Sunday, July 12, 2009

Oh What a Night!

The Scene: Snowden's McGarrity Showroom
The Time: Saturday July 11, 8:55 PM
The Event: The Capstone of The Bowman Properties/Chestnut Hill Business Associations' Book Festival

At the most heavily attended Festival Event, and with the derelict Bowman property filled to capacity, Buzz Bissinger, Book Festival Headliner was winding up his presentation. I was there, in the back. Standing room only. I was ready to ask Mr. B, nearby resident, what he thought of Richard Snowden, primary financier of the festival, owner of McGarrity, and Principal in COTIGA, a firm that has leased West Virginia land for strip mining for more than a century, and lately a despoiler-turned benefactor-turned-Positively Chestnut Hill SugarDaddy. I thought, as a fellow journalist, Mr B might have an opinion. Perhaps we could even discuss my ongoing work on this subject.

Earlier in the day, I had asked a similar question at a sparsely attended panel discussion group on non-fiction, at the same venue. When I did so, two-count 'em-two business association ladies, (whose names I can never remember), sprung up simultaneously and said,"you don't have to answer that question" to the panel, a group of mature, professional women who seemed as if they could speak for themselves.

Too bad a Panel Discussion on Censorship was not scheduled for the weekend. maybe next time, if books on paper are still being published by then.

As it turns out, I didn't have to ask Buzz the question. He answered it in his final remark.
Before he did, I scanned the room.

There was Greg Welsh, ostensible organizer of the event, whose restaurant is listed second, after Bowman, as sponsor. Greg seemes to have a full time position, directly beneath Richard. Greg was looking around, beaming at their mutual triumph. "Finally, a capacity crowd, for our front-page-of-the Local Star Attraction!"

Although I couldn't see Richard, so many of the other organizers were there that, when a policeman showed up minutes after my arrival, I sensed something more than serendipity.

As Buzz was winding up, speaking of his love, and his hopes for Philadelphia, I began to raise my hand to ask my question.

And then he said it. In his final remark, concerning the future of The City and the neighborhood in which he and his family lives and loves, Buzz said, "And Snowden Should Die!"

"AND SNOWDEN SHOULD DIE!"

Wait. Say it over to yourself. I didn't say it. The Principal Speaker of the Bookfair sponsored by Snowden said it. What followed was a sound I had never heard, but read about, before.

It's the sound that rises up over a battlefield after the first deadly volley.

A great gasp of surprise, followed by a moan of pain by the fallen, as if their mortality had, up until that point, been a fact denied, and then accepted, all within the span of a second.

It was a sound heard at Gettysburg, at Verdun, and at Balaclava, at the moment of imagined triumph for all causes doomed, not by circumstance, but by the hubris of their protagonists.

I looked around the room. Greg looked as if his annual prostate exam had started early, and he had forgotten to fast for the day. The CHBA ladies all looked as if they were posing for Munch. Again I looked for the Middle Aged Boy-King, but I couldn't pick him out-these Anglo Saxon gene pool gatherings make discrete ID's difficult.

The closed glass door, (and what ARE the Maximum Capacity and Emergency Exit Rules for that building?) rattled as the air simultaneously rushed out of more than a hundred previously pleased-as-punch attendees.

And I applauded. I also shouted, "You know he owns this building!" Buzz replied,"I don't care."
That was good enough for me. I left before the organizers got a chance to edit the tape that recorded the event, or if Buzz had any aftermath to deal with. Besides, I had a Limerick Contest to get to.

I also didn't see any Local reporters, although they may have been there. On Monday, I will ask Pete if he had anyone there and if he intends to report the story. I will ask him if, in lieu of my response to Walter Sullivan's attack on the Chestnut Hill Residents' Association, if I may furnish my first hand account. Whether any of this makes the Local should be seen as a Litmus test of its independence.

My conclusion is obvious to anyone not so completely divorced from the ethics of the world outside 19118, that they think "parochial' applies only to those attending Our Mother of Consolation. What response did you expect from such a man? He has examined evil and corruption for a living. He knows it when he sees it. He sees the situation clearly. He, unlike the CHBA or Greg or Fran O'Donnell, or the Howes, or Wendy Kern, doesn't need Richards' help to earn his living, or to keep his kids out of the Public Schools.

I don't know what the aftermath of Mr. Bissinger's statement will be. I can't predict the extent or the character of the cover-up. But there will be one. Unless we take the words of the Hills' most respected journalist, by the Business Association's own admission, to heart.

Don't hold your breath.

And Buzz, if want to see my notes on Snowden and COTIGA, e-mail me.

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