and I blend in the crowd. Fingers so clumsy, voice too loud. But I’m one, I am one.” It’s from the Who album “Quadrophenia.” That resonated with me. Every time I heard it, I got goosebumps. It doesn’t matter who you are, man. You’re one. You’re yourself. Just be yourself.

Favorite book or author?
I enjoy reading books about NASA and the space program.

Any pets?
A greyhound/beagle mix named Ivy.

Guilty pleasure?
“The Trailer Park Boys.”

Have you had a defining personal moment?
The birth of my daughter. Nadia being born … it really makes you change the way you think about things. When you have children, the focus isn’t on you anymore; it’s on them. And I think, for any parent, that’s the defining moment. Or, it should be.

UP CLOSE & PERSONAL with ALAN K. STOUT is a regular feature in electric city, profiling people from all walks of life throughout NEPA. Reach Alan at alankstout@comcast.net.

 

photos by emma black

Up Close: Maura Cummings

Up Close: Maura Cummings

UP CLOSE & PERSONAL
WITH ALAN K. STOUT

Maura Cummings is the founder of the Farmhouse Sanctuary and operator of the business Om in the Attic, which specializes in handmade jewelry. Cummings, 31, is a Dunmore native and graduate of Bishop O’Hara High School. She also studied art and psychology at Marywood University. She and her husband, Lee Herman, live in Lackawanna County.
Meet Maura Cummings …

Tell us a little about the Farmhouse Sanctuary.
We are a nonprofit organization and a refuge to all beings, be it a farmed animal that was surrendered out of an abuse case or an animal that just kind of finds their way to us. And it’s a place for humans, too. It’s a place of compassion and love for all.

Can you give an example of how an animal might find its way to you?
We have a piglet. A gentleman gave us a call and told us it had been running around in his yard for two weeks. They had tried to capture him and care for him, but he was out in the cold and out on his own. They had also tried to find the owner, and no one claimed him. And so we went over, and I was able to catch him in my arms. And we’re expecting to bring home a goat. She was purchased by a gentleman in our area for milking, and she wasn’t producing enough for him, and he wanted to find her a better life.

How many animals do you have?
We have about 21 farmed animals … (including) 10 ducks, four hens, four roosters and a pot-bellied pig.

You also mentioned it was a sanctuary for people. Can you explain?
We live in a world where there is a lot of suffering. And, through my experience in life — the ups and downs — it’s made me a compassionate person, and not just toward animals. It began with people. My mom and my dad are both extremely selfless and giving people. They work really hard, and they got that instilled in them from my grandparents, who are extremely hardworking and faithful people, in that they always look for the best in situations and the best in people. They nurtured me to be who I am, which is caregiver. There are so many people that are hurting, and I want to be able to offer them a place where the outside world kind of melts way, and you can just come and be whoever you are. There are no expectations. It doesn’t matter what you look like, it matters how you feel. We’re not a commune. It’s more of a refuge outside of your regular life. It’s just a place for compassion and love.

Tell us about your jewelry.
I began making jewelry in 2008, just kind of on a whim. I was always interested in tools and the way that things work. I started with just a simple jewelry line that I would show at First Fridays, and my friend had a shop where I would sell my pieces. They all come from fallen branches that I find in the woods, and I do wood-burning designs and paintings on them.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
Promoting veganism. Not just the diet but the overall lifestyle. It’s about trying to move people toward a compassionate existence and become more aware of how your choices and your actions in life affect others.

Favorite music?
I love music from every era. I listen to Bob Marley and pretty much everything.

Favorite thing about NEPA?
The community. The people. Growing up here, it’s really just been astounding how people get together to support whatever they believe in.

Favorite vacation spot?
That’s the greatest part of my life right now — that there isn’t any place I’d rather be. Waking up every morning and doing what I do is vacation in itself.

Favorite food?
Everything plant-based.

Favorite holiday?
Thanksgiving. Because it’s all about gratitude, and it’s all about giving. We’re actually having a donation-based class at Mission Yoga on Thanksgiving Day, and all of the proceeds will benefit the Farmhouse Sanctuary.

Favorite book or author?
I like a lot of philosophy-related books about questioning and seeking information and seeking clarity. (Author) Og Mandino is a favorite.

Favorite quote?
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” — Margaret Mead

Guilty pleasure?
I love vegan ice cream. I like sweets and chocolates, and I make my own version of vegan peanut butter cups.

Biggest pet peeve?
Ignorance. People thinking that they’re better than other people and putting people down.

Have you had a defining personal moment?
I feel as though it’s been my whole entire life’s experience. Every single moment and every day is something new. I feel like I’ll never be done learning or becoming a better version of myself. With veganism, I watched a documentary called “Earthlings,” which delves into animal agriculture and what it does to the earth and what it does to humans, and that opened my eyes. Soon after that, I became vegan. I knew what a vegetarian was, and I knew PETA existed, but I didn’t know what it was to be vegan. I feel that in my heart I always was vegan, I just didn’t have the right term for it, and my values and my morals didn’t line up. When I watched “Earthlings,” it clicked. That was it. Being vegan made me feel like I was closer to being my true self.

UP CLOSE & PERSONAL with ALAN K. STOUT is a regular feature in electric city, profiling people from all walks of life throughout NEPA. Reach Alan at
alankstout@comcast.net.

photos by emma black

Up Close: Sam Watson

Up Close: Sam Watson

UP CLOSE & PERSONAL
WITH ALAN K. STOUT

Sam Watson is a professional photographer who owns and operates Sam Watson Photography. He also is graphic artist who has done work for Relix Magazine. Watson, 29, is a native of Dalton and a graduate of Wyoming Seminary and Ursinus College, where he earned a degree in art. He lives in Clarks Summit.
Meet Sam Watson …

When did you first discover your love for photography?
My grandmother gave me a camera for my birthday when I was about 12. It was an old 35mm film camera. I just picked it up and started playing around with it and just delved head-deep into it. I just fell in love with everything about it.

How so?
Just capturing that moment in time. Seeing something special.

Which is your favorite type of photography?
I started with landscapes. And then, when I was 16, I went to my first concert. It was Dave Matthews. And I was just taken aback by the whole atmosphere of the live music scene, and I tried to think of a way to combine a love for photography with a love for live music. So I started bringing my camera to shows and either try to get a press pass or sneak it in and get shots from the crowd. For the first couple of years, it was really just for myself, and then I started reaching out to some magazines and live music blogs. And that was kind of my ticket through the door.

And that led to your work with Relix?
With Relix, I was a graphic designer, and they’d also occasionally bring artists into the office for live performances, and we’d shoot video and compile footage of them playing and put it up on social media. But during the summer, they’re big into the whole live music scene, and they send groups of people to different festivals around the country. I had the chance to do a couple on the East Coast and brought my camera along. We’d set up a booth and try to get people to subscribe to the magazine, and I’d do that for a couple of hours, and then be able to go and see some live music and bring my camera along. That’s what really started it. And people took notice of some of my shots, and I guess felt it was something I had an eye for.

Is there a favorite photo that you’ve taken at a concert?
Actually, at this year’s Susquehanna Breakdown, with Cabinet, I took a picture of Pappy, their banjo player, right at the end of their set. He’s got his hat off, and he’s kind of got his eyes closed, and he’s kind of tipping the hat to the crowd. As soon as I clicked the shutter and captured it, I knew it was definitely something special. I later saw him at the Cornstock Festival. I had a booth there selling some of my photos, and I had him sign it. And one of the things he said to me was, “Of all of the pictures of me, this really captures the essence, to me, of what it means to be Pappy.” That was a huge compliment.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
Meditate. Hike. I definitely like being outdoors. And listening to records. I’ve got a fairly extensive vinyl collection. I inherited a bunch from my parents, and I’ve also started to build my own collection.

Who are some of your favorite musical artists?
The Grateful Dead, the Band, Cabinet and Neil Young, who I also had the chance to shoot at the Outlaw Fest a few months ago. That was probably the biggest artist that I’ve been able to take pictures of.

Do you follow sports?
Hockey and the Philadelphia Flyers. The family is from Philly.

Favorite thing about NEPA?
The dirt roads. Growing up in Dalton, it’s a rural area, and my friends and I would just hop in my Jeep and just kind of adventure out on the dirt roads and see where they took us. There’s this one spot in Fleetville where it’s four dirt roads, but they all lead back to the same spot, so you can’t really get lost. And of course the sense of community. All of the local artists that I know, and all of the musicians, it seems we’re always willing to help each other. And that’s definitely special.

Favorite city?
I studied abroad in London. I was there for six months and liked just riding the Tube, which is what they call their subway, and just adventuring around. The weather wasn’t so bad. It gets the rap of being cold and rainy, but they actually have some very mild days. And everything about the culture — I loved it.

Favorite vacation spot?
Avalon, New Jersey.

Favorite food?
My mom makes a really good clam pasta dish.

All-time favorite movie?
“Forrest Gump.”

Favorite TV show?
“The Wire.”

Favorite holiday?
Halloween.

Favorite book or author?
Anything by Hunter Thompson.

Biggest pet peeve?
Negativity. My mom always said, “Positivity breeds positivity.” If you’re positive, positive things will happen. It resonates outward. It’s hard to be around someone when they’re negative all the time.

Guilty pleasure?
Fleetwood Mac.

Is there anyone that has had the greatest impact on your career?
My college photography professor, Don Camp. He really kind of formulated my photographic eye, in seeing things in a certain way. He definitely was a big influence on my photography. He was someone that saw something in my photos and really told me to go with it and to always just try to do the best that you can and not settle for mediocre work. He basically said, “You’re only as good as your last photo,” so I always try and create the best photos I can and remain relevant. And hopefully, my best work is still within me.
 

photos by emma black

UP CLOSE & PERSONAL with ALAN K. STOUT is a regular feature in electric city, profiling people from all walks of life throughout NEPA. Reach Alan at alankstout@comcast.net.