Scranton Lives Matter! Ch. 6

New Year’s Day or no New Year’s Day, Mabel wanted her vaccination.

Pampered U.S. Sen. Bob Casey who lived just down the street got his shot and he’s only 60 years old, slithering his way into line ahead of her and every other vulnerable senior citizen in town. Smart-ass U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright, that smirky little weasel, got the vaccine, too.

COVID or no COVID, me-first politics never changes among flunky establishment political hacks in hard coal country.

Dressed in a red K-Mart sweat suit matched with leopard print slip-on sneakers and no socks, Mabel grabbed an old-fashioned metal bottle opener from the drawer, popped the cap on a Stegmaier Gold Medal Beer and pulled up a chair to the kitchen table. Opening the yellowed scrapbook she kept since she was 12, Mabel started to read. A proud retired public librarian, Mabel knew her local history.

She knew about the Algonquin-speaking Munsee Indians (a subgroup of the Delaware) and the white settlers who entered the region in the mid-18th century. She knew the Electric City got its nickname when blood-sucking capitalists in Scranton developed America’s first electric-operated trolley system in 1886.

One of Scranton’s shrewdest elders, Mabel also knew Joe Biden’s past.

Sipping the first beer of the day while her son Casey secreted himself in the work space he created by the coal bin in the basement, Mabel paged through the thick chronicle she compiled and reviewed occasionally to remind her where she’d been. Some of those memorable times sparkled as some of her happiest times living with her mother and father in the Hill Section in the very same house where she lived after she married and gave birth to her boy, the very same house where she cared for her parents and husband until they died, the same warm home she and her son still shared.

Some of those times also broke her heart.

Polished brown oak stairs and amber floors shined almost golden in the afternoon sun. The house pulsed with character. So did Mabel. Draining her brew, she stood and went to the refrigerator for another bottle. With a snap of the wrist the cap flew into the air and bounced off the floor. Taking two long swigs, savoring the foamy, bitter taste, she licked her lips.

Mabel sure loved her lager.

But she loved equality more.

Tomorrow she would notify the Biden transition team of her request.

She already wrote the first paragraph of the email.

“I’m a nonagenarian feminist volunteering to help Joey lead the world, the nation and Scranton to a better place. That’s why I’m inviting him to accompany me to the next all-male Lackawanna County Friendly Sons of St. Patrick dinner.”

Holding up a magnifying glass to a page in her scrapbook, Mabel read a Biden quote from an interview the then vice president did a few years back with a weekly Irish-American newspaper.

“Edward F. Blewett my grandmother’s father, was the first Irish Catholic state senator. He was also the co-founder of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick in Scranton around 1908. There is still a plaque in existence in Scranton showing he was one of the founding members,” Biden said.

Mabel knew Blewett was not the first Irish Catholic state senator in Pennsylvania. That distinction belongs to the Hon. William McSherry (McSherrystown, Adams County), 1813-1817, according to the official state Senate website. And she never met anybody who could locate the plaque Biden claimed existed in Scranton.

Mabel despised the Friendly Sons.

To this day these misogynistic misanthropes continue to inflict traditional Scranton Irish-American male chauvinism on the community. The dinner has grown each year into a must-go-to business and political event, so much so that about 1,500 tuxedo-clad sexists now gather to shovel ham, cabbage and potatoes into their fleshy gobs while swilling down drinks carried to their tables by underpaid women servers, the only females allowed into the party. Thus continues the lads’ dominant role in Scranton society where no women need apply for equal opportunity.

Mabel would show them the error of their patriarchal ways.

Time for change was long overdue, especially since Biden appeared three times over the years as the Friendly Sons’ featured dinner speaker, more than anybody who ever graced the dais with stale jokes and a heavily starched ego. Mabel pitied even the smartest, strongest women in town who feared these men and refused to confront the brazen injustice carried out by their husbands, fathers, brothers, lawmakers, judges and other elected and appointed public officials, including company men Sen. Casey and Rep. Cartwright.

Mabel long ago pegged her hometown as America’s death bed, a thick, lumpy mattress on which social evolution ends its run. Despite the city’s funeral parlor décor with pasty pallor, loyal natives loved the place. Scads of these male supremacists attended the segregationist Friendly Sons’ gala. Mabel called them pale penis people like they were some sort of alien life form that descended from outer space intent on taking over the globe. Maybe they were creatures from another planet.

Biden’s two faces might be all the proof civilization needs.

Mabel watched closely when Biden wormed his way into former President Barack Obama’s world as vice president. She knew Obama needed a back-slapping white man to pull votes from blue-collar white men like the Friendly Sons who might hesitate before voting for a Black candidate. She knew Biden often played up his phony white working-class roots on the campaign trail, especially focusing on Scranton and Pennsylvania, a battleground swing state that could determine the outcome of the presidential election.

Willing to say and do anything to become vice president, Biden said and did anything to become vice president.

Incensed when Biden swore he had an uncle who worked in the coal mines, Mabel became more livid at his lie when she saw Biden laughing on national television about how he made up the story to ingratiate himself to voters. Mabel took the insult personally because she did have family members who worked in the mines. After 45 years as a coal miner, her father died from black lung that collected anthracite dust in his lungs and formed deposits around airways called bronchioles, scarring and destroying portions of his lungs and blood vessels. Pneumoconiosis, known as black lung disease, eventually killed him.

When Biden’s overwhelmingly white middle-class cheerleaders boasted, “He’s one of us,” Mabel would sizzle with contempt and say, “No, he’s not.”

Mabel re-read the words she had pasted in her book when Biden’s mother died at 92 in 2010, and the vice president issued a statement. One sentence caught her eye and stuck in her craw.

“Together with my father, her husband of 61 years who passed away in 2002, we learned the dignity of hard work and that you are defined by your sense of honor.”

Guzzling the last of her beer, Mabel slammed the empty bottle on the table and again re-read the phrase “sense of honor.”

Yes, Joey, Mabel said. You are defined by your sense of honor.

That’s why Mabel would refuse to take no for an answer as to whether Joe Biden would be her date for the Friendly Sons’ dinner. Vaccinated and ready to shatter the banquet hall glass ceiling, Mabel and the new president would break new ground whether he liked it or not.

Mabel and Joey would attend the Paddy’s Day bash together.

And she wouldn’t wear a bra.