Up Close & Personal – Jennifer Rushton

Up Close & Personal – Jennifer Rushton

Jennifer Rushton co-owns and -operates the Dress Lounge, Kingston, which opened 14 months ago and specializes in bridal and prom dresses. Rushton is a native of Nanticoke and is a graduate of Greater Nanticoke Area High School and the Wilma Boyd Career School in Pittsburgh, where she studied travel and tourism. She has been involved in the wedding planning business for 15 years. She lives in Swoyersville.
Meet Jennifer Rushton…

You’ve worked in the catering and hospitality business for many years at places such as Nichols Village, Genetti’s, Bentley’s and the Westmoreland Club. What led to the opening of the Dress Lounge?
I owned a boutique on Market Street in Kingston, about 10 years ago, called Panache. It was a trendy women’s clothing boutique, and I loved it. I had it for five and a half years, but I outgrew that environment, because I started doing special events while I had the shop. I eventually helped start MCR (Magic Carpet Ride), which was our own specialty business for designing weddings and special events, and for which I still do the event planning and wedding planning. The next chapter of wedding planning and design was having a bridal shop. So I now wedding plan, full-time, and have the shop.

What do you enjoy the most about running the shop?
It’s rewarding when they find their dress. It’s really exciting. I’m up for a good challenge. On the wedding planning side, it’s really nice to make their vision come to life, and when you open the doors for the first time, they get to see what the room looks like, and they’re star struck, and it looks just how they wanted it. And the flipside of that coin is when they find that dress and they just feel amazing in it. And it’s the same with bridesmaids. It’s a challenge to find all of the different shapes and styles to coordinate with the bride and with the moms. You’re working with all different personalities. And dresses come to life on people, and they really love them. That’s the most rewarding thing. I have a great customer base and a great team that works here. We love finding dresses for girls, and we like making girls happy.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time? 
I really enjoy going to the gym. It’s very therapeutic. I don’t have to talk. I don’t have to think. I don’t have to check emails. I don’t have to do anything connected to social media. And I’m a morning person. I really love the mornings. I have three golden retrievers, and I love to spend time with them outside, whether it’s playing ball or going to the park or just hanging out in my back yard. I embrace the mornings with them.

Favorite music?
I love Adele. I love Bruno Mars. I’m into Post Malone and Donell Jones. I love old-school R&B. I like everything. Luke Bryan. I was never a country fan, and suddenly I like his music.

Do you follow sports?
I’m a Notre Dame fan.

Favorite city?
My folks live in Philadelphia, so I do like to go there. There’s a lot of things to do, and I’m a big foodie. I love to try new restaurants.

Favorite vacation spot?
I really enjoyed Aruba the last time I was there, but I also love Mexico. Every time I plan a vacation, I say I’m going to go somewhere different, because I want to see everything, but I have such a soft spot in my heart for Mexico. But Europe is on the bucket list. Italy and Greece are hopefully in the plans for next summer.

Favorite thing about NEPA?
I do like the change of the seasons. I’m not a winter person, per se. I like it when it’s about 70 degrees, but I do like the change. I like the fall foliage, and I like it when it’s really hot in the summertime. And I love the local community. I’ve met a lot of great people and am involved with a lot of different things and organizations.

All-time favorite movie? 
“Pretty Woman” and “Dirty Dancing.”

Favorite food?
Sushi. Japanese is my favorite.

Favorite holiday?
Christmas.

Guilty pleasure?
Ice cream. All kinds. (Laughs)

Biggest pet peeve?
I find it very important to thank people. I just think that kindness goes a long way, and that the world is a little bit on the rude side, sometimes, and that we need to take a step back. Just saying “Hello,” or “Good morning” to someone goes a lot further than just brushing past them. I think those things are important.

Is there anything about you that might surprise even your friends?
I’ve worked so much all of my life, but I recently found a love of being outside and being in nature. Walks, hikes, spending time with my dogs … I never really went that route before, but I just went horseback riding, and I want to go kayaking. I’m really starting to embrace nature.

Have you had a defining personal moment, or an event in your life, or a time in your life, that has really helped shape you into the person you are today?
I recently went through a divorce, and it changed me as a person. I’ve always been independent, but you learn to become very independent. Simple things like changing things in your house and learning to live by yourself and heal from the process … it’s just been a very big eye-opener to me, in how important my parents are and what a great friends-base I have and what lengths people will go to comfort you and help you and show you that there’s really so much more ahead for you.

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 and submitted photos

Up Close & Personal – Sean Manley

Up Close & Personal – Sean Manley

Sean Manley is a co-founder of Fight4Vets, a community group focused on helping local veterans, and a controller at Tobyhanna Army Depot. A native of Scranton, he enlisted in the Army after graduating from West Scranton High School, serving in Iraq from 2004 to 2005. He later graduated from Marywood University, where he majored in history and religion and minored in art. He lives in Scranton.
Meet Sean Manley…

Tell us a little about Fight4Vets. 
We try to be the stop-gap for when the system may fail a veteran in need. We like to fill that hole. For example, we helped out a veteran that had gotten in a motorcycle accident with some of his medical bills. Two years ago, we gave a $10,000 in-kind donation to the Gino J. Merli Veterans’ Center to update all of their AV equipment. We also donated to the ongoing effort to put a Veterans Memorial Park near (Scranton) High School, and as recently as last month, we donated $5,000 to Susquehanna Service Dogs to pair a veteran in need with a service dog. And on Nov. 18, we’re putting on a traditional Thanksgiving dinner for the veterans at St. Francis Commons.

How do you go about raising money for such efforts?
We put on amateur boxing matches. We just did one on Labor Day at the Hilton (Scranton and Conference Center), and our promoter told us that we probably broke the Pennsylvania state record for attendance, as far as amateur events go. We try to only do one boxing match per year, but this year, we were also the beneficiary of The Times-Tribune Golf Tournament. We’ve been around for about three years, and this year, we received our 501(c)3 to make us a legitimate nonprofit.

Was the time that you spent in the service a part of your inspiration for helping found Fight4Vets?
Of course. All through my life, I kind of came from a military background. Veterans and country have always been paramount for us.

What is it that you enjoy the most about the work that you do?
When you’re making large donations to Gino Merli or Susquehanna Service Dogs, it doesn’t get much better than that. The only time is gets better, for me, is when you help someone on a smaller scale, but who doesn’t know where to turn. When you can say, “I got you. I can pick you up.” It’s when you can help someone where the need isn’t so great that the government wouldn’t even bother with them, but they still need a pick-me-up. I like that aspect of it the most.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
Mostly watching sports and hanging out with my friends.

Who are some of your favorite teams?
Notre Dame. And I’m a Red Sox and Steelers fan.

Who are some of your favorite musical artists? 
I love Boyz II Men. (Laughs) It’s a very deep-rooted thing for me. When I was a kid, my parents got me a Walkman for Christmas, and obviously they wanted to get me a tape to go with it, and they got me Boyz II Men. So that was the only thing I had to listen to. They were the first concert I ever saw. I guess I was kind of indoctrinated, but I’m OK with that.

Favorite city?
Austin, Texas. There’s just so much to do, and everything is so relaxed and laid back. And they have a great music scene. I also love going down to Philly.

Favorite vacation spot?
It used to be Mexico. I love the beach setting, but I hate the actual beach. I hate going out on the sand. But me and a few friends used to rent a house on the Outer Banks, and that was just the greatest thing. I just enjoyed myself so much there.

Favorite thing about NEPA?
I was always the guy in high school that said, “I’m getting out of here.” And then when I joined the Army, all I could do was talk about how great Scranton was and how much I wanted to go back. There’s a lot to do around here, but mostly I’ve always just been lucky with the people that I have surrounded myself with in my life. Scranton people and Northeastern Pennsylvania people are just kind of a different breed of people. I’ve lived in Texas and Georgia, and I’ve been to a bunch of different places around the country, and people here are just different. And in a good way.

All-time favorite movie?
“Braveheart.”

Favorite TV show?
“Game of Thrones” and “The Office.”

Favorite food?
Maroni’s Pizza.

Favorite holiday?
The Fourth of July.

Biggest pet peeve?
Spelling and grammar. The misuse of things like their/there/they’re. It drives me bananas.

Any pets?
A boxer named Ally.

Favorite author?
Kahlil Gibran.

Guilty pleasure?
I love beer.

Is there anything about you that might really surprise people?
Around my friends, in social settings, I’m approachable and I’ll approach others. But with groups, especially in front of groups, when I have to speak to people, like with Fight4Vets, it’s downright frightening for me. And everybody is usually like, “You? You’re afraid of public speaking?” Because I’m outgoing. But there’s just something about when I get in front of an audience, I just get really clammed up.

Who, if anyone, has had the greatest impact on your life? Is there anyone that has really helped shape you into the person you are today?
Definitely my parents. And especially my father. If I did not have him in my life, I don’t think I would know how to conduct myself as a proper man. And both of my parents really instilled in me the idea that you’re never too important to be nice to someone, and that you should always give back, because sooner or later, you’re going to need it. That taught me that you get what you give. You get back what you put into life. Without them, who knows where I’d 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.

Up Close & Personal – Rob Husty

Up Close & Personal – Rob Husty

Rob Husty is a professional musician and lead guitarist with the band Three Imaginary Boys. He also is a guitar instructor with Andrea Bogusko Music Co. and works full-time in the accounting department with Guard Insurance, both in Wilkes-Barre. Husty, a Wilkes-Barre native, graduated from Bishop Hoban High School and Wilkes University, where he earned a degree in accounting. He lives in Wilkes-Barre.

Meet Rob Husty…

You’re only 30 years old, but you’re considered one of the best guitarists in NEPA. When did you first discover the instrument?
My dad always played. He used to play in bands back in the ’70s, before I was born, so when I came along, there were always guitars and things like that around the house. I picked it up really early. His story is that I was humming Yardbirds songs before I could even talk, and he was pretty happy about that. (Laughs) I started taking lessons, seriously, when I was about 7 at Bogusko’s, and 23 years later, I’m still there, teaching. It just snowballed from there. My guitar teacher from there just had his 82nd birthday, and he was into all of this old county music like Merle Haggard … so I was listening to that. And then I’d come home, and my dad was teaching me the Beatles and the Stones and Hendrix, so I was kind of getting hit at a very early age with everything.

Your brother, Tim, plays with you in Three Imaginary Boys, and you’ve released three albums. What’s next for the band?
We’re writing some new stuff right now, and we’re really excited about it. In the past, it was me and Tim doing a lot of the writing, and now, with Mike Wintermute in the band, he is such a great musician that it’s taken on a whole new direction. We’re really excited about it. We didn’t start recording yet, but we have a bunch of demos done.

You play with quite a few other artists as well. You play with 40-Lb. Head and, from what I’ve heard, you’re also working with Eddie Appnel on his next record.
Yeah, I get random phone calls all the time (like), “Hey, are you free tonight? Can you sit in with us?” (Laughs) That happens a lot.

You’re also a big part of the weekly open-mic jams at Tony’s Wine Cellar in Pittston. Those seem like really fun shows.
It’s just a fantastic experience. I get to play with all of these people that are fantastic. And it’s catching on, where people just want to hear live music, and they just come because they don’t know what they’re going to see or what to expect. It’s just grown, every week. Initially, there were just five or six people there, and now it’s hard to get a seat.

Who are some of your all-time favorite
artists?
Jeff Beck. And early Eric Clapton, from the Cream days. And Jimmy Page. Paul Kossoff is another big one, from Free. And now, Joe Bonamassa. He’s probably my top guy that’s out now.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I love hiking. Every Sunday, that’s what I’m doing, and I’m always trying to find new places. My life is so loud, being around music, that I love just going out to the middle of nowhere and not hearing anything. It’s nice. And when I’m not playing music, I’m learning it and trying to absorb whatever I can.

All-time favorite movie?
“They Live” and the original “Night of the Living Dead.”

Favorite TV show?
“The Walking Dead.”

Favorite city?
New York City is great. They have everything. Food, entertainment — they’ve got it all.

Favorite vacation spot?
My favorite vacation was last year, when I went to the country of Georgia. It was just the most mind-blowing experience I’ve ever had. I went with two friends, one of whom is from there, and she lives in the mountains. There’s no electricity. There’s nothing. We rode horses for two days to get to the village that she’s from on top of these mountains, higher than the clouds. We camped in tents. It was pretty cool.

Favorite food? 
Mexican.

Favorite books?
“To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Nineteen Eighty-Four.”

Favorite holiday?
Halloween.

Favorite things about NEPA?
The music scene is fantastic. There’s talent everywhere. And there’s just so many people that are so welcoming. In other areas, it’s a competition, and you don’t find that around here very much. That’s another thing that I like about Tony’s. Everybody just gets together and just has a good time. I love that. And I love the scenery of this area. Again, I love hiking, and I love the outdoors. I was in Scouts my whole life — I’m an Eagle Scout — so I like the camping part of it. And the food is pretty good.

Favorite quote or catch phrase?
“What goes around comes around.”

Biggest pet peeve?
Arrogant people. People that put themselves on a pedestal. I’m not a fan of that.

Is there anything about you that might really surprise people?
One thing that people don’t seem to realize until they get to know me is that I have two different colored eyes. I have a brown and a blue eye.

Have you had an event in your life, or a person in your life, that has really helped shape you into the person you are today?
My dad introducing me to music and the guitar at such an early age. I have no idea what I’d be doing without music. Ninety percent of my day is devoted to 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.

Up Close & Personal – Cathleen Rivera

Up Close & Personal – Cathleen Rivera

Cathleen Rivera owns and operates Loose Leaf Pages Inc., an independent bookstore and tea bar in Honesdale. The store highlights local authors and independent publishers. Rivera is a native of Honesdale and graduated from Honesdale High School and Kutztown University, where she earned a degree in English literature. She and her husband, Travis, live in Honesdale.

Meet Cathleen Rivera…

What was your inspiration for first opening Loose Leaf Pages Inc.?
The more I got to know the area, I saw how much talent was right here, and I really wanted to highlight that. I didn’t just want a “throw-them-a-bone” small little local authors section in the store. I really wanted that to be the main reason for the store. And then, once I was doing some research for publishing works of my own, I saw how intense large publishing can be, and I found really amazing small publishing companies that cared a lot about what the author had to say. And so the rest of the store — even if they’re books from across the country — they’re from companies that maybe only two or three people work at and that really cherish the works of literature that they’re producing. And just because it’s not published by a large publishing company doesn’t mean it’s not a really superb work of literature.

Is the tea also a key component to the business?
The tea is a big part. It’s all organic, and all of the blends are our own original blends, which is a fun and creative avenue. And there are certainly people that come in and just want a cup of tea and to talk to their friends and relax. And we can certainly accommodate that. But I’ve had a really good response from the community so far in regards to the books, so there’s a nice balancing act. I always love a good cup of tea with my book, and I was kind of hoping when I opened that other people did, too.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I really like to either read or watch Netflix. And I like to go running.

Favorite musical artists?
Moon Taxi, Broken Bells and the Oh Hellos.

All-time favorite movie?
“An Education.” The screenplay was written by one of my favorite authors, Nick Horby.

Favorite TV show?
I’m really looking forward to “Stranger Things 2.” And my all-time favorite is probably “Parks and Recreation.”

Favorite city?
Philadelphia.

Favorite vacation spot?
I really like the beach. Anytime I go anywhere with sand, I get super happy.

Favorite thing about NEPA? 
I absolutely love the sense of community. I’ve lived in Honesdale for such a long time, and I’ve seen it grow. I worked in Scranton and have seen an awesome community there. I really feel it’s a place that takes care of itself and the other communities around it.

Favorite food?
I’m really digging Indian vegetable curry right now.

Favorite holiday?
Halloween. I love going all-out for costumes, so it gives me a reason to dress as crazy as I would like to every other day.

Favorite book or author?
Angela Carter. It’s really hard to nail down a specific book, but she has a bunch of short stories, some of which play on modern fairy tales. She wrote her stuff in the 1960s, and that blows my mind — just how forward-thinking her work was, especially for that time. When I first read her works, there was just a fire ignited in me that doesn’t come along with every book you read.

Guilty pleasure?
A nice glass of white wine.

Biggest pet peeve?
When people don’t follow through with what they said they were going to do. They say “I’ll see you at 8,” and they’re not there until 8:20. Or they’ll say they’ll do a job for you, and the next day I find out it’s not done.

Is there anything about you that might surprise people?
I’m not involved with the troupe anymore, but I was a part of an improv comedy troupe. It was really fun, and I don’t think people expect that from me, because typically, in everyday life, I’m more on the quiet side.

Have you had a defining personal moment, or someone, or something, that has really helped shape you as a person?
Both of my parents have had such a positive impact on my life. I’ve made countless decisions to get to where I am today, and they’ve supported me and encouraged me to follow my heart in every choice that I’ve made. Even with the ones that might not have made sense to an outsider at the time — they’ve been there to help me rise and there to catch me if I fall.

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 & Personal – Alexandra MacNamara

Up Close & Personal – Alexandra MacNamara

Alexandra MacNamara is the theater manager and performing arts marketing director at Wyoming Seminary and the coordinator of Northeastern Pennsylvania Film Festival. A native of Waverly Twp. and a graduate of Wyoming Seminary and the School of Visual Arts in New York, she received her master’s degree in art business from Sotheby’s Institute of Art, New York. She lives in Clarks Summit.
Meet Alexandra MacNamara…

You began your position at Wyoming Seminary in January of this year. Ten months in, what do you enjoy about it the most?
I love seeing our kids. I love our community. And I love making our community more special than it already is, if that’s even possible. I really love booking outside acts. We’ve had some amazing acts this year. We just had the Limon Dance Company, which is a world-famous modern-dance company, coming in from New York. They’re actually the only modern-dance company to ever dance at the White House. And we have Leslie Odom Jr. coming, who was in “Hamilton.” I love maximizing the utilization of that gorgeous theater. It was built in 2014, and it’s really state-of-the-art. We could practically have a Broadway show there. That’s how advanced it is. And it’s so nice to see our kids and our faculty use it. It furthers the very professional attitude that’s taken on by our students.

 

Can you tell us a little about the Northeastern Pennsylvania Film Festival? 
It’s happening in three locations from Oct. 20 to 22. Opening night is at the Waverly Community House. On Saturday, there will be films from 1 p.m. until around 9 p.m. at the Iron Horse Movie Bistro in Scranton. And we’re going to have a screening at Wyoming Seminary on Sunday from 1 to 7 p.m. It’s an international film festival. We have films from Iran and Australia and as close as Scranton and Kingston. We really have a wide range of independent filmmakers and films from all over the world. There’s something for everyone. We’ll have everything from documentaries to animations to comedies, horror and dramas. You really get a lot out of your experience.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time? 
I love to be with my friends and spending time with my family. And I love to be outdoors. I love to kayak. I love to hike. And I love to go to local events. There’s so much to do every weekend; I really like to take advantage of it.

Any hobbies?
I’m a ceramic artist. I haven’t had time to do it lately, but I’m a hobbyist potter.

Favorite music?
Radiohead.

Favorite city?
New York. I have so many friends there, and I love the art scene there and going out (to) galleries and museums. Having access to so much culture, so close, is a great part of living here. Outside of the U.S., I love Barcelona, Paris and Milan. But Milan and New York are probably my favorites, just for the amount of art and fashion.

Favorite place to vacation?
Anywhere in Northern California.

Favorite thing about NEPA?
I have so many favorite things, but I think it all comes down to the people that are here. Our changing demographics. And our newfound ability to embrace change and progress and grow. And that all really comes back to the people that are here and that are making these things happen. The people are improving this area for everyone else — their children, their parents — they’re my favorites.

All-time favorite movies? 
“Hiroshima Mon Amour” and “Natural Born Killers.”

Favorite TV show?
“Stranger Things.”

Favorite food?
Any kind of French cuisine.

Favorite holiday?
Valentine’s Day.

Favorite book or author?
“The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt.

Guilty pleasure?
Cheese.

Biggest pet peeve?
Poor manners. Rudeness.

Is there anything about you that might surprise people?
I’m an open book with my friends and like to tell stories, so everyone knows everything about me. (Laughs)

Have you had an event in your life, or a person in your life, that has helped shape you or define you as a person?
My school art teacher, Dan Kruger. He was at Sem when I was a student, and he’s still there. And I don’t think, if I hadn’t taken his art classes, that I would have pursued a career in art. He made me and all of his students feel that we could absolutely pursue careers in the arts. Either as artists, or arts in administration, or art therapy, or whatever. … He really opened my view to all of the possibilities in the art world and finding a niche in there.

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 & Personal – Tommy Lin

Up Close & Personal – Tommy Lin

Tommy Lin is the bar manager of Cooper’s Seafood House, Scranton, and a drummer and songwriter with the band Existentialism. A native of Taiwan, Lin has lived in Northeast Pennsylvania since 1982 and graduated from Scranton High School and University of Scranton. He lives in Dunmore.

Meet Tommy Lin…

You’ve been at Cooper’s for 18 years, and you’ve been the bar manager for nine years. What do you enjoy about it?

The people. These people come in, and I’m an entertainer. And there’s nothing like seeing the regulars. They’ll come in, and I’ll be like, “How was Miami?” or “How was your son’s first baseball game?” They literally become extended members of my family. Customers text me and ask me if I’m working. And it’s also the people that work here. The reason we’re good and we’re an established place is because of the people within. And it’s family-owned, and the owners obviously play an integral part. They treat me very well, and they give us the tools to succeed.

Tell us a little about your music. 
Music is a love and a hobby. I find it to be an outlet and a passion and nothing more. I’ve probably recorded 10 albums, but I stopped playing out in 2006. I played in the Scranton hard-core scene in the ’90s and was with Burial Ground for nine years, but I got desensitized by music. I became a recluse. There’s people that like music, and then there’s people that like music, and I find that most people don’t like music the way that I like music. I have more than 1,600 CDs. I’ve attended more than 600 concerts. And I listen to all underground metal. Nothing commercial. I’m a thrash drummer. I grew up in the ’80s with a lot of thrash bands, and I enjoyed thrash, and I later branched out into death metal and black metal. Most of the music I listen to is from Scandinavia. And I still play every day. But I just play music because I love it. It’s an extension of myself.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time? 
Music. I’m constantly going to concerts. And I enjoy shopping for music. I like the digital age, but I also like holding a CD. I’m also an avid Transformer collector. And I spend about 40 to 60 days snowboarding every year. I also enjoy waterfall hunting. I search for waterfalls that are huge and grand and out of the way. I also enjoy doing things with my best friend, Susie. She attends concerts with me and does everything with me, and she means the world to me. I’m never idle. I’m up and I’m out.

Who are some of your favorite bands?
Overkill. Iron Maiden. Right now I’m listening to Samael, Borknagar, Vintersorg and Amorphis.

All-time favorite movie? 
“Fight Club.”

Favorite TV show?
“Dateline NBC.” And, growing up, “Wings” and “Mister Ed.”

Favorite city?
Philly. For sports events and concerts, I go to Philly.

Do you follow sports?
Phillies, Eagles and Flyers. But sports will always be secondary. Music will always be first. If Iron Maiden was playing at the Wells Fargo Center and the Phillies were going to game seven of the World Series, I’m going to go see Iron Maiden. But I’ve been to 122 games at Citizens Bank Park. Sports, to me, is entertainment.

Favorite place to vacation?
Okemo, Vermont, for snowboarding.

Favorite food?
Taiwan. A dish called Ba-wan.

Favorite quote or catchphrase?
“Let’s just say God works too slow.” It’s from the “X-Men.”

Any nicknames?
“Tyrant.”

Is there anything about you that might really surprise people?
No, because I always throw it out there. Working here, I always feel that you should be honest and extend yourself.

Have you had a moment in your life, or an event in your life, that has helped shape you or define you as a person?
I lost my sister to cancer in 2013. We grew up together. We were immigrants, and my parents were busy working two jobs. We actually didn’t come here for a “better opportunity.” We actually had a good opportunity (in Taiwan). I always find that people that leave their birthplace do it for a better opportunity or a better family environment. Ours was the latter. It was better for us to leave. And so my sister and I grew up together. My parents started working overseas again, and she pretty much raised me. The last four years have been trying … and the grieving process for everyone is different. Mine has been spread out. And I haven’t felt like myself for four years. I was just doing things just to pass the days since she died. Even though I was snowboarding, waterfall hunting and going to concerts, it was just something so that I didn’t have to think about her passing. And now I’m coming out of that, and I enjoy waterfall hunting and going to concerts again. I enjoy playing music again. I am slowly recovering who I was, or who I think she’d be proud of.

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 & Personal – Dave Senecal

Up Close & Personal – Dave Senecal

David Senecal is the bassist with the band Clever Clever. He is a native of Scranton and graduated from Western Wayne High School. In addition to his work with music, he also is an auto body paint technician with Kelly’s Collision. He lives in Scranton.

Meet David Senecal…

Tell us a little about your career in music, prior to forming Clever Clever.
The drummer and I have been in bands together since high school. One group, Razeland, was post hard-core type stuff, and we had some really good shows. We got to play at the original CBGB in New York City, which was awesome — to be on that stage that so many different musicians were on and even just to be in some of the back rooms where the bands hung out. It was really cool. And we also played at the Trocadero in Philly at a “Battle of the Bands.”

Clever Clever formed three years ago. Tell us a little about that project.
We wanted to break away from the heavier genre and possibly do something more rock and more punk. A lot of heavier music — if you think of it as a formula — always has that moment with a heavy breakdown. With this project, we wanted to break away from that and kind of just flow with it and be a little bit less aggressive and see where that went. It’s more thrash/punk. Some of the songs are even a little poppy. We’re currently going through some transitions with band members, but we plan to move forward with our music.

How long have you played bass?
I actually learned how to play bass playing the upright bass, reading sheet music and playing in the orchestra of the Scranton Intermediate School. They had an awesome music program. When I was in fourth and fifth grade, I played violin. And then when I got to middle school, I was already in an advanced class, and they asked us what string instrument we’d like to play. I saw the big one in the back and said “I want that one.” (Laughs) For the next three years, I was in the string orchestra playing the stand-up bass.

Who are some of your favorite artists?
Deftones and Queens of the Stone Age.

How did you first get into auto body work?
I’ve been in the automotive industry since high school. As a kid, I’d always take things apart and put them back together. That was always a part of my personality. I was always interested in the way things work. My stepfather and my father were both jacks-of-all-trades. They were both always doing things with their hands, and so I also got into that at an early age. I’d always work on my own bicycles and try to build cool bikes. Later, in high school, I worked at a car wash detailing cars, and my mother told me about an opening at a body shop. And that was the start of my auto body career as a profession.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I like going the gym, putting on the headphones and listening to music.

Any hobbies?
Motorcycles. I have three. And I like to work on them. I have a small garage at home. It’s something I like to do over the course of the winter to keep me busy. I’ll end up ripping one of my bikes apart or picking up a project bike. Or, some of my friends might want some custom paint, upgrades or repairs.

All-time favorite movie?
“Reservoir Dogs”

Favorite city?
Philadelphia. They have lots of really good food there, the shopping districts are really cool, and there’s a lot of music venues.

Favorite vacation spot?
Down south. Virginia. Outer Banks.

Favorite thing about NEPA?
Having so many things to do in one small area. In the winter, there’s skiing, snowboarding, sleigh-riding and tubing. In the summer, there’s lakes and rivers and hiking trails. There’s something to do around every corner. You can’t get bored in this area.

Favorite food? 
Chicken.

Favorite holiday?
Christmas.

Do you follow sports?
Philadelphia Eagles.

Guilty pleasure?
Certain pop songs. They’re so catchy. They just know how to grab your ear. (Laughs) There’s a Bruno Mars song that I like.

Favorite quote or catchphrase?
It’s my own: “I was never good with a Rubik’s Cube, but I’m great with Legos.”

Biggest pet peeve?
Slow, non-signaling drivers.

Is there anything about you that might surprise people?
I’ve never been on an airplane. I’ve been up and down the East Coast quite a bit, but the opportunity to fly just never really came. Yet.

Have you had a defining personal moment? Something that has helped shape you into the person you are today?
My mother passed away from cancer when I was 21. After that, I tried taking a lot of what her and my father had taught me and really applying it to my life. When she passed, I realized that a lot of the things that she taught me growing up had stuck with me, and I tried applying a lot of it to my life, towards my drive. My mother took care of me and three sisters on her own for a while. She was a tough woman. And though it took a lot of tough love, I try to live my life the way my parents would want me to.

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 and & Personal – Maria Wheatley

Up Close and & Personal – Maria Wheatley

Maria Wheatley is a pharmaceutical representative, specializing in oncology medications, with Pharmacyclics and a certified yoga instructor with Nearme Yoga, Moosic and Peckville, who also has volunteered at River Front Yoga, Wilkes-Barre. She is a native of Old Forge and a graduate of Bishop Hannon High School and Wilkes University, where she earned a degree in biology. She and her husband, Bob, live in Moosic.
Meet Maria Wheatley…

Earlier this year, you received your RYT 200 yoga certification and are now a certified instructor. When did you first develop an interest in yoga? 
I started practicing yoga a few years ago and then decided to enter into the teacher-training (program). I fell in love with it for the physical aspects — as most students of yoga do — but through the practice of yoga, I found the benefits to be not only physical but (also) mental. I enjoy having a quiet mind for a few hours and controlling your body with your breath. I entered into the teacher training in July of 2016 and graduated in January.

Do you enjoy teaching yoga?
I love it. I love seeing how the students that come to my class develop after having class with me. And, having not taught very long, I love seeing my own transition and development in teaching.

You’ve been in pharmaceutical sales for 25 years and have specialized in oncology products for 15 years. What do you enjoy about it?
I like having conversations with physicians about specific patients who could benefit from what I sell, which is a targeted therapy or supported care. And I like that those conversations aren’t broad, as if we were talking about all of their patients. They’re very specific to particular patients and how they can benefit from the medications. And I like having follow-up conversations with physicians about patients who are on my medications and are doing well.

What do you do in your free time to relax?
Working two jobs, when is my free time? (Laughs) When I’m not teaching yoga, I literally try to practice yoga every day. And my husband and I like to travel. We go to London every December for a week. And we’ve been to Alaska and around the United States as well as several European countries. But we also enjoy just going to the Minooka Pub and watching Notre Dame. My family also lives close by, so I like to hang out with them as well as friends.

Favorite music?
I like all kinds of music, though my very favorite is Beyonce. I also love Steely Dan. I’m all over the board. I listen to pop. My husband loves jazz, so we also listen to that a lot.

Do you follow sports?
Mostly college football. I love Notre Dame football, and my husband loves Notre Dame football. He’s also a big Cowboys fan and has been since he was little, so we watch the Cowboys every Sunday. And we watch college basketball during March Madness. We’ve actually gone to Las Vegas to watch March Madness.

All-time favorite movie?
“The Sound of Music.”

Favorite TV show?
Currently it’s “The Real Housewives” of anywhere. (Laughs)

Favorite city?
London.

Favorite vacation spot?
Also London. We’ve been there a dozen times, so when we go there, it’s not as if we have to run to Westminster Abbey and go see Big Ben. We literally live in London for a week and go to local pubs and walk to different neighborhoods.

Favorite thing about NEPA?
The fact that all of my friends and family are here. I guess most people would say the seasons, but I would just like summer to be its own year-round reason. (Laughs) But this is where I’m from. It’s where home is. And there’s something really lovely about the community here.

Favorite food?
Pizza. I’m from Old Forge, and my grandparents had one of the original pizza places in Old Forge. What’s now Café Rinadli used to be a Lettieri’s.

Favorite holiday?
Thanksgiving.

Guilty pleasure?
Beer.

Biggest pet peeve?
Grammatical errors. And people that don’t say “thank you” when you let them pull out in front of you. I drive about 1,000 miles a week, so I have a lot of time to observe people’s road manners, or lack thereof.

Favorite book or author?
Jennifer Weiner.

Favorite quote or catchphrase?
I say it all the time in my classes, and I say it all the time to myself: “Take a moment to say something nice to yourself.” I think, in our heads, we’re very critical of ourselves. We’re very quick to say, “That looks terrible on me” or “My hair looks bad.” But in moments like that, when you’re sitting in traffic and you find yourself getting angry, just take a moment to say something nice to yourself.

Have you had a defining moment in your life, or someone in your life, that has helped shape you into the person you are today?
I think I’m a pretty good combination of both of my parents. The older I get, I see a lot of my own self in them and a lot of them in me. Overall, I’m cut directly from the Lettieri cloth. As for a moment, a couple of years ago, we were renovating our home, and the builder went to jail. And we were left, literally, with nothing but studs and mess of the home that we had lived in for 10 years. This was someone that was willing to take our money and leave our house half-done. And so we lived with my brother and his family, in his basement, for 10 months. And for all of the bad that was happening in our lives with our house and the builder, people were genuinely kind about it. My brother and his wife went out of their way to allow us to live there, and even their neighbors — who became our neighbors during that time — never missed an opportunity to ask how things were going. And our neighbors, when we would stop back to our house, always came over to offer to help in any way that they could. That was a moment in time that showed us the goodness
of people.

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 & Personal – Stephen Murphy

Up Close & Personal – Stephen Murphy

Stephen Murphy is the lead vocalist and keyboardist with the band Black Tie Stereo, which will release its second EP on Friday, Sept. 29, with a party at Radisson at Lackawanna Station hotel, Scranton. Murphy also is a freelance composer and accompanist who has composed music for theatrical productions. He also served as music director for Arts Alive for the past 10 years. A graduate of Scranton Preparatory School and Carnegie Mellon University, where he earned a degree in music composition with a minors in piano performance, conducting and accompanying, he lives in Scranton.
Meet Stephen Murphy…

Let’s talk about the new music from Black Tie Stereo. What would you say is the biggest difference between this EP and the first EP?
The first album was sort of a compilation of songs that I had written, some with the other band members, and some on my own. With this one, the four of us in the band actually sat down and fleshed out all of the ideas that we had and picked the five songs that we liked the best and that our producer liked the best. It’s the first one where the songs actually have all four of our styles and incorporate all of our writing. It’s really the first time we went through everything with a fine-toothed comb and said, “This is how we want to present ourselves.”

Who have been some of your major musical influences? I hear some Maroon 5.
Personally, I grew up playing classical music and playing Billy Joel. We share a birthday, which is really cool, and I can really relate to him as a singer/pianist. He’s a huge influence on me, just because he’s so good. I also love film scores from people like Hans Zimmer and John Williams, and that goes into my compositional work, and that bleeds over into the stuff with the band. Vocally, I really like guys like Brendon Urie from Panic! At the Disco and Freddie Mercury. All of those things come together, and I like to pick out different aspects from each one and blend them all together.

What usually inspires you to write?
Everyone goes through their own journeys and has their own problems and their own ups and downs, and what I try to do is find the scenario that I or one of our bandmates or one of my friends or someone that I saw on the street is going through. And I try to put myself in that mindset. Even if it’s not something that I’m feeling at the time, I make it what I’m feeling at the time. That’s what I try to do. Even though the songs that we do with the band come through my voice, sometimes it’s a different narrator each time. In the song “Run Jamie Run,” I’m talking to someone that I noticed might be in a relationship that they shouldn’t have been, and I’m trying to sing to them. With “Miss Romance,” I’m noticing that in today’s culture, someone that might be looking for a long-term partner, rather than a Tinder match, has a hard time dating. We try to relate to people in each of the songs while still remaining true to our voice.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
Going out and hearing other bands, grabbing a craft beer, playing video games. And we do a lot of hanging out as a band.

Do you follow sports?
Red Sox and Cowboys.

All-time favorite movie?
“Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.”

Favorite TV show?
“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.”

Favorite city?
I had the best time in New Orleans. But San Diego is also really good.

Favorite place to vacation?
I haven’t been there in a while, but I really like Ocean City, Maryland. It’s the beach, but it’s also always busy with a lot happening. I like that better than just a peaceful beach.

Favorite thing about NEPA?
It’s a very close-knit community. It’s always nice to see people from here, because they’re always very unique, and you can always relate, because there’s a lot of like-minded opinions. At least in the circles that I run in.

Favorite food?
Hot wings.

Favorite holiday?
Christmas.

Favorite book or author?
“Jurassic Park” by Michael Crichton.

Guilty pleasure?
Video games. I play whenever I can.

Is there anything about you that might surprise people?
In high school, I was in all of the plays, and now, I’m on stage all the time. But I’m far more comfortable in an orchestra pit. If I’m playing a keyboard in an orchestra pit and conducting, I actually feel more engaged with the audience than if I’m acting or performing on stage.

Have you had a moment in your life, or a time in your life, that really helped shape you into the person you are today?
My grandmother would watch my sister and I while my parents were at work. When I’d come home from school in first or second grade, she’d say, “OK, you can do your homework, you can help me in the yard, or you can practice piano.” And I would always choose to practice piano. Half of it was because I loved piano, but a lot of it was because I didn’t want to do yard work or homework. (Laughs) But I didn’t like to practice, so that sort of developed into her saying, “OK, if you’re not going to practice, at least just play.” And so I had to sit at the piano and just play music for a half hour or an hour, and that led to me improvising and composing. And that evolved into sitting at the piano for hours every day. Sometimes I’d practice, and then I’d write and improvise, and it just really developed not only a love for music but (also) all of the different skills that I have as a musician.

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 – Holly Pilcavage

Up Close – Holly Pilcavage

Holly Pilcavage is director of business development for Coal Creative, Wilkes-Barre, and manager of Wilkes-Barre Connect, an initiative of the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Commerce. A native of Plains Twp. and a graduate of Coughlin High School, she also is involved in the national organization ForCollegeForLife. Pilcavage earned a degree in business management from University of Scranton and a master’s degree in higher education administration from University of Akron. She lives in Kingston.

Meet Holly Pilcavage…

Can you tell us about your work with Coal Creative?
We do a lot with internet marketing, video marketing, live streaming, website design, traditional marketing and graphic design. When a company comes to us, they might have to start from scratch, or they might already have an established brand. Whatever it might be, we do a lot of strategizing and consulting. I’m the left brain of the company. Everyone else is the right brain — the creatives. I do more of client relations, client management, HR and payroll — just trying to keep things organized and moving forward. 

And your work with Wilkes-Barre Connect?
It’s almost like a hub for a lot of the different resources and programs and organizations that already exist. The Allan P. Kirby Center, the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania, the Diamond City Partnership … there are a lot of different players that all come together to put together different programs. It’s to connect — especially — entrepreneurs. 

People that don’t know where to start can come through our system, and I can help direct them to wherever they might need to go first, or next. And there’s a lot of follow-up as well, to make sure all of the dominos fall in place. Our five areas of focus are entrepreneurs, veterans, interns, financing and education.

And ForCollegeForLife? How are you involved with that organization?
I go to colleges and universities throughout the country, or different conferences, and speak to college students about different programs, one of which is Project Puzzle Piece, which is an organization that I founded. It helps students to see their place in the larger context of their organizations, community and the world and how they can impact each in a positive way. I do that — visit colleges — about four or five times a year.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I’m a writer. I like to write. And that ties in with Project Wednesday, which I founded. It’s a blog that fosters positive human development through storytelling. We currently have 30 writers from 15 different states, and pretty much — daily — we post a new blog. It helps spread inspiration and connect people with people.

Favorite music?
’90s and 2000s alternative.

Favorite city?
New York. You walk down one street and you’re at a museum. You walk down another street and you’re at the world’s best pizza shop. Or … you’re in a beautiful park.

Favorite place to vacation?
I went to Paris in December, and that’s one place that I just can’t wait to go back to.

Favorite thing about NEPA?
There’s a lot of drive and a lot of potential. I was living out of the state for a little while, and I just moved home 10 months ago. And I don’t know if it’s because I’m older or I’m more involved, but I just feel that the young professionals that I’m meeting, and even the established professionals — the way that they’re talking and the changes that they want to make — it feels real, and it feels good. I feel like I’m meeting a lot of like-minded people that are pushing forward. Change is inevitable. It’s up to us whether it’s going to be positive or negative.

All-time favorite movie?
“The Nightmare Before Christmas.” I also like “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.”

Favorite TV show?
“The Office.”

Favorite food?
Unhealthy: bacon. Healthy: lettuce.

Guilty pleasure?
Cheese and wine.

Favorite holiday?
Halloween.

Favorite book or author?
“Tuesdays with Morrie” by Mitch Albom.

Favorite quote or catchphrase?
I have two of my own little mantras: “I’m not trying to change the entire world. I’m just trying to make it a better place for some people.” And, before I have to do anything big, or make a presentation, I breathe in and breathe out and repeat to myself, “I know who I am. And I know what I do.” And, from when I went to the University of Scranton, I loved the quote from St. Ignatius: “Go forth and set the world on fire.”

Biggest pet peeve?
Poor grammar. Like when people say, “I don’t” instead of “I didn’t.” It’s actually something I need to fix about myself, because I correct people when I hear them do it before I even think about it. (Laughs) Sometimes I should think before I speak, because it’s not very nice. (Laughs)

Is there anything about you that might surprise people?
I’m actually an extrovert/introvert. I get up every day and meet with people and do what I have to do, but at the end of the day I have to become a hermit and regain my energy and just disconnect, completely. I’m very active on social media, and people may think I’m a social butterfly, but in high school I was really quiet, and I still have that at heart. That’s still there. But I do what I have to do, because it’s important to me.

Have you had a moment in your life, or a person in your life, that has helped define you and shape you into the person you are today?
Throughout my educational experiences — elementary, junior high, high school and college — I’ve always had, for whatever reason, that one teacher that chose me and said, “I need to help her kind of figure out who she is.” And the biggest of all of them was my French teacher from high school. When I was a freshman, she just kind of took me under her wing with that whole concept of, “It takes a village…” I had no idea, but her and my mom would connect and talk about my progress. I was very different. Very quiet. I didn’t know who I was back then. I was lucky to have many educators connect with me, but she was pivotal in me becoming who I am today. 

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 – Bryan Banks

Up Close – Bryan Banks

Bryan Banks is a professional musician who will release his first solo album, “The Sudden Sounds of Urgency,” on Friday, Sept. 1, and hold a CD release party Saturday, Oct. 7, at Thirst T’s, Olyphant. Previously, Banks drummed with area acts such as Owen’s Grudge, Dashboard Mary, Asialena, Jonathan Dressler and John Quinn. A native of Rockland County, New York, he relocated to Scranton in 2001 and now lives in Dunmore, where he works at Stericycle.
Meet Bryan Banks…

After spending so many years as a drummer, what was it like to record a solo album where you wrote and sang all of the songs and played almost all of the instruments?
Behind the scenes, I had been playing guitar as a way to write and a way to express thoughts, and to have that serenity. The dichotomy is different when you’re drumming, especially in a high-energy group like Owen’s Grudge, where you’re always coming at it a certain way. It was good to have another release point, and it was a helpful tool for me with drumming, because I could understand the mentality of the singer and the mentality of the guitar player, and I think it made me a better musician. 

What inspired the album?
Over the past couple of years, I’ve just been venturing out into the songwriting process. I always liked to put the pen to paper. There were some events in life that lead you to go in that direction, and I wanted to prove something to myself — that I could take something from start to finish. I worked on it for seven years, off and on, balancing being a working musician and a having full-time job. And I have to thank the guys at S.I. Studios. They were essential and patient. There are 10 songs on the album. There could have been 12 or 13. And I tracked close to 20 pieces. It started off where I was going to get these life-changing emotions out, but then I realized the writing was too personal … so I had to modify that.

How creatively fulfilling was it to work through all of that as an artist?
Unbelievable. Music has been the driving force in my whole life. And I’ve been blessed — and I use that word strongly — because I’m a man of faith. It’s a blessing, because people have been very kind to me, regarding accolades about my playing. But I always know I can get better and be better. But this was really self-fulfilling. It’s something you created from scratch. There was something about knowing I did it all and that I could accomplish it. And I really didn’t realize how fulfilling it was until people started saying that they couldn’t wait to hear it. Over the past year or two, I’ve started playing the guitar out more as a solo performer, because I felt I couldn’t cheat the game. I’ve been known for drumming, thanks to all of the artists that have let me share their stages, and now that I’ve started to come out with the guitar, I wanted to earn my keep. I didn’t want to just be “the guy who plays drums” and have that association. That would have been easy, but I can’t ask you to go purchase something or listen to something if I can’t legitimately do it.

Tell us about your shows. What, in addition to your own songs, do you play?
I try to incorporate a wide range of stuff. I’ll do “Stand By Me” and “Easy” by the Commodores, then I’ll do Alice in Chains’ “Man in a Box” and “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover.”

Who are some of your all-time favorite artists?
Prince; Rush, because of Neil Peart; Eddie Van Halen, who transitioned me into rock music and guitar; and I like Sevendust and Living Colour.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I enjoy video games, preferably the sports ones, because I can compete.

Favorite city?
Montreal. I’ve been there four times.

Favorite vacation spot?
Bermuda.

All-time favorite movie?
“Shawshank Redemption,” “Forrest Gump” and “Pulp Fiction.”

Favorite TV show? “Suits.”

Favorite food?
Lobster.

Favorite holiday?
Christmas.

Do you follow sports?
Yankees, Giants, Knicks and Rangers.

Favorite book or author? John Grisham.

Biggest pet peeve?
Ignorance. In any shape or form, wherever it’s coming from. There’s a lot to be learned, and you can make a choice to learn if you want to.

Guilty pleasure?
Probably eating. (Laughs)

Is there anything about you that might surprise people?
I was on a dance troupe with the New York/New Jersey Knights, of the World League of American Football, and performed twice at the Meadowlands. And a lot of people didn’t know I play guitar, but I’ve been doing it off and on for years.

Have you had a moment in your life, or a person in your life, that has really helped shape you, and helped define you as the person you are today?
The whole process of being in the studio. Because there were a lot of nights when I was there by myself and you’re tracking, and there are so many stages of human emotions. You go through positivity. You go through self-doubt. You go through confidence. Also, I’ve had some near-death experiences with car crashes and a drowning accident. I was in two really bad accidents, and I almost drowned, and so I have an appreciation for life. I am a man of faith, and I try to keep that first, in front of everything. And as far as people in my life, my mother. She used to direct the gospel choir. And I draw a lot of strength from her.

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 – Jessica Meoni

Up Close – Jessica Meoni

Jessica Meoni is the art director at SUNY Broome Community College, Binghamton, New York, and an event coordinator in the Scranton area who had previously worked as a graphic designer at Marywood University. Meoni is a graduate of West Scranton High School and Marywood, where she received bachelor’s and master’s degrees and studied graphic design, art history, world history, publications and print-making. She lives in West Scranton.
Meet Jessica Meoni…

When did you first discover that you had an interest in graphic design?
In high school, though my high school didn’t actually have a graphic design program. I took art and things like that, but it was really traditional. I did a lot of painting. It didn’t really hit me until my senior year, when I was trying to seriously think about what I wanted to do. A representative from a college came to our school and told me, “If you go to a supermarket, and you go down any aisle, you’ll see everything that has to be designed. The store signage. The cereal boxes. The soup cans.” It’s kind of funny, because it’s right in front of your face, and you didn’t realize it. So I thought I would go toward commercial art. I didn’t really have any computer art classes, so I self-trained and figured out how to do some things. And when I went to Marywood, I learned a lot more.

So, you’ve now been doing it for a long time.
It’s about 10 years now. I do freelance graphic design, social media and publicity. I help a few local businesses make their promotional flyers and pretty much anything they need. It’s a personal business that I run. Even as I was starting, in high school, I would run downtown and go into businesses and ask if they needed a flyer or a business card, because I knew I needed to build my portfolio even to get in to college. I really didn’t have anything other than traditional art, and I knew I needed some good print pieces and maybe even some web stuff. I was doing all of this work pro bono, because they judged you on your portfolio, and if I didn’t have anything, I wasn’t going to get into school.

So, even as a teenager, you really hustled. After 10 years, what do you still enjoy about it?
I just love the ability to communicate with images in the best way possible and just create something really eye-catching. I also like communicating with a client about the best way that they can make their look be super distinct from other places, in a business sense, with a more creative graphic design. Take shapes, for instance. As a graphic designer, I don’t always look at typography and fonts as typography and fonts. I look at them as shapes. And you can play around with them on a canvas or an art board and just turn it into art. You can set a mood and set a theme.

Can you tell us a little about your work as an event coordinator?
I like providing things for Scranton to do, and they are usually music- and art-based. One is Grrrls Night, which are sporadically run events featuring an all-female lineup of musicians, comedians and poets. These are held at Ale Mary’s, and the next one is Sept. 15. Another is Hallowfest, which is usually held at Nay Aug Park. It’s a Halloween-themed music festival featuring several different local acts as well as vendors. This year’s festival will actually be held at the Irish Wolf Pub on Oct. 27. We usually have a variety of punk and metal bands play. And another is the Scranton Zine Fest, which is a celebration of handmade publications and artwork. People come in from the tri-state area as well as from NEPA. It occurs every June, and next year will be our eighth year.

What do you enjoy in your free time?

I manage a local metal band, Earthmouth, and make promotional material for them, like shirts and patches. And I do that for a lot of the local bands. My long-term goal is to create a design studio that provides band merchandise for local bands. Growing up here, the music scene was super important to me. Venues that allowed the under-21 (crowd) really shaped my outlook, and my parents were really musical people, too.

Who are some of your all-time favorite musical artists?
Joy Division, the Smiths, the Adicts, the Ramones, the Misfits, Bauhaus, Van Halen and Pink Floyd. Typically, I like ’60s and ’70s type of stuff. Back in the ’80s, my uncle was also in a local band, so I’ve also grown up around hair metal.

Favorite city?
Philly.

Favorite thing about NEPA?
There’s so much I love. The small-business culture, and how people really try to start things. I get inspired when people try, on their own, to do things. I like that new bands are always being formed and trying to put on shows for young people. Once, in high school, I did a project on all of the different architecture in Scranton. I love the history.

All-time favorite movie?
“Sybil ” and “Annie Hall.”

All-time favorite TV show?
“Seinfeld.”

Favorite holiday?
Halloween.

Favorite food?
Falafel. It’s a vegetarian dish.

Favorite book or author?
William Faulkner and Willa Cather.

Any pets?
A cat, Sadie.

Biggest pet peeve?
People that complain about things but don’t do anything about it.

Guilty pleasure?
Gin and tonic. But I’m not guilty about it. (Laughs)

Is there anything about you that might surprise people?
I have social anxiety. I don’t have a problem with public speaking or anything like that, but I do get really nervous about being in crowds. It’s claustrophobic type stuff. I get a little antsy and want to get out of there.

Who, if anyone, helped guide you toward a career in art and graphic design?
I was really touched by my art teacher from middle school, Robert Boland, who passed away a few years ago. He was actually my mom’s art teacher, too. He was such an eccentric character and was really compassionate, and he always told me I was going to go far. There was a certain sincerity to him. He really had an impact on me, and often, at my daily job, I think about him.

UP CLOSE AND 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 – Heidi Palazzari

Up Close – Heidi Palazzari

Heidi Palazzari owns and operates Sanderson Place Spa & Salon, Scranton. The business has operated for 48 years, and Palazzari bought it 18 months ago. Palazzari is a native of Blakely and a graduate of Valley View High School and Empire Beauty School. She also is a member of the Green Ridge Business Association. She and her son, Julian, 6, and daughter, Mia, 5, live in Peckville.
Meet Heidi Palazzari …

You’re 34, and you’ve worked at Sanderson Place since you were 16. That’s more than half of your life, so it’s obviously something you knew you wanted to do at a young age. What made you first want to become a stylist? In school, I was always artistic, and there really weren’t many opportunities with art other than computer graphics. So even when I was really young, I was doing my friends’ hair. I was always doing blonde, summer, beachy hair. I was always drawn to that, and I always wanted to try and create that myself. And I still love it.

What led to you buying Sanderson Place?
I was 20 years old, and I knew I was going to be the owner. It’s weird, but I really did, so I kind of willed my way to do it. I was about 24 when I went to my boss at the time and told her that I was interested, if she was ever going to sell it. And she said, “Heidi, wait until you’re 30.” So I waited, and then I got pregnant, and I had to wait some more. But it happened.

After all of these years, what do you still enjoy about it the most?
The smiles on peoples’ faces when they leave. I love the beauty industry. I love when people come in not feeling so hot and leave feeling fantastic. I love that. I’ve always loved it. Smelling good. Looking good. It appeals to me.

What is your particular forte within the style industry?
Color theory. I was always a blonde fanatic, and that’s kind of hard to achieve. I love to get the perfect blonde, and it’s hard to do. But I was drawn to that. Most of my clients have long blonde hair. That’s what I do.

Tell us a little about your grand-reopening, which is set for Sept. 30.
The salon has been here 48 years. It’s my turn to kind of flip it and bring it up to date. It’s an older business, and it needs to be revamped and get a facelift for 2017. We’re painting and getting new surfaces. The staff is getting bigger. It’s expanding.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
Hanging out with my girlfriends. Going for a drink. Going to any type of concert and listening to music. I love music.

Who are some of your favorite artists?
Dolly Parton, Justin Bieber, Pearl Jam, the Beatles, the Notorious B.I.G. I’m all over. I love it all.

Do you follow sports?
The Eagles.

Favorite movies?
“Silver Linings Playbook,” “Into the Wild” and “The Godfather.”

Favorite TV show?
“Mad Men” and “The Office.”

Favorite city?
Toronto.

Favorite thing about NEPA?
The people. The locals. It’s homey. You know everyone. It’s comfortable.

Favorite book or author?
“Into the Wild” by Jon Krakauer.

Favorite holiday?
The Fourth of July.

Favorite food?
Everything. (Laughs) But if I had to pick one, hummus. And Lebanese food.

Biggest pet peeve?
People who move slow. People that talk slow. It bothers me. (Laughs)

Favorite quote or catchphrase?
“Silence is golden.”

Is there anything about you that might really surprise people?
I think I always surprise people. I’m kind of mouthy. (Laughs) But I’m kind of an open book. I think people know me. There’s nothing I’m hiding.

Have you had a moment in your life, or a time in your life, that has helped shape you or define you as a person?
If it wasn’t for those women that I worked at the salon with when I was 16, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing. I was raised by 20 moms. And they changed my life. Other than my own mother, of course, they pretty much raised me. That was a pivotal, life-changing moment for me. I found my niche. I knew immediately where I was supposed to be.

UP CLOSE AND 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 – Mike Walton

Up Close – Mike Walton

Mike Walton is a professional DJ and is the owner and operator of Mike Walton Entertainment. The company specializes in weddings, birthday and graduation parties, proms and corporate events. He was voted “Best Wedding DJ” in the Electric City’s “Best of 2016” readers’ poll. Walton is a native of Scranton and attended of Scranton Technical High School and Johnson College, where he received an associate degree in architectural drafting and design. He and his wife, Debra, live in Old Forge.
Meet Mike Walton …

How long have you been a DJ?
I say “over 20 years” to emphasize the experience factor, but it was actually 1984 when I started, so we’re looking at 33 years.

What inspired you to want to do it? What was it about DJ work that first drew your interest?
I didn’t want a real job. (Laughs.) While I was going to school, I wanted study time. I figured if I worked as a DJ on the weekends, I’d probably make as much if I worked at a pizza shop five nights a week. My sister worked at Specialty Records, so I could buy albums for $1. I built up my record collection like crazy, and a started buying all of these things that I didn’t know anything about. The music that I had to play was different from what I used to listen to. I used to listen to AC/DC, Van Halen and Aerosmith, and when I started deejaying, it was Madonna and Taylor Dayne. And once I saw the reaction at an event, of how people reacted to that music, it drew me to it even more. I was doing the nightclubs for three or four years, but when I did my first wedding, it was, “Forget about it.” From that point on, all I wanted to do was weddings. I just fell in love with it.

You and your staff do more than 300 events a year. After 33 years, what do you still enjoy about it?
I still enjoy working with clients and making their events personal. And I enjoy everybody on the dance floor. There’s a great feeling when it’s a great wedding. It gives you a sense of accomplishment — that you did something great for these people.

Who are some of your favorite musical artists?
Michael Bublé. And some of the rock and roll classics still have a heavy influence on my life. But there’s also Sinatra. Going back to that music, I’ve realized how tremendous it was. We just want to a jazz festival in Montreal and saw John Pizzarelli. And I love lounge acts, like Pink Martini, that offer such a great alternative type of music. And, of course, dance music. Any of the new dance music is fantastic.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
We like to go to New York City a lot. We love New York City. We got married in New York City, and it was one of the best experiences of our lives. We do Broadway a lot and fine dining. Our type of vacation is not to sit on the beach and chill out. We like to see as many things as we can. And New York City is one of the best places to do that. Every time you go there it can be a brand new experience. Ballroom dancing is also a big part of my life. I teach it. It’s part of my business and something I offer to my clients.

All-time favorite movie?
“Goodfellas.”

All-time favorite TV show?
“Seinfeld.”

Besides New York, what is your favorite city?
Austin, Texas. Austin is No. 2 because what New York City is to Broadway, Austin is to music. And we love Austin.

Favorite vacation spot?
The south of France.

Favorite thing about NEPA?
It’s in the middle of everything. We don’t have to jump on a plane to go to New York or Philadelphia or the ocean. And there’s a lot of resurgence in our own area, and it’s close to a lot of resurgence in other areas. The weather can be a challenge, but I like the mix of everything.

Favorite food?
Grilled Octopus.

Favorite holiday?
Definitely Christmas. Decorating our house … we were even in the newspaper one year, though my wife will not allow me to go over the edge. (Laughs.) She’s definitely the “yang” to my “yin.” DJs tend to go over the top with everything, but she’d definitely reeled me in.

Any pets?
Two cats: Mario and Giorgio. And we’ll soon be adopting a Labrador, Lupa.

Favorite quote or catchphrase?
For my business, it’s “Expect the best” and “You only have one chance to do it right.”

Favorite book or author?
“A Man Called Ove” by Fredrik Backman.

Biggest pet peeve?
When mediocrity is acceptable. When people think that things that are mediocre are OK, whether it be with restaurants, entertainment, government or anything. I want things to be of a higher quality. We should all want that.

In addition to spinning music at events, you’ve also been a ring announcer at boxing events, been on parade floats, set up photo booths and have hosted “Game Show Trivia.” Is there anything about you, in addition to all of that, which might surprise people?
In June, I was 24 years sober. Twenty-four years of sobriety equals a beautiful life. From the things that I did in my life, I’m just amazed that I’m still here. Friends that knew me back then are astonished and proud of my accomplishments — to be where I’m at, and have a business, and have people work for me, and to be out in the public eye. I’m actually also the one who is surprised. What’s funny is when I got sober, I thought, “How am I going to be a wedding DJ now? How is anybody going to have any fun with me? How am I going to have any fun? I have to be enjoying what I’m doing to make other people enjoy it.” And three weddings in, I’m on the middle of the floor lying on my back singing “Love Shack,” with a bunch of people lying there next to me, I said, “I think I’m going to be alright.”

UP CLOSE AND 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 – James Barrett

Up Close – James Barrett

James Barrett is a musician and songwriter. He recently released his third album, “Twenty.” He has performed at clubs such as Ale Mary’s, Smiler’s, Adezzo and Andy Gavin’s. Barrett is a native of Clarks Summit and is a graduate of Abington Heights High School. He is employed by Caravia Fresh Foods in Clarks Summit and lives in Clarks Summit.
Meet James Barrett …

You’re only 20 years old, yet you’ve already released three albums. When did you first start writing songs?
I started writing when I was 11 or 12. They were obviously really bad. What can a 12 year old write about? (Laughs.) It really didn’t start clicking until I was probably about 16, and I’ve been doing it ever since. I probably have hundreds of songs written, I just don’t use them because I don’t think they’re up to the level of the ones that I release.

What inspires you to write?
Usually, it’s when I’m feeling an emotion that’s very present or I’m feeling an emotion that’s very strong that I’ll try to write about it. Unfortunately, most of the time, I’m not very good at writing songs when there a positive times in my life. I get happy, and I don’t want to. I usually end up writing when there’s something wrong. (Laughs.) My best songs usually come out when I’m upset about something, but that’s just because I feel strongly about whatever’s bothering me.

Who are some of your biggest musical influences?
The Gaslight Anthem were a big influence. And The Menzingers, from Scranton. And I grew up listening to a lot of my dad’s music, like the Beatles, the Stones, and Van Morrison, because he was always playing them in his car. My dad also played music, and my brother is a drummer — he plays in my band, Embera, so I was always around music growing up.

Does your band also do original material?
Yes. It started when I was a sophomore. I just wanted to write heavier music that I couldn’t play by myself. We released stuff when I was in high school and we’ve just recorded some more songs. After I wrote a solo record that did really well, I started focusing on that more than the band, but I like to do both.

Outside of music, what do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I like to watch TV. And I have four dogs that I hang out with a lot. And I like to be outside, just sitting on my porch or on my deck.

Do you follow sports?
I love the Dallas Cowboys. I love Dak. I love Zeke. I think they’re on to something good.

All-time favorite movie?
Either “The Nightmare Before Christmas” or “Sweeney Todd.”

Favorite TV shows?
“The Office” and “Lost.”

Favorite food?
I’ve been a vegetarian since 2008, and I love Eden: A Vegan Café in Scranton. I get their meatball sub. It’s my big thing.

Favorite holiday?
Halloween.

Favorite city?
I love New York, but I don’t go enough. I’m always in Philly, so I’ll go with Philly, since I’m there all the time.

Favorite vacation spot?
I don’t vacation, but if I could choose, it would be somewhere like Vermont. Somewhere outside, in nature, where it’s not super-hot. I’m not a big fan of the beach, but anywhere interesting. Maybe Nashville.

Favorite thing about NEPA?
I like that there’s a lot of trees. And I like that there are a lot of good bands from this area.

Guilty pleasure?
This is going to sound crazy, but I have a pretty bad back. I’ve been going to a chiropractor since I was 16. And so when it’s late at night and my back is killing me and I want to feel better, I watch videos of chiropractor therapy of people getting their bones adjusted. I love seeing people that are in a lot of pain and they can’t move a certain part of their body, and they get adjusted, and their neck is straightened out. To me, it’s very interesting.

But that doesn’t help your back?
No, it doesn’t help my back. (Laughs.) But I find comfort in knowing somebody else is getting help.

Biggest peeve?
People that chew with their mouth open and people who wear sunglasses inside.

Is there anything about you that might surprise even your friends?
When I was in fifth grade, I had a friend who bought a unicycle, and I thought it was the coolest thing, so I bought a unicycle. I was 11 when I learned how to ride it, and I can still do it today, I just don’t do it. It one thing to see an 11 year old doing it, but when I’m 20, with facial hair, I don’t think people want to see me riding unicycle around Clarks Summit. (Laughs.)

Have you had an event in your life, or a person in your life, that has had the greatest impact on you and has helped shape you into the person you are today?
My dad. My dad, when I was growing up, always played guitar and I was just constantly surrounded by music. And because of my brother drumming, I started playing bass, and then I taught myself guitar. And every time I play at a bar, my dad is always there. It definitely has to be my dad.

UP CLOSE AND 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