All Charged Up About Scranton

Something’s happening with Scranton. It started with the U.S. version of The Office, which is set in the “Electric City,” the nickname Scranton gave itself in 1886 after becoming home to the nation’s first electrified trolley system.

Then, at the end of Hillary Clinton’s candidacy, when New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd dubbed her the “Scranton gal” because Clinton had struck a chord with Wal-Mart Moms, Scranton got another notch in its tattered belt.

The hometown of Delaware Senator Joe Biden, Scranton received some more high-voltage exposure over the weekend, thanks to the hilarious vice-presidential debate routine on Saturday Night Live.

In the skit, Biden, played by actor Jason Sudeikis, runs Scranton through the mud, calling it a “hell hole,” among other things, to establish his working-class street cred. From Scranton’s point of view, though, any publicity is good publicity.

While trawling the Net this morning, I discovered a T-shirt for a Police cover band called Scrantonicity on the Snorg Tees Web site that’s at the top of this post. Commenter Marge informs me that Scrantonicity is a “fake” Police cover band that Kevin from TV’s The Office plays in.

Still, the “icity” suffix in Scrantonicity suggests a Uranus transit for the hardscrabble city in Northeastern Pennsylvania, as does all the TV and Internet coverage. (Uranus is associated with electricity.)

Carolyn Dodson’s Horoscopes of the U.S. shows a Scranton chart with Neptune rising at 15 degrees of Virgo, just past a 14 degree Ascendant. The chart is set for noon on June 2, 1773, when an ordinance was adopted to establish the town. The noon time suggests that the actual time the ordinance was passed is unknown.

Even so, natal Neptune is getting an opposition from starmaker Uranus in Pisces. Bingo! Transiting Saturn is also conjuncting that Neptune as it moves toward an opposition with Uranus on Election Day. Maybe the presence of Saturn is why the buzz (Uranus) surrounding Scranton is of the backhanded-compliment kind.

The natal chart has a Sun/Venus conjunction at 12 and 11 degrees of Gemini, respectively, at the Midheaven, squaring Neptune in Virgo. My brother (there’s a Gemini word for you) once observed that Scranton had more bars and churches (both ruled by Neptune) per capita than any place he had ever visited.

The chart also features a Mercury/Uranus conjunction in Taurus in the Ninth House fortunately trined by Pluto in the fifth at 22 degrees of Capricorn. That Taurus/Capricorn aspect reflects the city’s wealth from coal and its reputation as a leading industrial center from 1846 until 1945, when the city began a long steady descent. By the 1970s, the city known for generating energy by producing coal was becoming an arson capital.

In recent years, Scranton’s fortunes have been revived somewhat by good old-fashioned pork barrel, which led to the creation of a new National Park Service site called Steamtown. Founded in 1986, Steamtown is dedicated to the history of steam railroading.

Evidently, millions of taxpayer dollars are being wasted to maintain Steamtown and its attendance figures have fallen short of the mark. Still, it’s a feather in Scranton’s newsboy cap.

In the spirit of disclosure, especially since the SNL skit labeled Scranton as a “genetic cesspool,” my grandfather emigrated from a part of Austria-Hungary that is now in Ukraine and became a coal miner in Scranton. Like Biden, my father clawed his way out of Scranton, actually a “suburb” called Peckville, but his exit strategy was to join the military.

In the SNL skit, “Biden” claims to be the only good thing ever to come out of Scranton. That’s not quite true. The city has produced a Pennsylvania political dynasty for the family that gave Scranton its name as well as some exceptional athletes. Gerry McNamara, who played for the Syracuse University Orangemen from 2002 to 2006, comes to mind.

No doubt some young punk or punkette is walking Scranton’s mean streets today, with just one goal: to get out of the Electric City and see his or her name in lights. Hey, I’ve got your back. We’re from the same genetic cesspool!