In Allentown, Sustainabilty Can Be the New Cement, the New Silk, the New Steel. It Can Even Be the New Hess’s.

Totally a salamander.

If you were into civics as a kid, “gerrymandering” is one of the words you learned in 10th grade and still remember. You probably even remember the practice’s namesake, Elbridge Gerry, and that he endorsed the creation of oddly-shaped voting districts that favored his political party in the early days of the Republic.  The practice produced a cartographic chimera of sorts, the so-called Gerry-mander, and the practical side American political science began in earnest.  For all the time they must have spent outside, you’d think that early 19-century Americans would have known that salamanders don’t have wings but do have arms.

Today, I came across a map of Allentown that Damien Brown edited to show the city’s different sections (East Side, Center City, Downtown, South Side/South Allentown, and West End):

Now, if you live in Allentown, you know that a small pocket of South Whitehall Township (those white polygons) cuts into the West End on the east side of Cedar Crest Boulevard from Washington Street to Parkway.  A closer look:

What’s the story here? What political machinations are afoot??? Just the long-term visioneering of Allentown industrialist Gen. Harry C. Trexler, patron of the Allentown Parks System, the Golf Course, the Trexler Nature Preserve and lots of other things we take granted.  The space that is now Trexler Park was, before his death, a family summer estate in South Whitehall Township.  This land and the land immediately around it (including the Golf Course) only became part of the city because of Trexler’s work and generosity.

Longtime Lehigh Valley residents know most of this already. What I didn’t know: Trexler is probably also responsible for preserving the Lehigh Valley’s home-rule culture.  His mistrust of Philadelphian power (antagonistic as it was to the Lehigh Valley’s Pennsylvania Germans) led him to champion the development of a regionally-based economy.  It makes me stop and think: even as we recall Allentown’s decline from unique, mid-sized, industrial and commercial base of economic power to a city searching for a new identity and a sustainable economy of the future, if not for Trexler, the plus side of the Lehigh Valley’s history might not have happened at all.

In pioneers like Trexler and, later, the Rodale family, the Lehigh Valley has fine models for conservation and sustainable business.  Even though the national economy is groaning, it is also greening.  100 years ago, Trexler and others converted a vacant, run-down city lot into what we know today as West Park.  Leaders from all aspects of Allentown’s public life need to keep taking these cues and continue embracing the opportunities financial trouble brings.  If we need to build, we must (and can) build sustainably.  If we need to tear down, we can do it beautifully. I imagine a city that is increasingly walkable in all quarters, and one where junked lots and vacant parking lots become a patchwork of parks and public spaces.

No one knows how long the current economic crisis will continue.  What we do know is this:  the days of retail excess are over, and rising generations want walkable, bikable, beautiful urban spaces in which to live and work and spend.  We want sustainable, hyper-local options, we want good news for the city and we want to be part of that transition.

On a long enough timeline, chronically closed spaces will green themselves, but cities across the country are starting from scratch with new sustainable ethics and visions. Thankfully, we don’t have to start from square one.  If stakeholders are committed, our region, led by our cities, can be a national example of the new economy even it was once a beacon of the old.  And unlike silk or steel or cement or retail, sustainability is a business for all times and all seasons.

Chris Cocca Is Wrong About Everything + Novels + Hess’s Department Store + Paul Ceglia and Facebook: Search Term/SEO Answer Bag #57

I’ll start this edition of the Search Term Answer Bag by admitting two things:

  • It’s not really, sequentially, #57.  That’s just its name.  Probably because I like ketchup.
  • I stole the whole idea from David Letterman’s old “CBS Mail Bag” routine.  “Letters, we get letters, we get lots and lots of letters! LETTERS!”

and a suspicion:

  • I am approximately one half of this blog’s audience who gets a kick out of this bit.  Good enough for me.

Now, on to the search terms!

First, my favorite:

chriscocca is wrong about everything?

Even here, I was only wrong half the time.

Classic.  There are a few other Chris Coccas out there in the world, so I won’t be big-headed enough to claim that this was a query about me as a matter of fact.  But for the sake of this post, we’ll go with it.

I appreciate that this was searched with a question mark and not a exclamation point or, even worse, a period. As far as an answer goes, I’m willing to say that I’m probably not wrong about every single thing, but we can’t really be sure.  I also think chriscoccaiswrongabouteverything would be a great name for a website not called The Daily Cocca, and it would be an excellent follow-up album to the still-on-hiatus uppityupalexvanderpoolera.

Searching for verbs and/or prepositions:

what to when you are almost finished a novel?

It’s unclear here whether the asker is almost finished reading or writing said novel. If reading, I’d say get ready to pick your next book. If writing, I’d say get ready to revise. That’s when the real writing happens.  If you’ve done that, and have met with good writers groups and gotten feedback you trust and then revised again and then again and are sure you manuscript is exactly what it should be, then I guess you start sending query letters to agents and try to start publishing excerpts.

A get a lot of hits from people looking for information about Hess’s Department Store.

Behind the South Mall in 2011. Image by Frank Tienstra.

And rightly so. It was an amazing place.  Today’s proper question:

when did hess’s dept store allentown pa remodel the front of the store

Sadly, I don’t know the answer to that, but I’m guessing it was before I was born (1980).  Can any Allentonians/Lehigh Vallians help me out here?  I’ve been getting a lot of hits from people looking for the famous rainbow-colored sugar from the Hess’s Patio Restaurant.  I know you used to be able to buy it at MusikFest, and I’m willing to bet you can find it on ebay if not at places like the Moravian Bookstore or the Lehigh County Heritage Center.  Sadly, I can’t be much help with those seeking strawberry pie recipes.  But I can share this post, with 30+ commentators sharing their favorite Hess’s memories. Really a special place. I can also share this bittersweet, recent image sent to me by Frank Tienstra. It’s one of the old Hess’s trucks still sitting behind the South Mall as of January.  Sad for anyone who knows what Hess’s was all about.

Lastly, a question about Facebook:

is facebook layout changing again for the summer 2011

I really don’t think so, but this could be one of the things I’m wrong about.  Mashable has some of the best coverage of social media developments: here’s the Facebook news aggregator-inator.   Soon, you may have better luck asking this guy:

Not Mark Zuckerberg

Never heard of Paul Ceglia?  He’s the chap that might (ooops) own half of Facebook.  So who knows?  Maybe Paul has a few design ideas stashed with all those old emails he keeps finding.  When I first heard about this case last year, I thought it was a long shot.  But the plot keeps thickening. When I try to imagine what might be the next big thing to come along and knock Facebook off the block, I have a pretty hard time.  But you know what?  It might just end up being Mark Zuckerberg.