Up Close & Personal – Chris Mullineaux

Up Close & Personal – Chris Mullineaux

Chris Mullineaux is a professional musician and is the lead vocalist and guitarist with the group Fuzzy Mudd. He is a native of Baltimore and has spent much of his life in New York City. He has lived in Northeast Pennsylvania for the past year. He and his wife, Penni, live in Tompkinsville.
Meet Chris Mullineaux …

Tell us a little about your music and how you got involved in the NEPA music scene.
We moved here last March. I worked a regular job and played a bit. That first month, I went from two gigs to four gigs, and I now play 20-25 times a month. Between solo/acoustic and with the band, l play six days straight. And the band is pretty incredible. I lucked out. I played with a few different people when I got here. You put feelers out. And I wound up with Larry Moss on bass, and our drummer is Ryan Fenton. It’s a power-trio, but it’s a lot of Bowie. We play a lot of b-sides. We don’t play a lot of the big hits. If we play something from “U2,” it’s “Bad.” Because nobody does. Even with Bowie, it’s “Moonage Daydream,” or “Stay,” or something off of “Low,” because it’s different. And I also have a lot of original stuff. We’re going to try and do some recording this year.

Who are some of your all-time favorite artists?
I’m a big David Bowie fan. I’m a big Jimi Hendrix fan and a big Beatles fan. And I’m a big Radiohead fan. I’d put them on par with the Beatles. I really do. All through their career, they’ve reinvented themselves. I think that’s why I dig them and Bowie so much. I also like TV On The Radio. And there’s a really cool new band called Autolux that I’m into. And The Flaming Lips. And funk.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
Watching television. Watching movies. I watch a lot of true crime, because truth is stranger than fiction. And my wife is a salvager, and so we go exploring and looking for stuff. Whether it’s stores or weird places, we get in the car and just go. That’s a big hobby of ours, just going and looking at stuff. And I record music at home. That’s really my main passion — recording music.

Do you follow sports?
I watch football, but I don’t follow anybody. When I was a kid in Baltimore, we had the Colts, and they left, and we stopped following football all together. They later had the new team (the Ravens), and it’s fine, but it had really put a bitter taste in my mouth. And I felt horrible for the city (Cleveland) from which we took the team. We did the same thing. With baseball, I’m an Oriole fan.

Favorite city?
Manhattan. There’s nothing like it.

Favorite vacation spot?
We used to go camping. Now, I’m too old to deal with just a tent and a case of beer. (Laughs) I’m not 20. So now, we’ll get a cabin along the Shenandoah River. Skyline Drive. The Appalachian Trail. That kind of stuff.

What brought you to NEPA?
My wife knew a few people here, and we drove out one day on a lark, just to come and check out Scranton. And we were driving up further up, towards Lake Winola, and it was really pretty. And we like the outside stuff. We like the outdoors. And it’s extremely convenient to everything — Baltimore, Philly, D.C., New York.

Favorite food?
Italian.

Favorite holiday?
Christmas. Though it gets a little sad sometimes, because you think about the people that are gone, and that it will never be like it was. I love all of my friends and family, and my wife — I cherish her — but you’re lonely sometimes, for those times … for a feeling. But it’s still Christmas. (Laughs)

All-time favorite movie?
“Goodfellas” is such a perfect movie, and I’m a big fan of “Star Wars.” When I was a kid, it was the greatest thing ever. But my favorite filmmaker is probably Stanley Kubrick. I really like “2001: A Space Odyssey.” That still blows me away how they did that … how they filmed that, when they did. It’s pretty incredible. It’s spotless. And with “The Shining,” “A Clockwork Orange,” “Full Metal Jacket” — it’s a wide variety. And I dig that.

All-time favorite TV show?
“Seinfeld.”

Favorite book or author?
“The Executioner’s Song” by Norman Mailer.

Biggest pet peeve?
When people slide their feet when they walk. Also, open-mouth gum chewing.

Any pets?
A beagle. Lux.

Is there anything about you that might surprise people?
I’m really introverted. I should speak more on stage, even when I play acoustic. Once I play a place once, I’m cool. But it usually takes me one or two gigs. With the band, it’s a lot easier. But I’m pretty shy. In my personal life, I’m a bit of a recluse or a hermit. Once I’m home, I’m home.

Have you had a moment in your life, or a time in your life, that has really helped shape your or define you as a person?
I had a recording opportunity once — an audition with Universal Records — that fell apart due to poor planning and relying on people that I shouldn’t have. And it did change who I am, because that was it — after 10 or 15 years — I never dealt with them again, and I decided to go out in my own. And though it took a lot took some perseverance to get to where I’m at, it’s now what I do full-time. It wasn’t a good thing (initially), but I learned a positive from a negative.

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 – Katie Blake

Up Close & Personal – Katie Blake

Katie Blake is a business analyst with TMG Health and the lead vocalist with the band Light Weight. She is a native of Archbald and a graduate of Valley View High School. She also studied at Marywood University and Pace University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in communications. She and her boyfriend, Matt, live in Scranton.
Meet Katie Blake …

Tell us a little about your work with TMG Health.
We’re a business process outsourcing company. With my job, as a business analyst, we implement new clients, mainly Medicare and Medicaid. My focus is on Medicaid. When we implement a new client and somebody wants to do their outsourcing with us, I’m mainly focused in enrollment of new members. We meet with clients and discuss their expectations. And a lot of the work that I do is quoting the requirements for these transitions to take place and helping them be implemented through our IT services, to make sure the client is delivered what they expect.

You’ve also been singing with Light Weight for about four years. Can you talk a little about your work with the band? Have you always been a singer?
It’s a second job and takes up a lot of time, but I wouldn’t have it if I didn’t love it. I’ve always enjoyed singing. It’s something I’ve always loved to do. I was greatly inspired by my dad, who played guitar and sang, and let me listen to some of the most well-known classic musicians of that time that are still world renowned. In high school I got into musicals, and that was exciting for me. And I was also in an original band, writing music. I always had a bit of a stigma towards cover bands. “You guys play other people’s music? How difficult could it be? And now that I’m in one, I’m really astounded as to why I even thought that. I loved writing songs and performing at shows with other talented acts in the area, but this is a business, and it’s a great balance for how much I actually love performing and entertaining people. It means a lot to me that something that I’m doing is making other people happy.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time to relax?
Taking baths. Listening to music, which is obviously a big part of my life. I’m also a Big Sister with Big Brothers Big Sisters. It’s a part of my life that I really enjoy, and spending time with my Little Sister does help me relax.

Who are some of your all-time favorite musical artists?
Queen. Sara Bareilles. Billy Joel. And I’ve really gotten into Birdtalker.

Do you follow sports?
Steelers. I went to a game in Pittsburgh and it was the best time, ever. I love that city and I love the people there.

Is that your favorite city?
I really do love Pittsburgh. And New York became a second home. I have strong ties there, too, going back to college.

Favorite vacation spot, or places to visit?
Jim Thorpe, Bethlehem, Philadelphia … and I’d love to spend forever in Ireland. That would be wonderful. I’ve been there twice.

Favorite thing about NEPA?
The people. When I traveled and got outside of the area, and when I went to New York City to go to school, it was obviously a culture shock and incredibly different than home. But what I expected was something much different, and what I learned was something much different. I was expecting to have these new types of experiences that were so grand, and meet many new types of people, and have the world opened up to me — to make Scranton feel small — and understand a much bigger picture. And that did happen. But at the same time, what happened was I realized that the ties that I have and the friendships that I’ve formed in this area, with the people here, are different and are like a second family. And I realized how lucky I was.

All-time favorite movie?
The “Lord of The Rings” and “Harry Potter” films.

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

Favorite food?
Pizza.

Favorite holiday?
Thanksgiving.

Favorite quote or catchphrase?
I put puns in everything. And I say “That’s what she said” all the time.

Favorite book or author?
Stephen King.

Biggest pet peeve?
Ignorance, rudeness and impatience.

Is there anything about you that might surprise even your friends?
I don’t think a lot of people know that I’m a Big Sister, and so whenever I speak about my “Little Sister,” people that have known me all of my life say, “You don’t have a little sister.” (Laughs) But that’s a big part of my life.

Have you had a defining personal moment?
Two years ago, I was in a pretty intense accident. I was driving back from visiting a friend in Ohio. It was 2 o’clock in the afternoon. I had a great night’s rest. I wasn’t tired. And I don’t really know exactly what happened, but I started going off the road, and then came back, and went off again, and I ended up rolling my car four or five times. I was going on 80 West and I landed on 80 East. And there was traffic coming both ways. And yet somehow, during that moment, when it happened, nobody else was affected at all. There must have been 35 miracles that took place that day. I don’t’ remember anything about the accident itself, but it really changed me. I think, my whole life, I’ve been trying to find the gratitude that I think I should have, and I strived for that, but it was not until that moment happened to me, that I feel I achieved those things. I was able to understand that you really can lose everything in a second. It was a miracle. And I’m so grateful. It just changed my perspective on everything. And it inspires a lot of things inside me and in my life.

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 – Sharon Yanik-Craig

Up Close & Personal – Sharon Yanik-Craig

Sharon Yanik-Craig is the director of the Lackawanna College Environmental Education Center. She is a native of Scranton and is a graduate of Scranton High School and Pennsylvania State University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in park management. She also earned a master’s degree in ecological teaching and learning from Lesley University, near Boston. She and her husband, Brian, have a son, Grayson, 4. They live in Roaring Brook Twp.
Meet Sharon Yanik-Craig …

Tell us a little about your work with the college?
I’ve been there since 2008, so I’m coming up on 10 years. We focus on community education and environmental education, and we offer programs to the community from Pre-K all the way up to senior citizens, and everything in between. Those are public programs. And we also offer programs and college credit courses to our college students at a higher level. And we offer certificate programs.

What do you enjoy about it?
It’s a very fulfilling job. My passion is environmental advocacy, and it’s nice to know I’m making a difference and an impact in our region. With the type of programs that we do, I work with thousands of individuals every year. We have a couple of thousand students that come in from regional schools, for their school field trips, we do pre-school programs with our local community, and our park ranger program is probably one of my largest accomplishments to date. We just graduated our first cohort of Conservation and Outdoor Resource students, which is a certificate program. Students come to us and take five undergraduate-level environmental courses: dendrology, ornithology, fresh water ecosystems, park management and wild life management. And those five courses help prepare them to be park rangers, as they are required by the Civil Service Commission in order to take the DCNR ranger trainee test. So we’re fulfilling that need in the community.

You’ve also been pretty involved in some community projects. Can you tell us a little about that?
Before our son was born, I was on the board and had served as vice president with the LRCA (Lackawanna River Conservation Association) for a number of years. They’re a nonprofit and their mission is conserving the Lackawanna River. The health of the Lackawanna River and the whole eco system is extremely important to me, and the work that the organization does, with the small staff that they have, is invaluable to our region.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
Hiking. Hiking and exploring new places with my family and with my pup.

Favorite music?
I’m a lover of many genres, but my all-time favorite has to be Neil Young. His music resonates with my soul.

Favorite city?
Of all of the places I’ve been, it has to be Rome. You’re talking about a city that’s 3,000 years old. The culture, visiting the Vatican City, the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps – it brings you back to another time.

Favorite place to vacation?
During our Northeast winter? Somewhere south. (Laughs)

Favorite thing about NEPA?
The four seasons and the fall foliage. There’s not a lot of places on Earth that get the vibrant climate that we do, because of our climate and our species of trees. And also, we have so many creative individuals in the area, from music to the visual and performing arts. There’s always something going on and there’s always something to do.

Favorite food?
I love Japanese, I love Thai, I love Indian … but if I had to pick one, I’d say Thai.

Favorite holiday?
Christmas. It brings warmth to the cold winters. And I love Christmas music. It’s nostalgic for me.

Favorite book or author?
Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring.”

Favorite movie?
“The Usual Suspects” and “The Big Lebowski.”

Favorite TV show?
“Stranger Things,” “The Walking Dead” and “The OA.”

Guilty pleasure?
Probably binge watching “The Walking Dead.”

You mentioned your pup. What type of dog is he?
He’s a yellow Lab, named Blue. He’s six years old and he’s beautiful.

Biggest pet peeve?
Wastefulness. Because that’s an environmental problem.

Favorite quote or catchphrase?
“Your actions speak so loudly, I cannot hear what you are saying.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Have you had a moment in your life, or a time in your life, or a person on your life, that has really helped shape you and define you as a person?
Coleen O’Connell, the director for my master’s degree program. She was a force to be reckoned with. She was a compassionate soul and a fierce environmental advocate. She challenged me quite a bit, she rounded me out as a person, and expanded my mind.

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 – Heather Davis

Up Close & Personal – Heather Davis

Heather Davis is the director of marketing and communications with the Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine. She is a native of Dunmore and is a graduate of Bishop O’Hara High School and Hofstra University, where she studied film and production. She also received an MFA from Wilkes University in creative writing. She lives in Scranton.
Meet Heather Davis …

Tell us a little about your work at the Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine. That seems like a great job.
It is. I love working with students, and we have really great students at the med school. As the director of marketing and communications, I do a lot of things. I deal with the website, social media, publications, photography, video … I get to do a lot of fun things, and I enjoy it. I like to say that marketing is as creative as you can get and still have a 9 to 5 job. That’s why I kind of gravitated towards it, after I got my degree in film. I also like to write. And I like working in higher education, just because I love working with students.

You’re also, in your free time, very active in the community. What programs are you involved with?
I’m a board member and group project advisor with Leadership Lackawanna. It’s our 35th anniversary year, which is really exciting. I was also on the board for First Friday for a long time. I like to support local artists, local musicians and local venues. And I serve as a Big Sister with Big Brothers Big Sisters. I try to get out and actually do things in the community that have an immediate impact.

Where do you think that comes from? Some people walk through life with their head down, while others look around more, heads up, at what’s happening in their community. Obviously, you’re an “heads up around” person.
I always like to say, “Only boring people are bored.” I went to film school, so a lot of my friends live in L.A. and New York, and it’s not that I never thought about going to those places and pursuing different things, but I love this area. I love the people. I have a lot of good friends here. My family is here. I think that if something is disappointing you, where you live, you should work towards making it better, instead of just complaining about it. That’s why I try to get out there and do as much as I can.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I’m a runner. This past year I did my third half-marathon, and I’m contemplating doing a marathon. I also enjoy reading and screen-writing.

Favorite music?
I love singer/songwriters. Glen Hansard is probably my favorite. Tori Amos, Fiona Apple, Patty Griffin, Ryan Adams … Langhorne Slim is one that I started enjoying recently. I go to a lot of shows and concerts.

Favorite city?
Galway, Ireland. I’ve been there twice. Two years ago, I went alone and stayed for a week and it was just amazing. Last year I went, and I stayed in Dublin, but I took a day trip with a friend to Galway, because I loved it so much. It has a lot a character and I love the live music scene. And it’s right by the sea, so the views are amazing.

Favorite vacation spot?
I love travelling, so that’s a hard one, but I’m in New York City a lot, because I have a lot of friends there, and I do enjoy going on a lot of long weekend trips to New York. That’s where I see most of the concerts that I go to.

Favorite thing about NEPA?
Mostly, it’s the people. My friends here are smart, funny and kind. Not that you can’t find that elsewhere, but here it’s a very specific type of people looking after you and caring about you.

Favorite movie?
“McCabe & Mrs. Miller.” I’m a big Robert Altman fan.

Favorite TV show?
“Mad Men.” I work in the marketing world, so it’s fun to see how it’s evolved since the ‘50s and ‘60s. And the character development is outstanding.

Favorite food?
Burritos.

Favorite holiday?
Anything that happens in the fall. Halloween is a big one, which bumps up against my birthday, so it’s usually a big celebration.

Favorite book?
Recently, it was “Eleanor & Park” by Rainbow Rowell. And my favorite author of all-time is probably Jane Austin. “Pride and Prejudice” is one of my favorites. I just love her wit.

Biggest pet peeve?
People that complain about something but then don’t try to help the situation or offer solutions. They just complain to complain.

Any pets?
A have an eight year old Corgi mix. He’s named “The Doctor” after Doctor Who. He’s my little buddy.

Is there anything about you that might really surprise people?
I once co-wrote a screenplay that was made into a film. I wrote the first draft, and got a “story by” credit, because it was edited after I wrote it. It’s called “Completely Normal,” and it’s a feature-length dark comedy. It was produced and directed by a good friend of mine from film school, Rob Vornkahl, and it’s about a schizophrenic woman who falls in love with her stalker. Half the time she thinks it’s her boyfriend and half the time she doesn’t know who it is. I tend to write dark comedy type stuff, and it was my first foray into feature length writing. It’s available on Amazon Prime.

Have you had a defining personal moment, or someone, or something, in your life that has really helped shape you as a person?
I’ve had a lot of really amazing teachers that have inspired me. That’s why I like to work in higher education. I’m also adjunct faculty at Johnson College, where I teach humanities. In high school, I had Mr. Chapla. He was my English teacher, and he also taught a film lit course, which solidified my love of film. And even going into undergrad and grad school, I had really great mentors who made me, constantly, love learning more and wanting to do more. Without those mentors in my life, I probably wouldn’t be the person 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 & Personal – Justin Bradley

Up Close & Personal – Justin Bradley

Justin Bradley is a business account executive with Verizon, where he oversees health care-related businesses and nonprofits. He also is a property manager for his company, JWB Property Group LLC. He is a native of Susquehanna County and a graduate of Blue Ridge High School and Keystone College, where he earned a degree in corporate communications. He and his wife, Rae, have two children, Jackson, 5, and Vivian, 3. They live in Archbald.

Meet Justin Bradley…

Tell us a little about your work at Verizon.
I’ve been there almost 14 years. I work with health care-related businesses on any technology project that is going to help with efficiency, cellular connectivity and mobilizing their staff, employees, home health organizations and, now, even their landline business phones. As long as it involves technology, I can most likely point them in the right direction.

And what about your work as a property investor and property manager?
That’s a real passion of mine. It takes up a lot of my spare time, in that I love the thrill of the hunt. Whether it’s a distressed property, or maybe someone that’s maybe had some down luck and they need to get rid of their property fairly quickly, I can help and take it over. Or, obviously, with a distressed property from a bank foreclosure, sheriff’s sale or tax sale, you can find a property fairly cheap and, with a few bucks, turn it around and maybe make a few bucks. For me, I like the rentals. I like renting the properties, whether it’s a duplex or a single-family home. I was recently told that the neighbors must love me, where I’m buying properties, because they’re not low-end properties. They’re kind of mid-range. And in a way, to some degree, it’s revitalizing Scranton. I would never want to be a slum lord. Investing a few bucks into these properties and then having a quality rental that’s going to last a long time is what I’m looking to do. 

At left, a submitted photo by Bradley shows the property in its very early stages of renovation. At right, the property is about a month away from completion.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time? 
A few years back, I took part in a boot-camp type of CrossFit program, and I learned a lot. I lost 50 pounds, stuck with it and joined CrossFit Vertex in Olyphant. Great community. Great owners. It’s one of those things where the camaraderie and the folks that are there kind of keep you accountable to keep coming back. And CrossFit is one of those things that keeps me coming. Going to a local gym and working out on your own, you don’t necessarily have that same motivation and drive to keep going back and working harder. This has a little bit of a different environment, which is appealing to me. The other thing that I like to do in my spare time, obviously, is to spend time with my kids and use my GoPro. My Instagram is “gopro_hero_dad,” which is just daily activities of me being a dad. It’s all of the cool things that I do with my family and kids, from a dad’s perspective. And my other account is “gopro.hero.wods.” And “wods” stands for workout of the day, which I use for CrossFit.

Any hobbies? Are you a collector?
Giants memorabilia. I love New York Giants football, and my basement consists of signed jerseys and special moments that I remember as a Giants fan. Everything is signed, authenticated and framed.

Favorite music?
I grew up on Breaking Benjamin. I’ve been a longtime fan. The day I turned 21 … I went out to Tink’s and saw them play, and a lot of the members of the current band are now friends of mine. I also like Motionless In White.

Favorite city?
I frequent Philadelphia, primarily because of work. So I’ve gotten to know the city fairly well. And I’m an old skateboarder at heart, and some of the concrete parks there are places I frequent. Even as an adult, I’ve taken my skateboard. Love Park is a place that I’ve visited, and I’ll just skate around the block and try to take it in, because they’re all monuments, as far as skateboarding history is concerned.

Favorite place to vacation?
Ocean City, Maryland. Every other year, my wife’s family has always gone to Ocean City. I never really went anywhere as a kid like that as a family, and so to marry into a family that likes to stay close-knit is nice. Now we take our kids, and it’s definitely enjoyable as a dad.

Favorite thing about NEPA?
All of my friends and family are here. I went to school here. There are lots of great things to like about Scranton. The La Festa Italiana is one of my favorite things. Parade Day was one of my favorite things to do in my 20s. There’s always something going on. And the people are hard-working, the people are artistic, and the people are passionate about what they do. And that’s something I can always appreciate.

Favorite food?
Pizza.

Favorite holiday?
These days, with a 5-year-old and a 3-year-old, it’s got to be Christmas.

Favorite movie?
“Boiler Room.”

Favorite TV show?
“Sons of Anarchy.”

Favorite book?
“Property Management for Dummies.” (Laughs)

Favorite quote or catchphrase?
“Where there is no struggle, there is no strength.” I actually have it tattooed on my leg.

Biggest pet peeve?
Quitters.

Guilty pleasure?
Watching “Teen Mom.”

Is there anything about you that might surprise people?
I had a tough period, growing up. I was in foster care when I was in middle school, around sixth and seventh grade. I was also run over by a lawnmower when I was 14 months old. I lost a finger, and I had numerous surgeries throughout elementary school through high school. To this day, I have a big scar and a plate with four screws in my forearm. So I’m at a disadvantage at the CrossFit gym. (Laughs) But again, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. 

Have you had a defining personal moment, or something that has really helped shape you into the person you are today?
Because of struggles that I had as a child, and the way I grew up, what’s defined me as a person is knowing what I don’t want to be as a parent, or as an adult. I want a better life for my kids. I don’t want to see them struggle through life. That’s something that’s important to me.

 

Photos by Emma Black

Up Close & Personal – Neil Nicastro

Up Close & Personal – Neil Nicastro

Neil Nicastro is a professional musician who recently released his second solo
album, “For Escaping.” Previously, he played in local bands such as the Collective and the Five Percent.
He also gives music lessons at Neil Nicastro Music, Entertainment and Instruction in Dunmore
and offers DJ services for weddings and special events. Nicastro is a native of Dunmore and graduated
from Dunmore High School. He later studied at Penn State University and East Stroudsburg University, where he earned a degree in physiology. He and his wife, Erin, have two children, Santino, 9, and Paloma, 7. They live in Dunmore. Meet Neil Nicastro…

Tell us a little about your new album.

I hadn’t put anything out in a while, and just listening to the Jason Isbell stuff and the new Frank Turner stuff really inspired me and reminded me that that’s really my favorite thing to do, is write songs. And I just felt that I really needed to do it again. And my wife was really encouraging about it,
too. I’ve always been a professional musician, and once I got into the process, I got way into it, and ended up recording about 20 songs again, which I always do. I wrote about a lot of different experiences, played a lot of different instruments on the album and had some fun. After all of this time, I feel like I can finally create the music that I’m hearing in my head.

You’ve also been teaching music for about 20 years. What do you enjoy about it?
I think I have a good mix of adults and kids, and I teach from the perspective of “enjoyment first.” My biggest goal is for somebody that comes to me later in life, even after they’ve taken lessons, and they say that they still play, and that they enjoy playing. That’s the best. If you can pick up an instrument, and just zone out and be creative, it’s such a huge escape. You can be much more in touch, rather than just listening to your favorite
music. That’s my philosophy for teaching: that I still love it playing, after all of this time and after all of these hours that I’ve put in, and that if I can just pass on a little of that excitement to other people —I think that’s a pretty cool thing.

And what about your DJ work?
“That’s kind of what I morphed into after the Five Percent. I was trying to get a wedding band going, and I started playing at the Pocono resorts quite a bit. I was doing some ceremony music, but the demand for the wedding band was always pushed aside by the DJ. It’s the same thing as playing, where you read the crowd, so I started getting into that, too. It’s kind of my favorite thing to do, because it feels like it’s important. When you’re
a part of somebody’s wedding, you can put your stamp on it. I’ll play during the cocktail hour, and then DJ the rest of the night. And you can put your heart into it. I’ll learn whatever song they want me to learn. It’s great. And people enjoy it.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time? 
I love to run. If I could play guitar and run in a day, I’m a happy guy. That’s all I really want to do. (Laughs)

Who are some of your favorite musical artists?
Damian Rice. I love him. And right now, I think the new Jason Isbell record is as good as it gets. It’s as good as music can be. I also really like Frank Turner and Ben Holiday. I’m not nostalgic about
music. I grew up loving Live. “Mental Jewelry” is one of my desert island discs, but I don’t go back and listen to it, because I feel like I’ve consumed it. I loved Blind Melon, but I don’t often go back and listen. I’m looking for new stuff.

Favorite city?
Denver. I like the healthy lifestyle, and I was really turned on to how active it was. Also, the Five Percent went around the country a couple of times, and when we were in Denver, we decided to spring on a hotel. Most of the time, we were camping, so that might have tainted my perception, because we actually stayed in a room (Laughs)

Favorite thing about NEPA?
I think, especially after being around the country, that the music scene is awesome. Even though it’s morphed and there’s not as many bands, and there’s more solo and duo gigs, I still think the music scene is great. I never complain. There’s still young bands putting out great albums. I lived in Philly for a little while, and in the Poconos for a little while, and I don’t think I would be as happy a musician if I was somewhere else.  

All-time favorite movie?
“Billy Elliot.”

Favorite food?
Broccoli. I put peanut butter on it.

Do you follow sports?
I did when I was younger, but now I like to watch what I can do. My son’s playing soccer, so we watch soccer. I follow running and cycling, because I do it.

Favorite holiday?
Christmas. The kids are so excited.

Favorite book or author?
Malcolm Gladwell. I’m around music all day long, and so when I run, I usually listen to audio books.

Biggest pet peeve?
Probably laziness. And negative behavior. What’s the point? If you smile, everything’s a little bit easier.

Guilty pleasure?
French fries. Although I only have them a couple of times a year.

Is there anything about you that might surprise people? 
I’ve been to 42 of the 50 states. I collected dirt from all of them and have it in a jar. It’s in my office. People ask why I don’t keep it separate, and the reason is that it was already separate. Now, it’s together. (Laughs)

Have you had an experience in your life, or a moment in your life, that’s really helped shape you or define you as a person?
I probably can’t say what it is, because it’s kind of a negative thing. And I’m always working at being a positive person, whether it comes across or not. All of my career choices, and everything, are geared towards that. And
I like to think that, as a musician, it’s important what I’m doing, in trying to make people happy, making 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 & Personal – Karen Williams

Up Close & Personal – Karen Williams

Karen Williams owns and operates River Oils, which sells handmade beauty products in Wyoming, where she also manages Reruns Consignment Shop. She is a native of Forty Fort and a graduate of Wyoming Valley West High School and Star Beauty Academy. She has a daughter, Autumn River, 4. They live in Forty Fort.

Meet Karen Williams…

River Oils has been open in Wyoming since in May. Can you tell us a little about how the business got started?
I started it at my house a little over two years ago. I actually started selling the essential beauty oils at the house. I’ve also always made my own beauty products, and people would ask, “Can you make me this?” or “Can you make me that?” And so I started doing it at home, and it kind of got too big for my house. Initially, I didn’t want a storefront or anything like that. I just wanted a place to make the products and just have a pick-up spot, instead of at my house. But this opportunity came along, and it was really cute, and I ended up having a little display area. It ended up becoming more.

Tell us a little about the products. They’re all skin-care products. Bath bombs, body butters, soaps … and I have a whole face-care and skin-care line. Everything is natural and organic as possible. My skin-care line is something I do that’s reoccurring. I always have that on hand. But everything else is always different. I’m constantly making different stuff. And I try to buy everything local.

What do you enjoy about it?
I like finding different things and using different products, like chocolate and coffee, in my products. I just love it.

And what about your work at Reruns Consignment Shop?
I really like seeing all of the fashion that comes in. We have a lot of designer stuff. And I love the people. We have lot of repeat customers at both River Oils and the consignment shop, and they keep me busy.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
We like to spend a lot of time outside, no matter what it is. We’ll just go up to the lake, or hiking, or country rides. I try to keep my daughter outside.

Any hobbies?
It’s a little silly, but I collect rocks. And when my daughter was born, she started doing the same thing — rocks and seashells and things that we can find in nature. And we actually make really pretty things out of them.

Favorite music?
I like country music. But I always find myself listening to vintage music, like Sinatra.

Do you follow sports?
I’m a hockey fan — Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and Pittsburgh.

Favorite city?
New York. And Park City, Utah. It’s just beautiful there, everywhere you look.

Favorite vacation spot?
Anywhere there’s a beach.

Favorite thing about NEPA? 
My family is here. And I like the change of seasons.

All-time favorite movie?
My daughter tells me it’s “Wreck-It Ralph.” And she’s kind of right. (Laughs)

Favorite TV show?
“Once Upon a Time.”

Favorite food?
Sushi. But I like steak, I like pizza. … There’s very little food that I don’t love.

Favorite holiday?
Christmas.

Favorite book or author?
Anne Rice.

Biggest pet peeve?
Unfinished projects.

Guilty pleasure?
Binge watching “Once Upon a Time” on Netflix.

Is there anything about you that might really surprise people?
Over the past year, I’ve been working with my uncle, doing side jobs, and he’s taught me everything from electrical to plumbing. I could probably rewire your whole house. And do all of the pluming. (Laughs)

Have you had a moment in your life that really helped shape you or define you as a person?
I can’t really remember my life before my daughter. I feel like I didn’t even really start really living until she was born. I just looked at the world differently. And she’s a “miracle baby,” in that I wasn’t supposed to have her. I wasn’t supposed to be able to get pregnant, because of some health issues that I’ve had. And then I was so high-risk, there was only a 30-percent chance of a successful birth. It was a tough ride … but look what I got. (Smiles)

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 – Jeannine Lesante

Up Close & Personal – Jeannine Lesante

Jeannine Lesante is the co-host of SSPTV’s “The Girls” and also vice president of marketing for Sam-Son Productions, which her family owns and operates. Lesante also founded the nonprofit Making a Difference, teaches public speaking at King’s College and is a public relations/social media specialist with Eagle Rock Resorts. A native of Conyngham, she graduated from Bishop Hafey High School and King’s College, where she earned a degree in mass communications. She has two children, Alyssa, 14, and Mason, 12. She lives in Conyngham.

Meet Jeannine Lesante…

You’ve been co-hosting “The Girls” with your mom on SSPTV for the past six years. It’s seen on both Comcast and Service Electric Cable TV all throughout NEPA and can also be seen on the SSPTV phone app. For those that haven’t seen it, can you tell us a little about the show?
It’s a mother/daughter duo, and we’ll do any topic. It’s not just about hair and beauty and makeup. It has to do with anything that girls talk about, including serious issues. We just did something with a cancer survivor. Or it could be me getting a tattoo live on the show. Any spectrum, we do, which is fun. You never know what to expect. We’ll dress up for Halloween and act like silly girls, or we’ll go to the Bloomsburg Fair and go on the rides and sample the food, or we can have a sit-down interview in the studio on domestic violence. We tackle serious topics, but we also like to have fun. It’s a fun dynamic.

What do you enjoy about it the most?
I come from a really close family — and I’ve been in this business since I was in high school — and the thing that people always say to me is, “It must be tough working for your family.” And I always say, “We work with each other. And we respect each other’s positions and departments.” My parents (Sam and Debbie) started this company from nothing, and my brother (Sam Jr.) and I have also been integral. My brother is in production. We’re twins, and we both went into mass communications. I wanted to be an on-air personality/journalist/producer. He went more into the technical side. We’re very, very close. And I just think that we’re fortunate that we all get along and respect each other, and so it works. We have great brainstorming sessions as a family, because there’s none of that politicking at the table.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I don’t have a lot, but when I’m not working, I like to do activities with the kids. I also like to read motivational quotes and books and business journals. I’m very goal-oriented. I also like to travel. I’m a believer of experiences. I like to offer my children and myself experiences.

Favorite music?
I love Billy Joel. It’s a tradition with my best friend and I; (we) to go to a show every year, usually at Madison Square Garden.

Favorite city?
I did my first major production work on my own — where I produced and directed something — in New York City, so that would have to be my favorite. I also love Broadway.

Favorite place to vacation? 
I’ve been to a lot of places … Hawaii, Jamaica, Aruba, Brahmas, Trinidad, Canada, Spain … but my favorite is anywhere that has clear water and is warm. (Laughs)

Favorite thing about NEPA?
The people. The people are genuine, down-to-earth, hard-working, loyal and very giving.

All-time favorite movie?
“Titanic” and “Dirty Dancing.” And I always watch “Mary Poppins” and “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” with my kids.

Favorite TV show?
Since I work in TV, I really don’t watch a lot of other programming. But when I was growing up, I watched “Who’s the Boss?” I actually named my daughter after Alyssa Milano.

Favorite food?
Seafood. I love crab meat and scallops. I could live off of fish.

Favorite holiday?
The Fourth of July. I love this country. And it’s just a time when everyone can just hang out and a relax. And I’m a griller. I loved grilled food. And normally, all day, because of my job, I’m in full makeup and dressed like I’m going to a wedding. So when I’m off, I like to be very casual. The Fourth of July lasts about a week at my house. It’s party, party, party.

Guilty pleasure?
I love to shop. My national holiday is Black Friday. (Laughs)

Biggest pet peeve?
When people leave that little skinny piece of paper on the toilet paper roll and don’t change it. I hate that. Why can’t you just change the roll?

Any pets?
My son is allergic to dogs, so we can’t have one, even though they want one. But we have two pet beta fish. And I’m proud to say they’ve both been alive for most of my children’s lives. They’ve lived forever.

Favorite quote or catchphrase?
“Whether you think you can or think you can’t — you’re right.” — Henry Ford.

Is there anything about you that might surprise people?
I have my own 501c3 charitable organization. I co-founded it with a friend, Craig Lukatch. It’s called Making a Difference. It’s set up through the Luzerne Foundation, and over the years, we’ve been able to raise thousands of dollars through different events. We did some work with the American Red Cross after the flooding in the Wyoming Valley in 2011. We’ve done wok with the American Cancer Society. We did work with the Hazleton Blind Association. I also co-created the Miss Greater Hazleton Scholarship Program, which is a part of the Miss America pageant. The most rewarding thing is to give back to our community, and I’m happy I have the resources to do it.

Have you had a moment in your life that has really helped define you, or has helped shape you into the person you are today?
The moment I became a mother. When I was pregnant, my parents said, “We’re so happy for you. Your life will never be the same.” I really fully didn’t know what they meant until you have a child and you’re responsible for another human being for the rest of your life. It’s actions over words. And I know that my actions are what my children are seeing and doing. Your children do shape your life.

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

In addition to Jeannine Lesante, featured in photos is her Ssptv family including her brother, Sam Lesante Jr., Lisa Schugardt, John Poli, Tim Novotney, Tom Novotney and Ken Cara. Visit Ssptv’s Facebook Page to learn more.

Up Close & Personal – Jay Notartomaso

Up Close & Personal – Jay Notartomaso

Jay Notartomaso owns and operates Musical Energi, Wilkes-Barre, which specializes in new and used vinyl, CDs, cassettes, rock memorabilia, incense, posters, and new and vintage stereo gear. Notartomaso is a native of Clarks Summit and graduated from Abington Heights High School and Penn State University, where he earned a degree in biology and psychology. He has a daughter, Ariana, 19, and lives in West Wyoming.

Meet Jay Notartomaso…

What first inspired you to get into the record business?
I grew up with records. My father loved music, so there was always music being played in the house. Of course he listened to opera and classical, and I liked rock, but I have a picture of me when I was about 4 years old with my first record player. Most little kids have a blanket and a teddy bear, and I have this record player, and my hand is on it affectionately. I’ve been obsessed with records and record players my entire life. In the ’80s, I was living at Penn State, and there was a guy that used to come around to the malls and go from mall to mall with his little portable record store, and I guess he was talking to my mom and my dad — they were shopping in the mall, and my dad used to buy records from him — and he told them how he wanted to get out of it. He had a retail store in Boston and wanted to sell the kiosk. My mom took his number, gave me a call, and that was it. Coincidentally, that’s when the Wyoming Valley Mall opened permanent kiosks that you could lease. So I signed a lease with the mall. I didn’t have to drive around in a van with records. And I was there for four years.

Since then, for 27 years, you’ve been in downtown Wilkes-Barre. What do you enjoy about your work the most?
Listening to the music. I could live three lifetimes and not hear all of the music there is to hear. And it just keeps coming out. Trying to keep up with all of the new stuff and all of the things I never heard before — obviously that’s my passion and what brought me into the business. And I learn a lot from my customers from what they like. If they ask me if I have something, and I never heard of it, I’m like, “Whoa. What’s that?” I also like turning customers onto things, and I like working with the product, especially cleaning and pricing albums. It might sound mundane, and I’ve probably done millions over the years, but I just love handling the records, cleaning them, pricing them, grading them and getting them ready for customers. And now, for maybe the past five years or six years, I’ve also been fixing record players. And I find it rewarding to find a record player that doesn’t work and degrease it, lube it up and get all of the parts working again. That obsession that I have with records and record players is still the thing that I am most passionate about.

Who are some of your favorite musical artists? 
Currently — and I recently went to Philadelphia to see them — I’ve been listening to a band called Diane Coffee. And I’d recommend that everyone listen to their album, “Everybody’s a Good Dog,” The music is Motown-psych. Imagine David Bowie meets the Supremes meets Pink Floyd meets “Sgt. Pepper’s.” And they somehow pull it off. It’s the most brilliant album that I have ever heard. I also like My Morning Jacket. And of course the classics … the Beatles, Stones, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I go to the gym a lot. Almost every day. And I like taking naps. (Laughs)

Favorite city?  
New York City.

Favorite vacation spot?
I don’t usually go to the same place twice. I like to try new places. I was just in Costa Rica this summer. That was a blast. And I do camping a lot. I just like to get out in the middle of nowhere away from everything and just decompress.

Favorite thing about NEPA?
My entire family still lives in the area, between Stroudsburg and State College. I have two sisters and a brother, and my parents are older but still with us, and I have lots of nieces and nephews. This is home, and everybody is still here. And when we get together around the holidays, it’s such a great feeling. I also love being in a climate where there are four seasons. It’s just a beautiful state. I love Pennsylvania.

All-time favorite movie?
“Lord of the Rings” and all of the “Harry Potter” movies.

Favorite TV show?
“Criminal Minds.”

Favorite food?
Italian.

Favorite holiday?
Thanksgiving.

Guilty pleasure?
Right now, it’s listening to old country music. I can’t believe I now like country, but I like the real old-timers. And red wine. That’s another guilty pleasure.

Favorite quote or catchphrase?
“Our life is our art.” — John Lennon

Biggest pet peeve? 
People that deny scientific facts.

Favorite book or author?
Anything by Sam Harris.

Is there anything about you that might really surprise people?
I really have no idea what the top-40 songs in the country are. You would think that a record store owner would be up on the “current music,” but I don’t really know the top-40, which is kind of funny. I listen to a lot of new music, but not the top-40. It’s all just mass-produced.

Have you had a defining personal moment or something that has really shaped you into the person you are today?
Definitely my daughter being born. She’s 19 now, and I still learn from her every day. As a parent, you think that you’ll teach your children, but I think parents can learn just as much. By helping them become who they want to be, and following their lead, and helping them do what they want to do with their life — that really helped me grow as a person. My daughter is my hero.

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 photo

Up Close & Personal – Jessica Colvin

Up Close & Personal – Jessica Colvin

Jessica Colvin owns and operates Pure Suds Co. in Clarks Summit. The business, which opened in 2009, offers fine, handmade body goods, specialty bathing items and pure ingredients. Colvin is a native of Ransom Twp. and is a graduate of Abington Heights High School. Prior to opening her shop, she worked in the field of veterinary medicine and also operated Decoverly, a private breeding and exporting service of Ryman Irish setters. She lives in Ransom Twp.
Meet Jessica Colvin…

Can you tell us a little about the Pure Suds Co.? 
We hand-make all of our goods using the finest raw ingredients. Most of them are organic kosher food grade, so ideally, it’s like food for your skin. It’s interesting, because we have what we call our “Raw Room,” so it’s basically an apothecary room where we sell nine different categories of goods that I use to formulate everything. We have clays, cosmetic additives, power botanicals, dried herbs, salts, sugars, exfoliates and butters. And we sell all of these goods to the public.

What first inspired you to open such a business?
I started making soap as a hobby in the summer of 2009, and I really enjoyed it. I started making larger batches, and it was somewhat therapeutic. I began gifting it to people, and at Christmastime, friends and family were ordering and wanting custom orders, which kind of let me play in different directions, learn from new suppliers, read books and — because (of) those custom orders — get a little more experience in areas that I wasn’t able to before.

What do you enjoy about it the most?
I still really love creating and the creation process. And at this point, we have a really great religious clientele, and I also have a really, really great team of employees. There are five people helping me right now, and I ended up creating custom positions for each of them, so they each have delegated responsibilities, and they’re all just so phenomenal. Our clients love them.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I visit my horse, Percy, at the barn he stays at in Clarks Summit. Lonestar Persuasion is his show name. And I like anything outdoors — hiking, being out in nature. … It really helps to enhance my creative end, with the company. I just let myself go, in a way, and even though I never completely detach from what’s going on, it’s nice to get outside and just live a little bit and just get out and let go. I also really love traveling.

Favorite city?
Boulder, Colorado — the people there, the overall mentality, and the outdoor activities are endless.

Favorite place that you have vacationed?
Auckland, New Zealand.

Favorite thing about NEPA?
I love the diversity that the area has to offer, and the people here are truly amazing. I love connecting with the people here. I think our area has faced a lot of ups and downs, but we can really overcome anything as a community. And we’ve proven so. In my business in particular, since we focus on overall health and well-being, I seem to find that a lot of our clientele and people that I deal with on an intellectual basis are heading in the direction of being overall healthy. It’s almost more of a holistic and homeopathic option, and being open-minded to that. And that comes back to the diversity.

Favorite music?
I’ve never really been into country music, but I recently got a Chris Stapleton CD, and I’m really into it.

Favorite movie?
“Eat Pray Love” with Julia Roberts.

Favorite holiday?
Thanksgiving.

Favorite food?
Everything Italian.

Favorite quote of catchphrase?
“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” — Anais Nin

Biggest pet peeve?
When people don’t say “please” and “thank you.”

Guilty pleasure?
I can eat a half a tray of Revello’s (pizza) in one sitting. (Laughs)

Is there anything about you that might surprise people?
I will really try anything once. I love road trips. I would be open to jumping in the car and pretty much going anywhere at any time, especially in a western direction.

Have you had a moment in your life that’s really helped shape you into the person you are today?
I think who I am today is an accumulation of events, and not necessarily one thing. It’s all been life experiences. Travel has certainly affected the way that I think and how I perceive things on a more open and broad spectrum. I also have a group of mentors that influence me in certain directions, and without them being in my life, I wouldn’t be where I am or be able to network and connect the way I 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 & 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