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The Original magazine is pregnant for the ﬁfth time, for we have knocked her up. I have tasted the maggots in the mind of the magazine; I was not oﬀended, for I knew I had to wisely edit all, or drown in my own scripts. The third generation of creators and contributors is soon to inherit the long days and longer nights of editing and writing, designing and advertising, planning and publishing, and ﬁnally distributing. They might take some photos along the way, too. All but three of the original Original staﬀ members have gone the way of diplomas and student loan payments, and four more are soon to follow. Before we go gently into that good twenty-something night, we’d like to thank founding editor Katie Selig, for all of her attention to detail and hard work, and especially founding editor-in-chief, designer, and all-star publication visionary Elana Schlenker, without whom this magazine would not be more than a sketch in a notebook. To the next generation of editors and staﬀers: godspeed and good luck - Jeﬀ Rieger
Thank you, Jeﬀ, Elana, Katie and everyone of the ambitious coalition who began this enterprise - who scored the Sprout Seed Award and sold advertising for a magazine that did not yet exist. We can best show due honor in continuing to run the presses. Nostalgia agrees with propriety here, for the ship is manned nearly anew. A fresh cast is here to cultivate the vision, and with a novel mob of minds to make this happen, we have the opportunity to shape our identity. That we have become a Pitt student organization advocates we tap the talent lurking in senior writing programs and Frick design basements. Our station suggests we present ourselves as the serviceable opportunity we are to the powers that be, who may in turn support us and direct student talent our way. For now, we bring you Issue Five. Though the media environment seems more and more ill-suited for print these days, someone at the start of this year told me, “this is such a sexy magazine.” If we can keep at least that up, I think we’ll do just ﬁne for now with ink and paper. Hope you enjoy. - Richard Rosengarten
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The Original Issue 5 Fall 2009
*who made this mess? Founder
Editor-in-Chief Fall 2009-present Spring 2009
Richard Rosengarten Ben Filio
Managing Editors Fall 2009-present Spring 2009
Jenelle Pifer, Brendan Sullivan Lydia Pudzianowski, Jeﬀ Rieger
Advertising and Art Director
Staﬀ Supervisor/Intercessor Nicholas Hess University Relations Coordinator Fall 2009-present Kevin Topolski Spring 2009 Jessica Dailey Webmaster
Assistant University Relations Coordinator Weenta Girmay
Contributing Writers Anna Biegalski , Nicole Boss, Katie Capri, Jess Dailey, Christen DiClaudio, Helen Ewing, Barbara Fang, Weenta Girmay, Caitlin Going , Ashlee Green, Cassidy Gruber, Larissa Gula, Matthew Holden, Ryan Kauﬀman, Priyanka Kaura, Eoin Koepﬁnger, Ly Li, Ryan McGinnis, Adele Meyer, Nate Mirizio, Hilary Nykwest, Ryan O’Shea, Elizabeth Pantalone, Anna Rasshivkina, Ben Rickles, Richard Rosengarten, Rob Sheaﬀ, Julia Sinn, Tara Stieﬀ, Chris Stokum, Brendan Sullivan, Liam Sweeney, Nicolette Telech, Kevin Topolski Contributing Photographers Sarah Bartley, Maxwell Rush Beehner, Molly Burkett, Ohad Cadji, Helen Ewing, Ben Filio, Kristi Jan Hoover, Adele Meyer, Hannah Pilling, Anna Rasshivkina, Ben Rickles, Julia Sinn, Kristen Swamer, Vaughn Wallace Contributing Artists Matthew James Anderson, Maxwell Rush Beehner, Adele Meyer, Elizabeth Pantalone, Margaret Soltis Layout and Design Maxwell Rush Beehner, Rachael Clemmons, Nicole Hinkle, Kelli Townsend Contributing Copy Editors Zachary A. Adams, Alicia Broudey, Molly Burkett, Jessica Dailey, Christian DiClaudio, Renee Dorman, Barbara Fang, David Freifeld, Weenta Girmay, Ashlee Green, Kayla Guerrieri, Larissa Gula, Matt Holden, Priyanka Kaura, Eoin Koepﬁnger, Stephen Lewis, Ly Li, Hilary Nykwest, Efe M. Oghoghome, Destiny Ridguard, Michael Romito, Anna Rasshivkina, Becky Reiser, Michel Van Ness Ad Sales Anna Biegalski, Katie Capri, Jessica Dailey, Ben Filio, Weenta Girmay, Ly Li Ad Designers Hannah Pilling On the Cover Anna Biegalski, photographed by Ohad Cadji *Over the summer, The Original got a shiny new staﬀ. This magazine is the work of both teams. The transition saw some leave and some stay on board. Many of us got new titles. Here is everyone who contributed, both the staﬀ that is no longer with us and those who ﬁnalized publication. Email us! email@example.com
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new&improved What we’ve been up to since you last saw us (and it’s been a while).
After a few delays, Issue Four of The Original arrived in style this January with its much-anticipated release party bash. The Frick Fine Arts Cloister was abuzz with staﬀ, students, friends and curious stoppers-by, all of whom enjoyed the sociable atmosphere, tunes supplied by WPTS 92.1 FM and, of course, free magazines! Not to mention the free food supplied by India Garden, Dozen Cupcakes, Winston the sushi man from the cathedral, while it lasted - Oh buﬀet table, we hardly knew ye! The release party had the best turnout yet. The Original only gets better with age. Thanks to those who braved the Pittsburgh winter to come celebrate the birth of another spectacular issue. -Ryan Minoski
Party foul - Absent from the festivities? Be sure not to miss another event by keeping in touch with The Original between issues at www.originalmag.com.
We miss you, Jeﬀ and Lydia! The O’s former editors mingle at the Issue 4 release banger. Photo by Adele Meyer
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Western PA now has more elephants per capita than Eastern PA! After two female African pachyderms from Philadelphia Zoo made the sixhour trek across the PA Turnpike, the Western side of the state is now heavy with elephants.
carpathian music ensemble
New from Pitt’s Department of Music is the brainchild of Adriana Helbig, Assistant Professor of Ethnomusicology, The Carpathian Music Ensemble. Founded only in the fall of 2008, the ensemble has already performed four concerts around Pittsburgh and has dazzled audiences with their Gypsy, Klezmer, Armenian, Moldavian, Ukrainian, and Macedonian musical stylings. For more information, take a look at Pitt’s Department of Music webpage at www.music.pitt.edu, through which the Carpathian Music Ensemble’s blog can be found. Or visit Helbig’s youtube page, at www.youtube.com/user/adahelbig, where a number of videos of the ensemble’s performances are available.
The Carpathians rock out at rehearsal. Photo by Vaughn Wallace
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around town Our best PGH ﬁnds this time.
people we like These are they.
I Made It! Over the Bar Pinball Laptop Butcher Shop Abay Karaoke guide
Dan Koshute Kim Beck Charles McCollester Carl Kurlander Dangdut Cowboys Adam Welch Brian Francis Donna Katz and Rita Herman Oakland Natives Joel Lovell
on campus Cool stuﬀ in Oakland besides keggers and rent inﬂation.
Tony Novosel Ben Lerner Alton Post Longboarding LEED Building Oakland Green Michael Israel
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in focus Creative miscellany feed your brain.
Famous Pittsburgh Graves “Summer, and another,” by Cassidy Gruber “Pop-Tarts in Furs,” by Rob Sheaf Poetry by Nicolette Telech Poetry by Ryan Kauﬀman Paper Streets
community guide pages 98-105
The most rectangular square in the city.
Neighborhood history Resident Q&A Haikus by Molly Burkett Fiction by Liam Sweeney Poetry by Matthew Holden Concept Art Gallery proﬁle Community Proﬁle
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d n u o r A wn o T ! T I E I MAD D R A Z B I OT BALL W NOLOGY PIN TY TECH MEAOPIA ETH G IT OUT SIN
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Make My Day TEXT BY KATIE CAPRI / PHOTOS BY OHAD CADJI On a snowy afternoon in December of 2008, I ventured from Oakland to Highland Park to attend my ﬁrst I Made it Market, a nomadic indie craft fair held a few times a year around Pittsburgh. Once I stepped oﬀ the 71A and walked into the Union Project - an old church building complete with weathered stained-glass windows and the sweet aroma of used books and wood paneling - I was immediately greeted at the door by a cheery woman inviting visitors to another craft fair the following day. As I moved further inside the dimly-lit sanctuary I noticed the pews had been replaced by vendors’ tables and the congregation by a feeding frenzy of crafting junkies weaving through the displays in a shuﬄe, each person adding to the orchestral murmur of voices, footsteps and transactions permeating the building-- a big turnout for a baby organization like I Made It. The following week I met up with the cheery woman, IMI cofounder Carrie Nardini, to talk to her about the
market and its conception just a year and a half ago. Having always been a crafter herself - with glass bead-making her forte - she wanted to open up new venues for amateur crafters besides boutiques and annual craft fairs which mainly service career crafters. While attending a craft fair at Carnegie Mellon in 2007, Nardini met Nina Baruto, her future IMI cofounder. The two shared the same idea about the city’s need for more craft venues, and just three weeks later they held the ﬁrst IMI Market at Garﬁeld Artworks, a success that reaﬃrmed the founders’ mission. “The ﬁrst IMI showed us that there was a need for an event like ours in Pittsburgh because so many people showed up and were interested in connecting with and purchasing from the vendors,” Nardini said. Since then, I Made It has hosted thirteen markets in diﬀerent communities around the ‘Burgh, but it was not as easy as Nardini makes it seem. “It took a lot of networking and legwork to
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get the event oﬀ the ground,” said the craftmistress. No one said cultivating Pittsburgh’s corner of the amateur craft-nation would be easy. Baruto and Nardini’s mission for IMI was to create an inclusive place for ﬁrst-time vendors to sell goods and get one-on-one feedback from clientele. The two also wanted to highlight the amazing local crafting talent, a mission Nardini intends to continue. Her main goal for the market is to stimulate networking
Handmade magnets, bedazzled aprons and even extrastrength deodorant have a place at I Made It, and each market will yield diﬀerent vendors from around the city. within the crafting community. “[IMI] gives all vendors publicity with other vendors,” she said. It also gives newbie vendors exposure to craft fair junkies like myself. As with most fairs, there was an assortment of soaps, candles, and jewelry, but the inclusivity of IMI extends to the fare you can ﬁnd at this fair. Handmade magnets, bedazzled aprons and even extrastrength deodorant have a place at I Made It, and each market will yield diﬀerent vendors from around the city. Consider I Made It a gypsy craft fair - Each market is held in a diﬀerent community in Pittsburgh, bringing in a new audience and putting on a slightly varied show.
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So how does a local crafter get involved with the Market? Nardini recommends checking out its website for news on upcoming events and to sign up for IMI’s e-mail newsletter. She also suggests joining their Facebook group, I Made It Sunday Market. Since its inception, both of IMI’s founders have relocated out of the region, but have no fear - more crafting is near. I Made It has events lined up for the winter, starting with an “I Made it Junior” show at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh on November 22nd and “I Made it for the Holidays” at Union Project on December 5th. With these Markets on the horizon (and more to come), keeping it crafty has gotten a whole lot easier. You never know where I Made It will strike next. As Nardini put it, “Sometimes we pop up where and when you would least expect it.”
need even more info on I Made It Market?
Below: Shoppers browse the many hand-made delights.
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Allen Wrenches and a Bottle O TEXT BY ELIZABETH PANTALONE PHOTOS BY MAXWELL RUSH BEEHNER
Pittsburgh’s cycling community is growing, and it is becoming a tight-knit crowd. As more and more commuters ditch four wheels for two, Pittsburgh is becoming much more organized in its eﬀorts to promote this ever-growing trend. Marked by events such as the monthly Critical Mass, Bike Fest, and last year’s Tour de PA - a race spanning the length of the state, playing host to international cyclists under the age of 25 - the city and local businesses are paying attention.
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e Opener prides himself on keeping OTB a grassroots establishment. Everything about OTB is driven by the people, from word-of-mouth advertisement to the donation of bikes to the bar: “We plan to give away three bikes this year - a roadie, a mountain bike, and a hybrid,” Kotyk said. Building connections between many facets of the Pittsburgh cycling community, local bike shops have contributed to the OTB eﬀort, and its menu reﬂects this. The THICK burger is a nod to the South Side’s THICK Bikes, crafters of the keystone-shaped bike rack in front of the Cafe. As advertised on its website, OTB’s motto is “Bikes, Beer and Bloody Good Food!” There’s no question about the caliber of the last of the three, with OTB’s slew of great burgers cooked to juicy perfection. If burgers aren’t your speed, a lovely variety of wraps, panini, and vegetarian-friendly dishes are up for grabs. The beer selection is great too, featuring a selection from the East End Brewery.
Mike Kotyk, owner and Friday night bartender of the South Side’s Over the Bar Bicycle Cafe (OTB), saw the need for a headquarters of sorts for Pittsburgh cycling and has been fortunate enough to combine two of his favorite things: biking and the restaurant business (he’s a former longtime employee of Quaker Steak and Lube).
Walking into OTB, one can immediately see the inﬂuences of Kotyk’s past. OTB could be the minimalistic cycling version of Quaker Steak and Lube. There are no pickup trucks or gas pumps hanging from the ceilings. Rather, the bar greets you with bikes hovering above, gears and cranks gracing the walls as rugged accessories, and a handful of ﬂat-screen televisions, on which a Penguins game is sure to be playing. The ceilings are covered in local bike-themed art, and a puzzlewall made of pieced-together bike rims of all diﬀerent diameters leads you back through the bar and into the dining room, which is far enough away to enjoy a peaceful meal while being close enough to be in on the action of the bar crowd. Even the bathroom is bike-themed, with a toilet paper dispenser crafted from rescued bike parts.
Over The Bar Bicycle Cafe is here for all Pittsburghers, whether you’re walking, running, driving, or (hopefully) biking. Stop in to grab a Bike Pittsburgh trail map, ﬁnd a riding group, or cap oﬀ Critical Mass with a hot meal and a cold brew. Kotyk insists: “I want this place to eventually become a hub of cycling, a crossroads of information, and a gathering place for bikers in Pittsburgh.”
Working with many of the cycling shops and organizations in and around Pittsburgh, Kotyk
2518 E. Carson St.; (412) 381-3698; M-F 11 A.M.-10 P.M., Sa 12-10 P.M., Sun 12-8 p.m.; www.otbicyclecafe.com originalmag.com
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One Finger Still On the Flipper TEXT AND PHOTOS BY BEN RICKLES
When it comes to the technology in the guts of arcade machines, more kilobytes mean fancier screens; but according to Lewis, the amusement you get out of the game is the same, if not less.
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Lyricist James “Ruck” Lewis sums it up in this verse:
“Will you get the high score or will you be asking for more? The trials and tribulations of the pinball machine. Say you only got 50 cents on me? We gotta motherfuckin’ do this shit. We play some pinball.”
A machine is an orphan. Pinball’s got no home. You see them all over the place, eyeing up table scraps in the corner of a local pizza joint. If you listen hard enough, you can still hear the echoes of mechanical sniﬄing in the vacant back rooms of pubs and bars, emphasizing that gap between the Wild Cherries and the wall, that back room where men still smile when they discover a quarter hidden behind a pack of gum. When they realize its worthlessness in this day and age, the smile drains like an invisible metal ball.
“It’s like you have that perfect girl that’s got everything,” he said. “There’s an element of mystery to your interaction. Putting everything you have inside of that woman - money. She just wants your money. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s a small price to pay for her company, just ﬁve or ten minutes, maybe an hour if you’re a master. “I put everything I have inside that woman and I’ve defeated the King of Pain. Pinball’s hard for me, and I have a lot of fun playing it. If pinball was a girl, pinball would be calling me all the time.”
“This is what’s happening to the Medieval Madness that is going on in Nordy’s Place,” explained student and pinball activist Nathan Kalbach. The machine located in the William Pitt Union has seen better days. It wavers between out of order and just kinda broken. Right now a defect causes the drawbridge on the castle to drop prematurely.
Although they can be found side by side at the arcade, video games are not a natural progression from the pinball machine. The arcade game was not a pinball machine that crawled out of the ocean of free time. Today, in comparison to the home console, any form of public arcade-style gaming is considered as archaic as a Roman bath.
“We’re allowed to play it,” Kalbach said. “We’re gonna play it. But we’re getting free gate hits as we go, and we’re getting into the castle before we deserve it. Incrementally it goes on. I have the top high score. I said my initials are USA, and I’m proud.”
Companies like Gotlieb, Williams, Bally, and Data East have all bitten the dust. Last to remain is Stern Pinball, a kin-run enterprise in Illinois.
Indirectly, Kalbach is describing what’s wrong with fellow university students entering the work force, but he’s also describing the state of pinball in Pittsburgh. With Carnegie being home to the Professional/Amateur Pinball Association (PAPA) World Pinball Championships, Pittsburgh has been a pinball Mecca since the early ‘90s. Therefore, every out-of-order sign on a machine in the Pittsburgh area is a dead canary in the steel mill - at a national level. In this loaded statement, Kalbach is touching on the worldwide neo-liberal arcade policies that are driving the American tradition of pinball to perdition. But despite the struggle, he and other hardcore paddle ﬂippers share a history-defying love for the game. Kalbach draws connections, relating pinball to dating.
A ray of hope is visible on the surface of the underground, comprised of a scattered group of enthusiasts, like pinball veteran Justin J. Lewis. “The landscapes of broken pinball machines will only come after the last players are not around anymore,” Lewis said. But pinball players are passionate, and as long as they’re around, pinball will exist.” After living in Pittsburgh for four-odd years now, Lewis has gone toe-to-toe with such greats as Lyman Sheatz Jr. and Bowen Kerins, titans of the game who travel the world, tagging their initials on whatever machines they encounter. “I see this guy [Bowen Kerins] playing at the Beehive. I had the number one score on Spiderman there, and he crushed that shit. He crushed it ten times over and he put a score
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on the screen that’s still on there. When my high score was 496,000,000, he got like 1.4 billion.” That’s no piece of pie. “If [pinball] was just about buttons it wouldn’t be too diﬃcult. No, there’s inﬁnite possibilities.” Lewis is talking about bumping the machine, usually with the hip, knee or foot; a technique used to make the ball slide on the board without using the ﬂippers. Beyond saving a player from the frustrating down-the-middle drain, bumping opens another dimension to the game.
But, Lewis explains, bumping the machine too hard will make it react with a ‘Tilt’ penalty to the player’s score. Tilt is when a machine senses that the player is tilting the machine, and shuts oﬀ, the penalty being the loss of that ball, or even the whole game. The most common mechanism for detecting tilt is a metal pendulum bob that hangs within a metal ring in the underbelly of the machine. Upon contact of the pendulum with the ring, the player receives a warning, or “danger.” Lewis warns that tilt must be avoided, but
that the seasoned vet can ride the line that the tilt sensor reads. The tilt is only a summation of penalties registered within a short amount of time, so technically bumping is not tricking the machine but it is interacting with the board on another level. Because of this physical aspect of the game, some suggest speciﬁc attire when playing pinball. “You should wear jeans, not sweatpants, when playing pinball, at least blue jeans,” suggests Kalbach. “Tights if you’re a female,” adds Roxanne Carter. Is that an athletic dress code? “There’s no dress code, it’s a mentality code,” said Carter. More important than protecting yourself from the rough surface of the coin slots, one must condition her or his mind against the stimulation and perceptual blurring that’s going on beneath the glass. The blue jeans are good for bumping, and if they’re tight enough you can show oﬀ your unspent quarters to let everyone know you’ve been playing on nothing but hard-earned replays.
left: Justin Lewis shredding the mechinical gnar at the Squirrel Cage.
If you want to play some good pinball, go to Ace’s Breakaway and Play on Smithfield Street Downtown. The Beehive and Games N’At on the South Side have a variety of machines. The Laundromat on Forbes Avenue in Oakland has a few machines too. Play Medieval Madness in Nordy’s Place in the William Pitt Union in Oakland, but don’t feel too good when you get a castle multiball. And you can try the Forward Theater, 5824 Forward Ave., and The Warhol Museum at 117 Sandusky St.
Also check out www.papa.org and www. sternpinball.com.
Grade A Technology
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TEXT BY HILARY NYKWEST/ILLUSTRATION BY ADELE MEYER grains, but the meat is always natural and chemical-free. Maybe customers can taste it in the meat. Maybe they can tell the animal was raised with care as they savor each bite. Or maybe it’s the simple fact that the meat isn’t a standard grocery store slab - it pleases the palette and the mind. Either way, customers know that the Laptop Butcher Shop can provide them with delicious and healthy meat from local farms with a simple e-mail, hence the name. The Laptop Butcher Shop operates under Slow Food Pittsburgh, a local branch of an international organization dedicated to slowing down the act of eating and focusing on the taste, culture, and art of food. Overseer Susan Barclay created Laptop ﬁve years ago after noticing that the local Wil-Den Family Farms needed some help. Denise Brownlee and her family had already been selling their Wil-Den’s organic pork to Pittsburgh residents. But when Farmers@Firehouse (“Pittsburgh’s only mostly organic farm market,” according to their website) started hosting their products as well, Wil-Den began having problems making it to multiple selling locations. Barclay came up with Laptop so local farmers could easily consolidate all their orders within one location, allowing them to be present for customer pickup. Laptop is at the cutting edge of convenience for consumers as well. Customers simply request orders by sending an e-mail,and Laptop notiﬁes them of speciﬁc dates, times, and locations to pick up their meat. Laptop’s most impressive characteristic, however, isn’t the convenience of e-mail use, but the unique origins of the meat. Any organic farm can work with Laptop. The farmers who provide Laptop with meat choose to raise their animals in a way that seems almost forgotten by large factory standards. “These farms are beautiful,” Barclay said. The animals live outside and are raised with care. They live oﬀ the land, feeding on the natural grass and roaming at their own will. Some farmers occasionally feed their animals
According to Barclay, the meat tastes great. With no additives, prophylactic antibiotics, or hormones, people can taste the real meat. The punch of nutrients and natural antioxidants isn’t bad, either. Word of Laptop’s unmatched product has spread. “Business exploded last year,” Barclay said. Farms that sell under Laptop have had consistently high proﬁts compared to previous years. Pam Bryan, of Pucker Brush Farms, said Laptop really helps her save money and time by merging her orders and establishing one pickup date and time. Laptop also helps Bryan reach customers she ordinarily wouldn’t be able to. Though it’s not a stated mission of the organization, Laptop ultimately helps small local farms compete against the greater agribusiness. “It can be a struggle,” Barclay said. “The Laptop Butcher Shop is a way for these farms to make money.” The farmers that came to the November 22nd pickup at the Farmers@Firehouse location in the Strip District showed that their work is not just business - it’s a lifestyle. They withstood frigid seventeen-degree weather with layers of clothing and genuine smiles on their faces. Workers were patient and willing to help customers with anything. It didn’t matter how long the lines were. Buyers were never rushed. These farmers truly care about their products. They truly care about their animals as well. A key feature of Laptop is that the whole animal must go. Bryan not only sells all parts of her lambs, she spins thread from their wool and makes soaps from their fat. She explained that customers of diﬀerent ethnicities buy speciﬁc parts for cultural reasons as well. Customers can expect a great variety of meat from Laptop. Since its inception, Laptop has provided chicken, beef, pork, lamb, and even fresh ﬁsh. Sara Pozonsky brings ﬁsh down from her family’s Wild Alaskan Salmon Company. She explained that the health beneﬁts of natural ﬁsh are immense and the taste is amazing. But according to Barclay, the main mission of Laptop is to educate the public through their services. Barclay wants to let people know that organic meat is not only tastier and healthier for you than most other meat, but it also helps local farmers and the environment.
To experience some of Laptop Butcher Shop’s meats for yourself, place an order by email at www.slowfoodpgh.com/laptop.html. originalmag.com
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From Ethiopia W
TEXT BY CAITLIN GOING/ PHO
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NG/ PHOTOS BY ANNA RASSHIVKINA
If you’re looking for a cultural eating adventure in Pittsburgh - or you’re just tired of the food options on campus - Abay Ethiopian Cuisine is a great change of pace. Located at 130 S. Highland Avenue in East Liberty, this Ethiopian restaurant is only a quick bus ride away from campus. I took the 71C to see what Abay was all about. In Ethiopia’s Amharic language, Abay translates as the “Blue Nile,” a large river that feeds into the Nile River. Owner Jamie Wallace opened the restaurant in 2004. Although Wallace is an attorney, his interest in Ethiopian food spawned the idea of starting his own restaurant in Pittsburgh. It was his hope to bring new cultural experiences to the area, in this case through African cuisine. As you enter the restaurant, you will feel as if you have left the city of Pittsburgh. The interior of the restaurant is awash with earth tones and embellished with Ethiopian decor, including artwork in a variety of media on the walls. Abay oﬀers a relaxed, casual environment for visitors. You have the option of sitting at short, round tables on backless stools or at wooden tables with chairs. If you have never eaten at an Ethiopian restaurant before, Abay is the perfect place for beginners to learn all about the style of eating. The servers are knowledgeable and happy to explain everything, from deciphering (and pronouncing) items on the menu to teaching you the proper way to eat your entree. Be aware that the correct way to eat Ethiopian food is with your hands. Your meal is served on top of injera, a type of ﬂatbread that has a soft, spongy texture. You then rip the injera and use it to pick up your food, which is served on a platter so it can be shared with friends. The sharing of food is a big part of Ethiopian culture, and communal eating is encouraged at Abay, though plates and utensils are available upon request. Abay also oﬀers great options for vegetarians
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and vegans. The menu is organized in a way that divides the entrees into groups consisting of beef, chicken, or vegetarian choices, indicating if a dish is vegan or spicy. With the wide range of items available, there’s bound to be something that everyone will like. Another great aspect of the menu is the combination platter option, allowing you to sample four diﬀerent entrees for the price of one ($11.50 for a single person). This concept lets you try out many Ethiopian meals and is less risky if you’re not sure what you would like. Whatever the selection you make, it will be sure to surprise the palate. I had Tikil Gomen, Misir Wat, Kay Sir Dinich, and Fosolia. All of these choices are comprised of seasoned vegetables with an array of unique, savory ﬂavors. It’s diﬃcult to explain the complex taste of the cuisine, as I had never experienced dishes such as these before, but they were as delicious as they were foreign to me. As for dessert, the menu choices veer from the traditional Ethiopian dishes and oﬀer options that are decidedly American. No complaints, though, because the desserts are excellent (I had chocolate cake). Abay is without a doubt a pleasantly diﬀerent eating experience. Go to Abay to enjoy a little piece of Ethiopia right here in Pittsburgh.
130 S. Highland Ave.; (412) 661-9736; T-Sa 11:30 A.M.-2:30 P.M., 5-10 P.M., Sun 11:30 A.M.-2:30 P.M., 5-9 P.M.; www.abayrestaurant.com
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-SING YOUR GUTS OUT- by Ashlee Green, Nate Mirizio, Kevin Topolski Monday “Show tunes and rat packs,” said a fellow karaoke attendee as he described Images, and the accuracy is remarkable. During the two hours we spent at the Downtown gay bar, approximately every other choice was a Broadway ballad. Surely, Images’ proximity to Point Park University, a liberal arts school with a heavy emphasis on musical theater, is not just happenstance. And man, can they sing. Performances here are serious and heartfelt (yes, even those of “Maneater” and “Love Shack),” and bar-goers/
audience members can relax on the plush and roomy leather couches to take it all in. There’s a strange dichotomy here: both young, well-dressed twentysomethings and older, creepy skeezes abound. Rating: B-AG 965 Liberty Ave., (412) 391-9990, www.imagespittsburgh.com
Tuesday Karaoke night in Lawrenceville’s Thunderbird Cafe is like a continuous reel of “American Idol” audition performance footage, minus William Hung. Singers are independent here - they belt it out instead of clutching on to their girlfriends and giggling their way through. The good news? The singers have actually got some vocal talent. The bad news? Zero drink specials and repeat performers - why yes, Poodle, Broadway missed out when they left you behind, but we bar-goers can only listen to Evanescence
and other wrist-slitting power ballads for so long. Do check it out, though - the atmosphere of brick walls, tall bar stools and a raised stage with a background of graﬃti artwork feels very postcollege underground Brooklynesque. Highlight of the night: A male and female duet to “Bohemian Rhapsody,” heavy on the white guy dance improv. Rating: A -AG 4023 Butler St., (412) 682-0177, www.thunderbirdcafe.net
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Tuesday BONUS! Oﬀ the beaten path of Carson, nestled along 18th Street, lies St. James Place, one of South Side’s most quintessential dives among the congested bar scene of the neighborhood. The proudly-run Irish tavern holds its popular karaoke night every Tuesday. Inside the bar, you’ll ﬁnd a surprisingly open space, ﬁlled with your essential dive bar fare - pool tables, classic arcade games, darts and minibowling. Unlike most others, the bar is well maintained and serviced in a very friendly and enticing atmosphere. Motley
crews of locals and collegeaged folk come in numbers for loud-mouth karaoke classics. To avoid the trendy Carson Street scene and enjoy a satisfying alternative to the typical riﬀ-raﬀ of South Side, make your way to St. James Place Tavern for some unpretentious, low-key karaoke action. Specials include a dozen wings for $4 from seven to midnight and bottles of Straub for $2.50 from ten to midnight. Rating: B -KT 153 S. 18th St., (412) 431-3222, www.stjamesplacetavern.com
Wednesday Perhaps it was the torrential blizzard or the Pitt basketball game keeping the kiddies out of the bars and at home under their blankets, but karaoke at The Smiling Moose was l-a-m-e. As if the cigarette-bumming hipsters in the audience weren’t bad enough, participation came to an all-time low after only seven songs when the nameless, bodiless voice emanating from behind the towering deejay equipment revealed himself. A skinny, leopard-print-cardiganwearing Dee Snider wannabe, he ﬁlled the void with endless
hair ﬂips and a version of Judas Priest’s “Turbo Lover.” Other lowlights: John Denver’s “Thank God I’m A Country Boy” sung while hoe-down-ing, a rock version of Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone,” and a twosome, front and center, making out. Rating: D -AG 1306 E. Carson St., (412) 4314668, www.smiling-moose.com
Thursday The only things shining brighter than the lights of Spice Island Tea House in South Oakland during their Thursday night karaoke were the stars who took the stage to sing. Classic tunes of revered musical groups like
Bon Jovi, Journey, ‘N Sync, O-Town, and the Backstreet Boys were the songs of choice. Where some singers pride themselves on vocal virtuosity, these karaoke kings and queens were satisﬁed simply ﬁnishing the song with remotely reasonable
lyrical accuracy. The success was sweet. The DJ acted as a fairy godmother to his Cinderella divas. Rarely sticking his head out from behind his table, he allowed all the attention and admiration to be directed to the singers. What this bar lacks in
numbers and lighting, it makes up for with the spirit in those who take the microphone. Rating: C
Friday If belting out your favorite tunes isn’t enough, Arsenal Lanes - found oﬀ of Butler Street in Lawrenceville - lets you sing your heart out in between games of scoring strikes or getting gutters. With over 20 lanes of ten-pin action and a full bar to tout, the karaoke experi-
ence is the icing on the cake. Arsenal Lanes has been a local staple for decades now, and it shows in its retro-cool vibe and colorful crowd of bowling and karaoke enthusiasts. Unless you just want to grab a beer, be sure to arrive by 8:30 p.m. to reserve a lane. They ﬁll up fast. Given that it’s ten
bucks for all-you-can bowl until midnight, it’s not hard to understand why. Karaoke is set up right next to the lanes, so your buddy attempting to do justice to Sir Mix-a-Lot can serenade your next gutter ball. The combination of free-ﬂowing beer and old-school bowling make the karaoke
almost secondary, but if you’re looking for some cheap Friday night amusement with your posse, Arsenal is your answer. Grade: A-KT 212 44th St., (412) 683 5992, arsenalbowl.com
Saturday With its moose-clubinspired, wood-paneled walls and neighborhood regulars perched around the bar, you’d think Nico’s Recovery Room was strictly for the locals. But on Saturday nights, Nico’s transforms into a karaoke haven, full of neighborhood twenty-somethings who clash with the blackand-gold-clad clientele typically in attendance. Grab a booth - seats go quickly on Saturdays. The bustling dining room is lined to the walls with an eclectic mix of local Pittsburghers, hipsters, and karaoke enthusiasts.
If you happen to get there early enough, grab a seat up front to witness some of the ‘Burgh’s ﬁnest, with performances reaching “American Idol”-esque caliber. This “Little Italy” recovery room deep in the heart of Bloomﬁeld will help cure what ails you with a decently-priced drink and some damn good karaoke. Specials include ten-dollar pitchers all night. Rating: A -KT 178 Pearl St., (412) 681-9562,
-NM 328 Atwood St., (412) 682-1900, www. spicecafehot.net
Sunday The end of any week and the fear of Monday could drive a sane man mad - or a karaoke-starved Pittsburgher to Ryan’s Pub on South Braddock Ave. Regulars and fun-seekers abound in the Irish-tinged setting. A friendly crowd always embraces the soonto-be diva pouring his or her heart into the typical karaoke fare. The amiable surroundings and expansive variety of musical oﬀerings make it easy to see why Ryan’s consistently ranks towards the top of karaoke surveys in various citywide publications. Though the food is generously
portioned, the prices reﬂect accordingly. Expensive drinks and edibles are the pub’s major pocketshrinking downside. If slightly inﬂated prices don’t bother you though, Ryan’s Pub is a great place to come and sing your heart out to a group of people you don’t know. Rating: A -NM 607 S. Braddock Ave., (412) 241-0464
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e l p o e P e k i e L W E T U H S O K DAN BECK ESTER KIM . MCOLLNDER MR L KURLA CAR M WELCH IS ADA AN FRANC BRI PETS DAY PUP K IN THE BAC GDUT DAN L LOVELL JOE
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28 issue 5 PWL
Hart Crane Reincarnate, Magna Persona TEXT BY ASHLEE GREEN/ PHOTOS BY KRISTI JAN HOOVER
One trip to the Big Apple was all it took for this Pittsburgh glam rocker to stoke up his song and board the Kiss Line.
fter attending my ﬁrst Dan Koshute show at Garﬁeld Artworks, I was too nervous to introduce myself, afraid I’d choke on my praise, sneeze on him, or do something equally capable of ruining any and all chances of ever having a reasonably casual conversation with him in encounters to come. But now, a year or so later, we’ve become close friends. He slides in the door of Caribou Coﬀee, hands tucked deep into the pockets of his tabbycat-gray tweed jacket, a pageboy cap on the top of his head. Handing me a faux yellow rose, he sits down, smiles and utters a gracious thank you. Friends or not, this moment compares to my three-minute conversation with lifelong celebrity crush Taylor Hanson, my knees nearly buckling from adulation. Am I blushing?
“I was put on this earth to be a musician.” When Dan Koshute was seven years old, he attempted to build a drum set. “I put together buckets on my grandmother’s porch and basically just made the neighbors angry… I must have sounded like shit,” he says. From ﬁfth grade on, Koshute was making music in bands and writing his own stuﬀ. His inﬂuences are U2, the Smashing Pumpkins, and soul
singers like Jackie Wilson. “Each one in their own way taught me something else that is part of what I do now,” he says. “After I discovered those people I never took another guitar lesson ever again, I never read any guitar books. They were my teachers and I was their student, completely and honestly.” As far as his short-lived college career at Duquesne is concerned, Koshute says academia just wasn’t for him. While fellow English literature majors were scouring the classics, searching for one minute literary detail to send them into a whirlwind of theoretical B.S., Koshute was reading and listening to music voraciously, taking contemplative walks, and enjoying his private dorm room space - a result of both procrastination (turning the request form in late) and his apparently unpair-able personality. It was also the spot where some of his debut album tracks were recorded. “My gifts were precious and unique and I had to share them and pursue them fully,” he says. His words are pensive but strong, his voice throaty. Breaking the news of his leaving college to his parents - both college grads - was what Koshute describes as “complete chaos.” “I went into their doubt and their questions with a sense that this is what I have to do. This is why I’m on
this earth,” he says. And eventually they came around. “I realized the urgency of doing what I had to do the urgency of now.”
“I knew all of my life that I had to go to New York.” To put some pennies in his pocket while ﬁnishing up his freshman year in the ‘Burgh, Koshute worked as a school radio deejay. Extra-long lunch breaks always found Koshute in Eljay’s Used Books in the South Side, reading travel guides about New York, studying the city and streets. With a bit of luck, and a few fudged payroll hours here and there, Koshute eventually earned enough for a ticket to the Big Apple (and was subsequently ﬁred). “I didn’t know how, I didn’t know necessarily why, but I knew that I had to go there because there was going to be something there that I had to see or I had to experience or people I had to meet,” he says. He’s leaning closer into the table now, licking his lips.
“I left for New York on July 5, 2007… My new independence.” Armed with his guitar and a backpack full of debut album copies, Koshute trained it to the city for a week and a half - the ﬁrst of many NYC trips to come. He worked a menial coﬀee shop job on his return (“I’m an enigma, bosses really don’t know what to make of me,” he says with a halfserious smirk), played a few shows in Chicago, did a stint on a friend’s dorm room ﬂoor in D.C., and eventually gathered enough cash to return to NYC three months later. “The city just took care of me, the city was my mother,” Koshute says of his subsequent trip, eyes glazing at the mere mention of it. With no place to stay, he had little choice but to rely on the kindness of show-goers. “People would house me, clothe me, feed me and make sure I was alright,” he says. His longest stay was with a group of vegetarian Columbia graduate students in Brooklyn who always made sure he was eating right.
“I went there on a pilgrimage to see this place and meet
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these people and to get into this realm of all my favorite artists and singers and musicians.” The “place?” Cafe Sin-e, where Jeﬀ Buckley recorded “Live at Sin-e,” the album Koshute designates as the most inﬂuential to his budding career and the reason he went to New York. Located directly in front of his apartment in the East Village, a wideeyed Koshute recalls, the cafe’s new name was Holy Land Market. His eyebrows rise. Coincidence? And he celebrity-spotted too, meeting a number of his personal heroes: Jack White, Thurston Moore from Sonic Youth, Joseph Arthur, James Iha from the Smashing Pumpkins, and a number of Jeﬀ Buckley’s friends who received Koshute warmly and raved about his similarities to Buckley.
“Dan Koshute is the reincarnation of Hart Crane.” That’s the ﬁrst line of Koshute’s biography in his new album. “We’re so similar. His poems are like my music, what I try to do,” he says. Crane, Koshute explains, has a grand style of sorts. He manages to synthesize
past, present and future to shape what’s to come for positive means. Every word, every line has signiﬁcance. “He uses words like music. It’s not so much reading with your eyes as it is with your ears.” Crane saw everything as a cycle and brought a striking hope and positivity to his Depression-era writing. Koshute was so moved by Crane’s poem “The Bridge,” which uses the Brooklyn Bridge as a metaphor for connecting where we’ve come from to where we’re going, that he climbed the Brooklyn Bridge himself to read it and get the full eﬀect. “Finally, everything hit. It was like the cycle had been completed… I was playing every night, people were coming to my shows, I was selling records… this great joyous rapture came over me.”
hold the art sacred… the live show sacred… I use the human voice as the centerpiece for this tapestry. The voice is the key to all of it.“ Koshute has released his ﬁrst fulllength album, “Kiss Line.” “It’s like B.C./A.D.,” Koshute says. “After this rebirth [in] New York, that’s ‘Kiss Line.’” He gets the name from trailing what he calls a “trajectory of love.” You can pick up a smokin’ copy at Caliban Book Shop. “This is who I am and I’m gonna give it out to the world,” he says. “To give back to the world, that’s all I want to do. To give, to love.”
“I think of life as chapters. At the end of [each] you’ll learn and you’ll become better.” Koshute’s life as a book is in its opening chapters. He’s a working man now, living on couches and out of a suitcase, saving money to print his new album - all the while, he says, writing and reading as much as he can. The problem with musicians today, according to Koshute, is mediocrity and insincerity: “There’s so many people that don’t hold the album sacred. They don’t
To listen to his music, visit myspace.com/dankoshute.
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Definitive Details TEXT BY JESS DAILEY
Kim Beck’s artwork transforms boring into beautiful, calling viewers to pay attention to their everyday world.
Kim Beck rummaged around in a large drawer, pulling out a few sheets of thick white paper. She tucked a lock of dark brown hair behind her ear. “Wow, look at all these drawings I forgot about,” she said as she layed them on the table in front of me. She ﬁngered the edge of a square sheet. “This is really good paper, too. I guess it pays to be a bit of a pack rat.” The paper will serve Pittsburgh-based artist Kim Beck well when she travels back to New York, where she is currently doing an artist’s residency at the Space Program with the Marie Walsh Sharpe Foundation. She is back in town for the weekend to ﬁnalize a public art project, replenish her supplies and, most importantly, visit her dog, Olive. “She’s my baby!” exclaimed Kim, pointing out a picture of a black dog pinned above her desk on her wall of inspiration. “She’s half cocker spaniel, half chow. While I’m away, my friends from Encyclopedia Destructica are taking care of her.” While her dog may be the highlight of her trip back home, professional reasons were the cause. Kim recently received a commission to create four decorative panels for a new police station in the Allentown neighborhood of Pittsburgh. The station has been converted from an old international youth hostel, and the ground-level windows will be replaced with bulletproof panels to meet safety requirements. Because the building sits at the entrance of the neighborhood, redevelopment oﬃcials worked with the Oﬃce of Public Art to meet the requirements in an aesthetically pleasing way. Kim’s etchings will welcome visitors to the area and help make the station a mark of stability. “I’m not sure how a few panels are supposed to stabilize a neighborhood,” Kim said, “but I’m glad to be a part of it.” The Public Art Commission ﬁts in nicely with Kim’s larger body of work, which deals with architecture. Kim told me that her interest in landscape – natural and man-made –
bloomed when she was a graduate student. “I was making work about things that were a bit far away from me,” Kim said. “Then I had the experience where I was asked to really think about what I knew personally.” Her thoughts led her to her childhood in Littleton, Colorado, where the spatial elements of the suburban landscape had made a big impression on her. But it wasn’t the ideal image of suburbia that attracted Kim. “I was interested in looking at these things that people try to get out of the way when they’re trying to take a nice photograph,” she said. “You try to visually delete these things that you think mar the ﬁnal image. I ﬁnd myself really drawn to things like that, the things you’re supposed to ignore, like power lines.” One of Kim’s pieces, “Self-Storage,” exempliﬁes her interest in life’s less attractive structures. “[Storage units] aren’t meant to be beautiful structures,” said Kim. “They’re meant to get out, be built fast, to be able to house all these residential belongings without much money being spent on material.” “Self-Storage” was recently displayed at the Carnegie Museum of Art as part of the touring exhibit titled “World’s Away: Suburban Landscapes.” It consisted of two parts. The ﬁrst is a set of cutout images, layered over one another. At ﬁrst glance, the structures are unrecognizable, the shapes and lines repeated in a disorienting way. A closer look reveals the multiple entrances and sharp angles of a storage unit. Kim sketched the structures from multiple viewpoints and in varying sizes on several sheets of white paper. Then, she cut away the doors and walls to create an outline of the building. She stacked the cutouts so that the lines from one piece cross through the openings in another. The ﬁnal result is a confusing display of depth and space. The second part is a digital video of the cutouts being created. Black lines zig-zag across the white screen, forming the overlapping storage sheds. The viewer watches, waiting for the moment when the image seems complete, which
31 issue 5 PWL never comes. Instead, the lines abruptly disappear and begin in a new area of the screen, as if the artist erased the previous image and started over. The piece calls viewers to closely examine the sheds and structures that they would normally overlook or mistake for something else entirely. “[Most people] picture a very speciﬁc type of storage facility where the units have ﬂat roofs and look kind of like warehouses,” said Kim. “With [“Self Storage,”] the doors and the pitched roof create this almost houselike shape that is not a house at all. If you actually spend time looking at it, you realize that it doesn’t have two windows and a door, it actually has six doors and no windows.” While self-storage units may seem like a logical topic considering Kim’s interests, serendipity brought the structure to her. “It’s funny in a way – there’s this large conceptual narrative about how this storage shed ﬁts into my bigger body of work,” said Kim, “but really I was just drawing outside one day during residency in Vermont and saw those sheds.” For working artists like Kim, residencies oﬀer a period of time to focus solely on creating. According to Kim, a residency is like “a $10,000 scholarship” that provides prime studio space and unique opportunities. “You’re spending time with other artists who are just
working on their art, like you,” said Kim. “You get to have conversations with people that you wouldn’t meet in day-to-day life.” For her current residency in New York, Kim took the spring and summer semesters oﬀ from teaching, drawing and printmaking at Carnegie Mellon University. While such an endeavor may not seem appealing during these tough ﬁnancial times, it was the economic strife that inspired Kim’s newest project. “I’m interested in drawing all the banners that are coming out with closing-down businesses,” Kim said. “Like with the sheds and all my work, I’m looking at my environment and, currently we’re in the middle of an economic disaster, so that’s what’s out there.” Where many artists analyze and critique our culture and society through abstraction or re-appropriation, Kim highlights the banal and everyday, focusing our attention on the details we choose to ignore that often deﬁne our environment. “I want to make people stop and think about the things they might not have seen otherwise,” said Kim. “I want to get them to spend the time, even if it’s just a couple minutes, thinking about and looking at something that they just might not have seen.”
KIM’S WALL OF INSPIRATION
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33 issue 5 PWL
Mr. McCollester TEXT BY CHRIS STOKUM/PHOTOS BY BEN FILIO
Just as I answered, “No, thank you,” I regretted it. Charles McCollester oﬀered to buy me a coﬀee, with the polite cautiousness you have with a stranger. I declined, with the polite awkwardness that exists when a stranger oﬀers to buy something for you.
I regretted this knee-jerk response because it was 10 a.m., which meant I was up at nine– a singledigit hour that I make a point to avoid when I can. I was somewhat afraid that I would fall asleep during the interview; that my head would hit the table with a heavy thud and McCollester would be left to glance around with the polite bewilderment of a stranger whose interviewer has experienced a stint of narcolepsy across from him. My worries were entirely unfounded. McCollester was, frankly, interesting. His father was a fervently pro-railroad veteran who graduated from high school at ﬁfteen (after taking something like every course the school oﬀered) and attended college on a $100 scholarship won at the state spelling bee. He worked on the Rutland Railway, and later directed railroad shipping at Eastman Kodak in Rochester, N.Y. McCollester’s mother was a “ferocious” Democrat - a pro-union, anti-segregation patriot who instilled a deep appreciation of both freedom and political dissent in her son at an early age. McCollester attended Boston College on a partial scholarship for two years but learned, during a semester abroad in his junior year, that tuition was $60 at the University of Louvain in Belgium.
34 issue 5 PWL This news was enough to make a temporary expatriate of him. “The ‘60s in Europe was heaven for young people,” McCollester said. After an unsuccessful attempt to enter the world of academia, McCollester changed direction. He returned to Pittsburgh in 1973, with a pregnant wife with whom he had recently completed a practically suicideinducing sixteen-month hitchhiking tour of Africa: “I said, ‘To hell with this,’ and decided to go blue-collar. That was kind of where radicals were going – to the mills, getting jobs in the working class.” In subsequent years, he worked as a carpenter, restaurant steward, construction worker and machinist. He got a job at Union Switch and Signal in Swissvale and was elected chief steward of the union. In this oﬃce he led a six-month-long strike while struggling to raise four children on a
ﬁve-dollar-a-week strike allowance, which he supplemented by sweeping ﬂoors in a Homestead Catholic school. Local musician and fellow radical Mike Stout became the head grievance oﬃcer at the Homestead Works while McCollester held his union post, and the two began working to better labor conditions. “We became partners in crime,” recalled McCollester, “trying to ﬁght the corporations, trying to block the shutdowns.” Now a professor at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, he continues the ﬁght and is determined to win. His book, “The Point of Pittsburgh,” published in time for Pittsburgh’s 250th anniversary, tells an oft-ignored history of the city. “The story of Pittsburgh doesn’t simply start with innovation and discovery, but with resistance from a native people who had lived here for 14,000 years,” he said.
“The Point of Pittsburgh” acknowledges both Pittsburgh’s accomplishments and failures, notably in McCollester’s handling of the city’s World War II production. “It was a pretty extraordinary place,” he said, “but on the ﬂip side, in terms of environmental degradation and human suﬀering, it was also an extraordinary place.” Perhaps the strongest case made in the book is to admire and remember Pittsburgh’s working class. “[The work] bred a tough people, people that sacriﬁced for the common good,” McCollester said. With his knowledge of labor’s history, McCollester is forthright when looking to the future. “I gave a talk at Pitt in 1999 called ‘On the Titanic, Three Days from Port,’” he said. “That’s what I thought then and that’s what I think now.” He, along with many unions, backs the green movement with the hopes of breaking the United States’ “addiction” to oil. And, as he’s done for the past 40 years, he’s pushing for workers and for the work that they do. “We’ve got this misconception that the geniuses are the ones who make history,” he said. “That’s a crock of shit, really.” McCollester is, regardless of how bleak the future appears, optimistic - optimistic about labor and about unions, optimistic about the nation, optimistic about Pittsburgh. “There are lessons of struggle, and about sticking together, and about solidarity that Pittsburgh was very known for,” he said with a smile. “And there are memories of this tightness, this feeling of working-class and blue-collar that people still feel out there.” Coming from Charles McCollester, it was nice to hear that we’ll be alright.
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His Own Tale BY HILARY NYKWEST
“Watching your story get directed by another is like letting your best friend get the girl you wanted.” When Carl Kurlander attended Duke University, he wasn’t planning to work in the ﬁlm industry. He never dreamed of writing a cult classic like “St. Elmo’s Fire,” or producing teen sitcoms such as “Hang Time,” “Malibu, CA,” and “USA High.” He never majored in ﬁlm or education, yet he recently directed a poignant and humorous ﬁlm on the city of Pittsburgh titled “My Tale of Two Cities,” and is currently a visiting professor at the University of Pittsburgh. “As a freshman, I wrote down three words: serious, funny, and confused,” Kurlander said. “And if you asked me what I’d write down now, I’d say the same thing.” When Kurlander ﬁrst entered college, he studied biology and pre-med and planned to become a doctor. At least for a little while. He had many diﬀerent majors, but none of them dealt with what is now a major part of his life: ﬁlm. “In Pittsburgh, you gave up your soul [to become] doctors and lawyers,” he said of his college days. He was destined to practice medicine. That’s how things worked in his neighborhood of Squirrel Hill, just as they were supposed to. “Each week the beast needs to be fed,” he said. “You need to keep writing episodes.” Yet his road to success in the ﬁlm industry and as a Pitt professor went the way it was supposed to: roughly and unpredictably. His mother remarried when Kurlander was eight, and the family moved to Pittsburgh. After another divorce, Kurlander’s mother was left to singlehandedly raise two boys in poverty. Kurlander grew up as a constantly bullied child, unable to talk to girls. Even after he acquired a scholarship to a local private school, he was still harassed. “I got beaten up by kids in public school, then got a scholarship to private school where I got beaten up by richer kids,” he said. When he was ﬁfteen, Kurlander’s mother ran away, leaving her two sons to live with a neighboring family. It was then Kurlander’s life began to fall into place.
. The neighbors gave him a summer job at the St. Elmo’s Hotel during his years at Duke. It was there that Kurlander developed a crush on a co-worker and wrote a story to impress her. This tale won him a trip to Hollywood, where he helped write the script for “St. Elmo’s Fire.” And this was how the world was given Carl Kurlander, the ﬁlm writer and producer who never dreamed of being in the ﬁlm industry. “I think art is a dirty word,” he said. “[In ﬁlm] you need to have a background in math. It’s got nothing to do with creativity.” Kurlander maintains the idea that the ﬁlm industry truly is a business. He explained that it was hard for him to watch “St. Elmo’s Fire” - his personal work - become twisted into a diﬀerent piece for the sake of the industry. In Los Angeles, new friends soon surrounded the lonely, oft-bullied writer. He found himself working on the set of the basketball show “Hang Time,” his favorite of the teen shows he’s produced. “Funny thing is, I don’t like basketball,” he said. “I don’t like sports. I liked the metaphor of having a girl on the boy’s basketball team. The cast was just so much fun.” After spending years in Los Angeles ﬁnding success, making new friends, and starting a family, Kurlander envisioned a diﬀerent future for himself and acted on it. He moved back to Pittsburgh with his wife and daughter for the sake of living in a more family-friendly environment. Here, Kurlander obtained a job teaching ﬁlm classes at the University of Pittsburgh. But despite his love for teaching and working with students, Kurlander couldn’t completely leave the ﬁlm business. After living in the contrasting cities of Los Angeles and Pittsburgh, he developed what he called a “reality ﬁlm” about the Steel City, titled “My Tale of Two Cities.”
36 issue 5 PWL The ﬁlm is based on the diﬀerences between the old Pittsburgh and the new; it’s also about Kurlander’s life as he moved back to his childhood city from LA. He wanted to capture the atmosphere and people of the now economically recovering city. He wanted people to see a Pittsburgh as a city of possibilities and talent, not just a broken-down steel mill. “We were hoping that people would watch the movie and be thinking, ‘What can I do to help?’” Kurlander said. “Through the worst times come your best. You can’t do a comeback story unless someone is knocked out.” “My Tale of Two Cities” started playing in select theaters around the time of Barack Obama’s election. Kurlander said that many people made comments on the perfect timing and ﬁtting messages of hope. “It wasn’t timely,” Kurlander said. He laughed. “It was three years of exhaustion and trying not to give up on everything.” Kurlander ﬁlmed with a mix of professionals and students. Though he was creator of the piece, he explained that his students played the most pivotal role in the making of the movie. “The ﬁlm industry is all about mentorship,” Kurlander said. “When I worked on ‘St. Elmo’s Fire,’ Joel Schumacher was my mentor and he was 20 years older than me. [The students] who worked with me on ‘My Tale of Two Cities’ taught me, ‘If it’s boring, it doesn’t go in the movie.’ Age has nothing to do with it.” For Kurlander, ﬁlm isn’t just a form of entertainment or art - it represents something one can aspire to. Movies give hope, he said. He once saw a Woody Allen movie where Woody gets the girl. “If that geeky guy can get the girl,” Kurlander thought, “so can I.” However he gets there, Kurlander takes his own route, weaves his own tale.
When I was in kindergarten, I tied up the apartment in string,” he said. “People thought I should be checked out, and my mother just said, ‘No, he just thinks diﬀerently.’” To find out more about “My Tale of Two Cities” go to www.mytaleoftwocities.com. originalmag.com
37 issue 5 PWL
Gettin’ Down with Dangdut BY RYAN MCGINNIS
We want our markets rediversiﬁed. We want our educational establishments, our ﬁlms, and our literature rediversiﬁed. We want it cultured, injected with foreign inﬂuence and consideration for the world at large, so as to feel a part of it all in the changing and emerging global society. Don’t we? Still, one item which seems consistently absent from this laundry list is our music. It may depend on where you’re looking, but as far as the Top 40 charts are concerned, the music industry is still pumping out homogenized little “pop nuggets” that sound increasingly similar to one another. There is no real indication in the charts that the majority of people are interested in music that falls outside of this comfort zone, which is increasingly choked of its breadth. However, tricky artists like Mathangi Arulpragasam [M.I.A.] can work with a unique, non-Western musical vocabulary and still top the charts and ﬁll a dance ﬂoor – clearly all is not necessarily lost. And one band that’s playing to ﬁght the choke hold call themselves The Dangdut Cowboys, and they’re rediversifying popular music with each note and every drum beat.
The Cowboys’ music blurs the line between what’s familiar and what’s foreign. Dangdut, the particular genre they draw from, is a form of hyper-popular music that developed in Indonesia and has since been appropriated all over Asia. I sat down with frontman Andrew Weintraub to get a history-in-brief of the genre and its development. Dangdut began in the late 1950s as a synthesis of the orkes melayu (Malayan folk-orchestral) tradition and the music of Bollywood ﬁlms, which were beginning to ﬁnd their way to the Indonesian archipelago and had a major pop appeal with their steamy, noisy soundtracks. The name “dangdut” actually had a certain smugness when it was ﬁrst assigned by Indonesian elites to this increasingly popular music of the lower classes (it’s onomatopoeic, meant to suggest a kind of ignorant banging). Of course, the music – a highly danceable blend of surf rock, Bollywood-isms, and gooey, passionate vocals in the form popularized by Rhoma Irama and Elvy Sukaesih in the 1970’s – has since been embraced by the Indonesian government and was declared their national music in the 1990’s.
Dangdut is pop music, but it’s pop of a particular, Indonesian ilk, such that it sounds delightfully foreign to uninitiated ears.
for the most part completely outside of the tradition they’re plumbing (Weintraub does qualify as something of an insider, given that he’s spent ﬁve years in Indonesia and is currently writing a book on pop music and Islam). This is the paradox of The Dangdut Cowboys’ music, and it’s a healthy reminder that we don’t always have to reject music of mass appeal just to hear something markedly diﬀerent. The Cowboys extend the cross-cultural appeal of their music by mixing in elements of the American country-western tradition, putting “Dangdut spins” on songs of the sort popularized by Hank Williams. Weintraub says the response has been “overwhelmingly positive,” especially from the native Indonesian community, who are very touched to hear their nation’s music appreciated so viscerally and from so far away. Pittsburghers should rejoice to have such an interesting and instructive musical experiment going on right in their own home town (and, if it hasn’t been stressed, you can dance to this music, friends).
The Dangdut Cowboys maintain a fascinating dialogue with this tradition, and their performances teach us a good deal about musical diversity and popular culture. The particular strand of dangdut that the Cowboys work with was most popular in the ‘70s – it features a basic ﬁve-person band with none of the ﬂashy, electronic ﬂourishes that saturate today’s dangdut music. Weintraub, an ethno-musicologist at the University of Pittsburgh, leads the Cowboys on guitar and vocals and is backed by Matthew Rosenblum on sax, Kavin Paulraj on bass, Ben Pachter on drums, and Ben Rainey on guitar. Weintraub insists that the band is “only interested in the music,” as the increasing commercialization of the genre has produced a rise in a sexual aesthetic among other dangdut bands that occasionally overshadows the music itself (a phenomenon no Westerner should be unfamiliar with by now). Their stage presence, he admits, can even be boring. The music, however, is very special, coming as it does from the capable hands of men who stand
The Cowboys play around Pittsburgh relatively often -- you can ﬁnd news of their performances through Pitt’s music department website, www.music.pitt.edu. originalmag.com
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TEXT BY BRENDAN SULLIVAN/PHOTOS BY BEN FILIO
Sitting on the marble fountain outside the Frick Fine Arts Building while contemplating the more-than-life-size statue that sprouts from the center of the basin, Adam Welch and I do not see eye to eye. Not in any argumentative or stubborn sense; he’s much too genial, or at least soft-spoken, for any heated debate. We simply operate with diﬀerent goals, diﬀerent methods, and diﬀerent road blocks. We spend the lion’s share of our talk rewording questions and answers for the other’s vernacular and deﬁning words like “clarity” and “concreteness” to ﬁnd some common ground. Welch’s art is as far ﬂung from the strictures of the written English language as Odysseus from Ithaca. I’ll spend hours boiling over a sentence, or even a single word - does “strictures” have any implications that require it over a more common word like “restrictions?” When Welch is trapped in his studio under minute details or measurements, he feels a powerful urge: “I need to go out and light something on ﬁre.” Welch is a few things. He is the new curator of the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts. He is the same organization’s 2008
A Very L o n
Emerging Artist of the Year. He is a painter (but not like any other), construction worker (building bookshelves of blue Styrofoam), musician (he adds audio to his art when necessary) and actor (sometimes taking part in his own installations). He can’t ﬁgure out Rachmaninoﬀ and he doesn’t know if he’d wish grad school on anyone. He likes eggs for the protein and owns a laser that he is sure he will one day ﬁnd a use for. He wears blue plaid under a great coat worthy of Al Capone. He has a beard worthy of Iron and Wine. Like many aspects of his life and work, he just sort of ended up in Pittsburgh. He made the choice between working a job on Long Island or going to grad school for free at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Then it was a choice between Indiana and Pittsburgh. The decision to work instead of starve led him to the front desk at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, and - as a nice holiday gift from the powers that be - he took over the curatorship in December 2008. The ﬁrst piece of art by Adam Welch that I saw was not comforting. It was an outline drawing of a wailing human, childlike
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o n g Question
but bald, pierced with dozens of lines terminating in an aura about the form, as if waiting for me to ﬁll in the correct terminology that would assure me a passing grade. The word bank for such an endeavor would be a sight: Nose, Ears, Tongue, Soul, Emotional Baggage, Oedipal Complex... Not all his work is as overtly disturbing as the blueprint of the silent screamer. The breadth of his media hides any similarities between his pieces beyond perhaps a preference for the color blue. The listing for media used in his piece “A History of Today” reads “sandstone, television, water, plastic,” and, sure enough, “mixed media.” We never did decide on appropriate deﬁnitions for artistic terms in our discussion. His work is clear in form but not content. It is concrete, physical, sensory work, begging to be considered from all sides. But is it impermeable? What began as an interview evolved (or possibly devolved) into one of those vague explicative tugs-
of-war in which people can get lost and emerge from years later as Yale professors. “It’s not my position to be a realist,” Welch says, on the precipice of coming as close as I heard him to giving a single sentence explanation of his art, “but a conveyor of an idea.” That second clause is the short answer to a very long question, and one certainly no more accurate than saying Eisenhower was why we won the war. But with it he distilled to its essence the reason he does what he does, and interestingly enough, it’s the same reason for me. Our diﬀerences are mountainous, but our impetus comes from the same deep corner of our minds. We are sure that there is something inside of ourselves that must, sooner or later, be expressed. We are sure that it is for us, not them, that we create. We are sure it’s worth it. We are also very sure, stretching our necks to get a better view of the statue to our backs, that the faun, that hairy half-man of bronze, is about to do something very inappropriate to that nymph.
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BY WEENTA GIRMAY
“ ere I am: awkward. Make use of me,” he recites. Awkward is right. That is undoubtedly the ﬁrst impression Brian Francis makes, both on and oﬀ the stage. But in his case, awkward isn’t such a bad thing.
I was introduced to Brian Francis in a backwards sort of way. Last December, I was one of a small crowd of people who came out for the Steel City Slam at the Shadow Lounge in East Liberty. The main room was dimly lit, with a bar in the back. The art, set behind the small stage and lone standing mic, reminded me of pastel renditions of the scribblings of Jean-Michel Basquiat. I sat cross-legged and shoeless on a large ottoman when suddenly a young man approached and asked, “Hey, would you mind being a judge tonight?” He was the m.c. for the night. Arming me with a dry-erase board and a marker, he told me to rank the poets on a scale of one to ten, leaving me only with the reminder, “We encourage the use of decimal points.” I’d never been to a poetry slam before, let alone judged one. The last thing I expected was for the 6 feet 7 inches gangly guy with the thick black-rimmed glasses and crisp collar popping out from underneath his hoodie to nab ﬁrst prize. Even then, Francis seemed too nice to win. After all, this was a slam. The name itself implied death-by-poetry. He wasn’t a spitﬁre, like the ﬁrst poet up that night (round one, 9.0), nor was he as over-the-top and sexually suggestive as the second poet (performance complete with a faked on-stage orgasm, 8.4). But Francis isn’t about pulling those types of stunts. What he is about is honesty. Connection. He’s about keeping an even pace, not because he can’t rip it, but because he wants you to really hear the words. They are what make up his “survival stories.”
“Some days you feel invincible, sometimes de had you feel invincible on stage and you look a what? I’m gonna say what I’m gonna say a gonna connect.’ And then some days you…ho over your words, you mess up, and that’s like t to be anything I’
It’s no surprise that my ﬁrst encounter with Francis was at the Shadow Lounge. For him, it is the one place where friends, fellow poets and his aﬃnity for the stage all converge (the ﬁrst two are usually synonymous). “Wherever I move in Pittsburgh…I have to be within staggering distance of the Shadow Lounge,” he tells me. I knew him then as “Brian Francis, the spoken word poet.” I hadn’t yet been formally introduced to “Brian Francis, the 24-year-old guy just trying to make a living and pay oﬀ his student loans.”
He graduated from Pitt in 2006 with a degree in English writing - not in poetry, but in creative nonﬁction. Confused from the start, he began as a business major, trying to fool himself into doing something “practical” with his life. Poetry was something he did on the side, something exclusively for himself. It was storytelling made musical, and music would play an important part in how he “stumbled into” poetry. His father’s record collection reﬂected both his West Indian heritage and American inﬂuences - a rotation of jazz, calypso, soca, and soul constantly played in the house. “I would wake up to his music,” he said. “Some of the most profound conversations I ever had with him - there was music in the background.” Francis’ mother, on the other hand, was more into Dolly Parton than Bob Marley. “I remember her telling me that she liked country music because she liked a story being told, and that always stuck with me,” he said. “I think even when I was seven that played a role in what I do.” Francis’ inﬂuences have evolved over time. It began with listening to rappers like Puﬀ Daddy and Mase. So he started writing rhymes,
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imitating what he heard on the radio. Then he got wind of Common, Talib Kweli, and the Roots - “The standards,” he calls them. This was the era when Def Jam poetry became popular. It was then he realized Mos Def was a poet, and so were all of these other “hip-hop” artists he had been listening to. This underground world where hip-hop and poetry collided fascinated Francis, but he wasn’t quite sure what to make of it all. Then he found Saul Williams, a ﬁgure who Francis idolizes to this day. He wasn’t a rapper, but he wasn’t a just a poet. He was both. He was slam. He was spoken word. He embodied everything Francis wanted to be. Spoken word involves neither beat nor backing track. This is the part of the equation I deem scariest about what Francis does, and it’s the same part that Francis loves most about what he does. “The word play and the images and then the instant connectivity of you being on stage, just you, no music, and just this crowd reacting to whatever story and whatever image you’re creating is amazing,” he said. “[For] someone who doesn’t know me from a hole in the wall to say, ‘I liked that, that moved me’ - that’s the most honest thing in the world, you can’t fake that.” While Francis may feed oﬀ the energy of the crowd, he also seems to have forced himself into the spotlight against his body’s better wishes. This is where the “awkward” comes in. Francis has a habit of closing his eyes. I mean, really closing his eyes. Like he’s in the midst of a dream he doesn’t want to end. When I ﬁrst watched him perform, it seemed a sign of a pensive, serious poet, deep in rumination. I know better than that now. Despite his ability to bring such meaning and life to his poems, he still has to take moments to himself to pretend that all those people really aren’t there. Before he ﬁrst ﬂung himself into the slam circuit, he thought that he “liked the idea of performing more than the idea of everyone looking at me.” But don’t be fooled. Though he ﬁghts to be at ease with himself, it’s that cocky kid deep inside that keeps him coming back for more. Originally from the Bronx, Francis wasn’t ever one to be shy. He said that as a high schooler, his teachers found him “a little overbearing,” to put it nicely. To put it bluntly, Francis said, “The teachers thought I had great manners, but they thought I was a jerk too.” It was those same teachers who encouraged him to perform at the Nuyorican Poets’ Cafe, the ﬁrst slam venue ever established in New York City and the preeminent institution for poets who want to be seen and heard. They pack their seats every Friday night - the oﬃcial slam night. “The ﬁrst time I went, I went to perform,” he said of his sixteen-year-old self. So much for timidity, eh? It’s that sliver of ego that most surprises me about Francis, when everything else about him tells me that he’s a pretty self-conscious dude. I see it in the way he rocks back and forth, resting his weight on the balls of his feet as if he wants to take oﬀ in ﬂight mid-poem. I see it in casual conversation; he still can’t help closing his eyes, though he’s only talking to me, just another lowly undergrad. And at the same time, he’s completely aware of all of these things. As a performer, he has to be. His friends call him “Lank Sinatra,” and even with them he is admittedly socially awkward. Still, he shrugs it oﬀ. It’s all in the name of telling his survival stories. “I’m a big believer in survival stories,” he said. “And it’s not always ‘The good guy wins in the end,’ sometimes it’s, ‘This sucks, but it happened.’” Those “survival stories” are what won me over by the end of that Steel City Slam, way back in December. I gave him a 9.5. The other judges followed suit with scores just as high. The prize? 45 dollars in cash. Though monetarily quite unglamorous, I’m sure life as the dark horse in the race will soon pay oﬀ much better than Francis ever expected. He’s determined to make it so.
es depending on how many drinks you’ve ok at the crowd and you’re like,‘you know ay and you’re going to like it, and we’re …hope for the best, you stutter, you go ike the duality of it. You know, I don’t try ng I’m not.”
Fast forward to today, and Francis is hard at work trying to build the same type of community for slam poetry that he found as a teen, cavorting around the streets of New York City. He keeps a day job at the university as one of the small staﬀ of the Kuntu Repertory Theatre, but in his oﬀ time, he’s busy promoting the art of spoken word. Performing at local poetry events, competing at the Shadow Lounge’s monthly poetry slam. He’s also recently ﬁnished his book, “Do It Yourself Divinity.” It’s a story that ﬁnds him at a certain crossroads in his life, about being young and hopeful with a dream of making a living by his passion. It’s also about that common thread he ﬁnds himself so concerned with in his poetry - he believes that there’s a little bit of God in all of us. In the middle of explaining all of this, he very humbly apologizes for using such “religious” terminology, but poetry is his religion. With his heart somewhere between catching in his throat and spilling out onto the ﬂoor, I remember the sincerity with which he recited these lines: “I don’t know the name of the God you pray to, but honestly I don’t care…here I am: awkward. Make use of me. Make it honest.”
To ﬁnd out more about Francis and his current projects, visit www.septembersharvest.com. originalmag.com
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Puppets TEXT BY RICHARD ROSENGARTEN/PHOTOS COURTESY DONNA KATZ AND RITA HERMAN On a bright November day, before the winter got too serious, Donna Katz had a glint in her eyes. Spread before her were the fruits of her labor. She ﬂipped through a heavy three-ring binder. There was the picture of the woman in the sun costume, there of Amy from Homekey Street. Another page. The magic of theater, captured images of children learning, overcoming obstacles and disabilities. Katz’s home, nestled in Squirrel Hill, receives the sunlight through a large window pane. The pages of the photo album shined beneath the glossy laminate as the sun gleaned oﬀ the polished table, but none were brighter than Katz’s smile, which grew with each page of the album. Last year, in late October, Katz and her partner Rita Herman ( of Pitt’s class of ’58) dazzled hundreds at the Technology and Learning (T+L) Conference in Seattle, a forum where educators nationwide came for workshops and to consider new educational tools and products for purchase. Katz and Herman showcased their product, Keyboard Town PALS, an interactive DVD that teaches children to type in one hour. KTP has been long in the making. Even longer, it seems, in the launching. But Katz and Herman, ages 63 and 72 respectively, are as patient as they are enthusiastic. Both have helped turn an inspired idea and a backyard puppet show into a masterpiece of theater and creativity. “To teach them the 30 keys on the keyboard - that was our intention,” Katz said. “PALS” stands for the Purposeful Associative Learning System. It describes the associative teaching techniques Katz and Herman use in KTP. Puppets, live actors, rhyme, mnemonic, and songs teach children mastery of the keyboard - they learn proper ﬁngering as they watch the video and type the letters. Visit KeyboardTownPALS.com and give the program a try.You’ll discover Keyboard Town, a colorful wall panel with doors arranged like the keys on a keyboard. Puppets pop out of each one and introduce themselves, each representing a letter. Children follow the story of Keyboard Town, and as they meet each resident, they learn a new key. “Questions, questions, questions!” shouts Qbert, the wizard puppet that pops out from behind the letter Q. Each puppet is diﬀerent, and each - like the zebras that come out of the letter Z - will make sure you remember where your ﬁngers go. The pairs of letters typed with the same ﬁnger, are twins. The style and humor of the production come from Katz’s and Herman’s cultural experiences of nearly three quarters of a century. The puppets pop out of the doors of Keyboard Town much like in the late ‘60s-early ‘70s hit show “Laugh-In” - abruptly, with something funny to say or sing. The celebrity voices and musical numbers recall how the cartoons of yesteryear familiarized a generation with classical music, how the early Disney movies abound in sharp adult references. Children today might not know who Woody Allen is (gasp), but the ﬁgures imitated are iconic for a reason. When something’s good, it’s good. Jimmy Durante is the semicolon. The period is JFK. The fact that KTP is overseen by the former production team of “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” comes with little surprise, no less than that the ﬂawlessly delivered celebrity voices are those of Jeﬀ Bergman, the elusive voice actor for Bugs Bunny and countless other classic Warner Bros./Hannah Barbera cartoons. It was from modest beginnings that Katz and Herman acquired their all-star cast. The story has its beginnings in a loss, when Herman’s husband Emil passed away at the close of the millennium. Searching for a new direction, Herman sought work at the Falk School, where the faculty were having trouble teaching a girl with Asperger’s syndrome how to write. Herman accepted the challenge, armed with 30 years of teaching experience, ready with purpose and her imagination. All traditional methods were failing. “I brought some puppets thinking, you know, let’s make this a little more interesting,” Herman said. After four ﬁfteen-minute sessions with Herman, this child was typing the lyrics of Disney songs and her feelings about her recently deceased grandfather.
It dawned on Herman that typing was a vehicle for creative expression as much as writing and it only took her an hour, collectively, to teach the girl with Asperger’s how to do it. “We discovered that the computer is a good friend to the child,” Herman said. Until her recent remarriage and move to Botson, Herman lived in Squirrel Hill. At the time she was teaching the girl with Asperger’s, she had no cable, no internet, used her rotary phone occasionally. She did have Katz, a fellow educator and friend of 30 years. Herman called Katz to ask for help writing e-mails and contacting a few people to talk about her idea to use puppets for typing instruction. Soon the two of them were plotting, formulating plans that would turn Keyboard Town PALS into what it is today. “We always had a cause,” Herman said. “This time it’s ours,” said Katz.
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Katz and Herman generate a youthful chemistry. They are excited, clear-headed about their ambitions. They add to each other’s sentences. They’re creative, resourceful. It wasn’t long after Herman contacted Katz that the two of them were holding puppets in front of a video camera in Katz’s backyard, acting out an original script. Their idea led them to area and New York schools with briefcases of puppets and kits for teachers, acting out the program in front of classrooms and seeing if anyone was interested. “First we were stand-up comedians,” Herman said. People liked the presentation, and kids learned typing quickly with Herman at the front of the room. Her instruction proved eﬀective, even with children who had autism and Asperger’s. People were impressed. But the kit wasn’t an easy sell. “Who’s really going to take these
puppets, do diﬀerent voices?” Herman said. Enter Touro Entrepeneurial Institute. Now defunct, it was formerly part of the business school of Touro College in New York. They specialized in helping business ventures gain footing in the market. If someone had an idea going, something with potential, they helped make it happen for an initial cut of the proﬁt. Larry Bellman, a professor at Touro’s business school and former director of the institute, was the man to decide whether a project had a high probability of success. If he felt it did, Touro then provided guidance and assistance in the form of ﬂoor space in the institute and technological and administrative resources. “What we basically did is run an incubator,” Bellman said. One day, Katz and Herman walked into Touro with a suitcase full
44 issue 5 PWL of puppets. Herman put them on her hands and started doing voices, showing their script, explaining that she had success with children with Asperger’s and autism. “I remember my typing class and it was kind of a joke,” Bellman said. “A lot of contemporaries of mine can’t type properly.” It didn’t take long before Bellman and Touro were hooked. “Kids will look at typing as an ordeal,” Bellman said, “but if you tell them a story, and especially with the puppets, if you make it easy for them - make it interesting for them - you’ll get them to do it.” Katz and Herman wrote business plans, assigned research to graduate students, and made a lot of phone calls. Soon they were holding casting calls for actors. Adrienne Wehr, an associate producer on “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” for ten years, got the role of KTP’s host. Clad in a fantastical sun costume, she narrates the story of Keyboard Town in a delightful sing-song, introducing the letters and guiding kids through the program. Wehr made calls of her own and soon the whole production team from “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” was on board, designing the set and nurturing production. Jeﬀ Bergman, so popular and well-known that he doesn’t have an agent or formal mode of business contact, got wind of KTP and wanted in. Everyone, it seemed, was mesmerized. “It just evolved,” Herman said. Pittsburgh’s Cappazutti Studios designed the puppets and Batcave Studios hosted the set.
“Pittsburgh is full of talent,” Herman said. “And inexpensive talent,” added Donna. At the T+L conference, Katz and Herman were given one of 200 ten-by-ten booths for display. Corporate-sponsored teams of entrepreneurs stood astride expensive equipment, pitching their products. “Beautiful and very professional and corporate,” Katz said of the other displays. “The guy across from us, just the middle tower that he had - which was 20 feet and rotated--was $20,000. Just the tower. Then he had several booths around it. He was right across from us.” Katz and Herman brought craft supplies from home. They divided their booth into two sections, using toilet bowl brushes to hold up the puppets. “I called us the cray paper booth,” Katz said. Katz and Herman invited professionals into their booth to give Keyboard Town PALS a try. Herman brandished puppets featured in the program while Katz guided potential patrons to a computer in the corner of their space where they gave the interactive DVD a trial run. Their only extravagance was a rented ﬂat-screen TV that they were still ﬁguring out how to run when they got there. Signs taped up to attract passers-by read “Teach your children to type in an hour,” and “From the production team of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.” “I was told not to expect people to actually sit down to try the program,” Katz said. People came. The television screen, on which a continuous loop of the program ran, acted like gravity, pulling people in. There was a line around the corner to try Keyboard Town PALS. A moment of success came when a school oﬃcial’s daughter sat down to try the program. The line closed in to watch the child’s eyes widen and ﬁngers ﬂoat to the correct keys in absorbed concentration. “If you make a mistake, don’t worry,” said Wehr’s character on the screen, in a reassuring falsetto. “Together we can get it right.” The girl would not leave until her father had to lift her away. People were laughing, excited for their turn. “I was sorry I hadn’t rented a child,” Katz said, “because there was something about a child doing it…” Today’s typing market is dominated by only one or two programs. According to Bellman, “Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing” is the most popular, the gold standard typing program usually used by schools today. KTP breaks the tradition of hours of tedious exercises most programs require, emphasizing proper technique over demands for speed in accuracy. Kids who use the program have the freedom to stop and rewind the DVD at any time. The “delete” function is disabled, so children don’t get anxious about their mistakes. They have no choice but to keep going and get it right. “Every other program counts mistakes,” said Katz. “We don’t always give them the crutch.” Katz and Herman have been around for a while. Having lived through the development of computers, they were able to take a step back and view things in perspective. Most of us can’t conceive a life without our machines and for this reason, we have overlooked the signiﬁcance of the development of electronic communication, Herman said. “We discovered that the computer is a good friend to the child,” she said. “The spoken inner voice comes out onto the screen.” Herman recounts how typing instruction worked when it was ﬁrst implemented. In her day it was mainly for the purpose of dictation. Women learned to type for
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stenographical or secretarial work. Nowadays the typed word is the primary form of communication. It’s how people express themselves. “Kids are on the computer now at three or four,” Herman said. “The verbal vocabulary wants to come out, and it can if you’re not thinking, ‘where’s that ‘F,’ where’s that ’G?’” “It’s not a luxury anymore,” said Katz. “It’s something kids have to know.” Pieces of the set and costumes of KTP lie about Katz’s and Herman’s homes. Their oﬃce is in Katz’s house, a study with a computer from where they’ve organized press kits, conducted research, ordered costumes, written scripts, and spent countless hours bringing KTP to life. On the bookshelf rests the title “From Sinai to Cyberspace.” Katz fumbled with her new phone while trying to answer it. “I have a Bluetooth and I’m not used to it,” she said. From here comes the invested zeal, the genuine care, and the creativity that has brought Keyboard Town PALS to fruition. Katz and Herman credit their friendship and their shared passions. “In a partnership both people bring something to it, but the main thing is trust,” Herman said. Spanish and Hebrew language versions are going to be available at the end of this month, which will still teach typing in English but help with language instruction as well. “Little Hands can Type,” a prep program for pre-schoolers, is coming soon. KTP is on Amazon and is now an approved vendor in the New York City school system. Soon Katz will give a presentation to The Friendship Circle about KTP and how its unique instruction better helps children with special needs. With so much behind them from such modest beginnings, Katz and Herman are excited to keep going.
“PALS” stands for the Purposeful Associative Learning System. It describes the associative teaching techniques Katz and Herman use in KTP.
The traditional ﬁnger placement dates back to typewriters and the QWERTY system, named for the ﬁve sequential letters in the top left of the keyboard. The system was originally designed to accommodate typewriters, which mark the paper with type hammers that correspond to each letter. The QWERTY system of arranging the keys ensures that letters often used right after one another are far apart. This way the hammers won’t tangle if words are typed quickly.
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What Was Up TEXT BY ADELE MEYER AND NICOLE BOSS PHOTOS BY ADELE MEYER
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Raymond, 56 Judy, 52 We met Judy while she was cleaning up a yard on South Bouquet Street. “I lived here most of my life. I actually lived in South Oakland. I grew up in the South Hills in a neighborhood called Beechview. We always wondered why, since there was no beach and no view.” Judy’s father was a union steel worker when the industry was still booming. She remembers those times fondly, commenting on Pittsburgh’s most famous amusement park in years past. “The biggest thing we did was go to Kennywood. We’d take the trolley. We’d get the tickets for free at school. I think it’s fun to just go to Kennywood and walk around. They had this enchanted forest…it was all mechanical. There was nothing computer-based… now it’s gone and it’s really sad. “We used to play in the woods a lot. I guess we did a lot of hiking. We were pretty unsupervised. There weren’t the fears of abduction like there are now. We dressed our G.I. Joes into hippies. We even had a rock band.” Judy says when she was young, there used to be the most beautiful sunsets. Bright orange, pink and purple. Now she knows it was the pollution levels, but at the time, not knowing must have been nice.
Raymond was waiting for the bus on the corner of Bigelow Boulevard and Fifth Avenue. “How do you want me to tell my life story?” he asked us. “When I was young, Pittsburgh was kinda dim and dull. It has changed a lot. They cleaned up the buildings. They have replaced a lot of houses in the Hill and North Side, and Homestead, and Homewood.” He grew up in Wilkinsburg. We asked him what he used to do there when he was young. “Party. Back when I was young I went to New Jersey; Atlanta, Georgia; Florida. Drinking here was 21 [and] 18 in Jersey.” He says you could get by in Jersey at around fourteen. “I kinda liked it over there, ya know what I mean?” He slowly graduated from the bars to the clubs. “I saw concerts down at the Civic Arena. I saw the Ohio Players; Earth, Wind & Fire...James Brown. It only took ﬁve dollars. Now it could be one hundred! When I was an ittybitty boy, around eighteen or 20, my mama always told me what not to do. I was always getting into trouble. We used to come here to party” - he points behind him to the William Pitt Union. “It was like a funhouse to me after school days. Friday, Saturday, Pitt was the thing. It was nice.” When Raymond was younger he worked the streetcars - Pittsburgh’s main public transport system before Port Authority buses. “When I was younger it was the trolley cars running around. The trolley cars couldn’t make it up the hill. Then they got these old buses. That was a big diﬀerence.” “I enjoy myself here. I am still here. I see a lot of people from everywhere. Back then it was hard to get people to Pittsburgh...Pittsburgh has advanced tremendously from the ‘70s to now. It does look good.”
Tony, 52 Tony has been an Oakland resident since his early school days. “I came from Italy. I was nine years old. From my town, anyway, everyone came to Pittsburgh. That’s where the steel mills were. Oakland was packed with Italians. “Wiﬄeball, played every day. Wiﬄeball, wiﬄeball. Those days it was the thing around here.” Tony, like so many of Oakland’s older residents, blames computers and video games for ruining the youth population. “Kids these days are fat. They sit around.” We found out from Judy that Hemingway’s used to hold poetry readings. Tony, too, experienced a very different Oakland party. “There used to be live bands. I saw Bruce Springsteen and R.E.M. before they got big. In the old days Oakland was jammed with bars because of Forbes Field. It was two dollars to go watch a game.” Forbes Field was demolished in 1971 to make room for our expanding campus, which took Oakland’s then-nightlife with it. At least we have the blue-grass sports turf of Schenley Plaza. By the ‘90s, Pitt had become less of a commuter school. Students started moving in and many of Tony’s friends left for the suburbs. He’s one of only a couple of his circle left here.
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The 800-Mile Lesson Plan TEXT BY BARBARA FANG/PHOTO BY OHAD CADJI
At one point, Joel Lovell was going to be a doctor. It was after he earned his amalgam of a degree in English, political science and philosophy at Cornell when he thought it might be a reasonable idea to go to medical school. He attended the postbaccalaureate premedical program at Harvard, worked at a psychiatric hospital in Boston, and taught science to the youth of the New York public school system on the USS Intrepid - a retired WWII aircraft carrier. His oﬃce door was one of those tremendous steel, watertight doors with a huge, steel wheel as a doorknob. Before going to medical school, though, something occurred to him: “Wouldn’t it be fun to get my MFA and then move onto the serious portion of my life?” Reading and writing short stories captured his interest in college, so what would two years spent writing really change in the long run? He enrolled in the MFA ﬁction writing program at the University of Michigan.
Now, Lovell is an editor of GQ magazine. For the past ﬁfteen years, he’s been an editor in New York City, starting oﬀ at Harper’s Magazine, moving onto The New York Times Magazine, and ﬁnally arriving at his current position. Primarily, he’s focused on the more journalistic articles printed in the magazine as opposed to the fashion-focused or celebrity-gawking. Every now and then, he’ll write some new insight for his column “Men + Money,” and occasionally he’ll author a feature story like the one on LeBron James in February ‘09. For that story, he and ﬁve of his GQ colleagues
drove in an Escalade from New York City to Cleveland to get schooled 21-2 by LeBron in a game of three-on-three pickup. When he’s not at his GQ oﬃce, he might be shooting hoops or cooking a meal with his wife who runs the Bellevue Center for Survivors of Torture Victims. Or he might be with his three daughters, listening to his eight-year old gush about Harry Potter. Or he might just be strolling through Park Slope, Brooklyn, the neighborhood where he lives alongside other notable residents like Steve Buscemi, David Cross and Jonathan Safran Foer.
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But if it happens to be Monday, he’s in the Cathedral of Learning. For the next year, Joel Lovell is a visiting professor at the University of Pittsburgh, and there is emphasis on “visiting.” He’s still an editor for GQ and still lives in New York City, so to get to this job, he pulls himself out of bed at 5:30 a.m. every Monday morning and catches a JetBlue ﬂight from JFK to Pittsburgh International Airport. From there he rides not in an Escalade, not even in a rental car, but on the 28X, a Pittsburgh city bus that takes at least 50 minutes to get from the airport to Oakland. This semester, he’s only teaching two classes: a graduate writing workshop and an undergraduate nonﬁction seminar, both three hours long and both on Monday. Late Tuesday afternoon, he rides the 28X back to the airport, hops on another JetBlue ﬂight and returns to New York. As of late September, his home in Pittsburgh has been his oﬃce on the sixth ﬂoor of the Cathedral and the Holiday Inn.
to be taken seriously by someone I really respected. I know I take the students I have here seriously, so I hope that helps.” He’s a professor who has spent the last decade and a half in the living and breathing world of publishing, and his experience in the ﬁeld is invaluable. “I think that there’s a process that goes on when you’re an editor and you’re working on a story that’s diﬀerent than when you’re working in a classroom,” Lovell said. “It’s helpful to have someone from the outside world tell you, ‘For this piece to have a life somewhere outside this room, you really do need to do these things.’ It’s good to have a theoretical discussion, but there is also a practical reality to keep intact.”
Wouldn’t it be fun to get my MFA and then move onto the serious portion of my life?
If nothing else, the fact that Lovell commutes 800 miles back and forth every week to teach here is a sign. This is a dedicated man who is good at what he does. Even after a morning of traveling and an afternoon of picking through two pieces of graduate-level writing, he maintains the energy and enthusiasm to lead a discussion on the changing nature of journalism and media coverage for three hours. He will sacriﬁce a planned class period to bring his students to a relevant lecture because he believes it will beneﬁt them more than a discussion of his assigned reading would. In the ﬁrst two classes, he gave a sincere eﬀort to learn everyone’s name and pronounce it correctly (Fang? Fong? Fang? Fang). He will make eye contact with you when you talk to him after class about a blog proposal you were thinking about but weren’t sure how to go about it; and when you do get your blog started, he’ll read it, comment on it, and send the link to his colleagues. “When I was an undergrad, it was nice to have professors that had faith in me,” said Lovell. “In grad school, it deﬁnitely helped
Despite his formidable resume and reputable title, he is easy-going and unintimidating by nature and eﬀortlessly modest and humble. When asked for an interview, he replied, “Wow, you guys must be getting pretty desperate.” He is a person who sweats in a classroom with jammed windows, who is not the best-dressed in his oﬃce, and who recognizes all of that and admits it with a boyish grin. Maybe this is simply because he views his accomplishments not as badges of honor but as opportunities he’s taken as they’ve come. “I’ve just kept walking through diﬀerent doors because it just sort of seemed like a cool opportunity. It’s pretty fun work being an editor, but I’ve done it for a long time, and I just wanted a diﬀerent sort of challenge. I thought, ‘Wow, to talk to a bunch of students who are trying to ﬁgure out what to do with their lives - that’s a fun door to walk through.’”
n O us
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L E S O V O N Y TON LERNER BEN N POST HREDDER ALTO OTHER S RY THE GREENERAEL NEW HAEL IS MIC
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Heâ€™s Got A
Ride text and photos by Adele Meyer
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Tony Novosel has hitchhiked to
Istanbul, mixed White Russians on both sides of the Atlantic, shaken hands with great peace negotiators, worked with ex-combatants and ex-life prisoners in Northern Ireland, appeared on Al Jazeera, been questioned by the FBI after visiting the Soviet Union in 1977, and was once blind for ten whole days. During the early eighties, Pittsburgh’s famous steel industry collapsed. Steelworkers picked up what work they could in the few surviving factories. In 1985, after a seven-month-long recovery from an injury, Novosel worked one miserable day at a factory in McKees Rocks and that night drove to the University of Pittsburgh to apply to the college of general studies. Four years later he earned his bachelor’s degree in political science and history, concentrating on Soviet and Russian history. He worked full-time through the four years, picking up factory work, coaching soccer for Fox Chapel Senior High, and tending bar at the infamous Moushey’s (now Brewski’s) in South Side. When Gorbachev came to power, Novosel got hooked on Soviet history and earned his master’s degree in Soviet history in 1991. After completing his Ph.D. in 2005, he joined the history department and now teaches anything they need him to - he’s taught Western Civilization I and II, Russian and Soviet History, Irish History, The History of The Great War, and has served as a TA for American Legal History and Business Ethics. He's come a long way to arrive at his Ph.D. and teaching position here at Pitt. Novosel graduated from West Miﬄin North High School in 1970 and went to trade school for auto mechanics. Soon after, he became a “burner” in a industrial scrapyard where he had to wear leather chaps on top of three layers of clothing to block the ﬂames. He was once blinded for 10 days after exposure to gas fumes. They had to
scrape his eyeballs to get the ﬁlm oﬀ. He nearly died when a two-hundred pound pipe fell onto his head, breaking through his hard hat. It was the angle that spared him. Over the years, he's also worked at gas stations, delivered The Wall Street Journal, and was “bored to tears” at an auto parts store. I asked him if life was better now than as a steel worker. “How do you deﬁne better?” he asked. If the steel industry hadn’t collapsed he would still be there. “Back in those days I wouldn’t have switched. But I can’t imagine doing that now.” For Novosel, academia is the “best of all possible worlds - real holidays, vacation times, and research over the summer for a couple of months. Taking students to Belfast, going in March, December, it’s like being a kid again when you’re ﬁfty, being able to do something diﬀerent. The older you get, the less respect you get in the private sector. If it wasn’t for being a teacher I’d be a crazy guy with shopping cart, talking to everybody. But here, people actually want to listen to you - or at least pretend to.” When he was twenty, he met another burner his age and together they realized it would take them seven years to earn a two-week vacation.
“If it wasn’t for being a teacher I’d be a crazy guy with shopping cart, talking to everybody. But here, people actually want to listen to you - or at least pretend to.”
They quit to hitchhike across America. Novosel ended up in Wildwood, New Jersey and moved in with twenty Irish students working the boardwalk carnivals for the summer. They convinced him he had to see Belfast so he returned to Pittsburgh, worked several months for his ticket and made it to Northern Ireland for the ﬁrst time in 1974. He stayed for two months, came back to save up again, and went back to Northern Ireland for seven months. In 1974, Northern Ireland’s 1,000th life was claimed by the Troubles. There were very few people visiting the country during this very violent time of the conﬂict. He “saw a couple of bombs go oﬀ, was stopped by army at checkpoints and heard gunshots during the night.” It did not phase him enough to stop
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going. Novosel has been to Northern Ireland over thirty times has recently been visiting multiple times a year. He teaches a class on Northern Ireland but has never taken a class on Irish history. He knows what he does from books and meetings with ex-prisoners and combatants from the IRA and the Ulster Volunteer Force. In 1977, Novosel saw the Soviet Union under Brezhnev through the “Intourist” Soviet Tourist Oﬃce. He traveled on a package deal for the 60th anniversary of the revolution. A month after returning to Pittsburgh he received a phone call from the FBI. Because of his traveling back and forth to Belfast during the Troubles and his involvement in labor unions in Pittsburgh, British Intelligence probably tracked him and in 1977, informed the FBI after his trip to the USSR. Unfortunately, he is not at liberty to discuss the details of his chat with the nice FBI agent. Novosel teaches history in a way that makes it relevant to our lives now, a psychological analysis of each event. He pushes the “why?” rather than ”what?” and always emphasizes the conditions that lead people into Nazism, civil war, genocide or communism. He ties in the arts, ﬁlm, music, Star Trek, Monty Python, making history an all-encompassing doctrine of past and current life. He teaches that the only thing we can do to change history is to understand why the past happened in the ﬁrst place. Sartre, Ezra Pound, Virginia Woolf, Nietzsche and Freud grace his lecture notes alongside nineteenth century British corn laws and the Treaty of Versailles. His classes are dense and diﬃcult to keep up with, but the organization is impeccable and the message clear. After assigning his class to read “The Communist Manifesto” and several other communist documents and biographical articles on Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, he led class the next day to debate the question,
If he has to miss class, he will make an hourlong Power Point presentation with his voice recorded over it to compensate. He repeats certain quotes over and over until students never forget them, and the severity and impact of every event imprints itself in your mind like the ink on our cover model’s face.
In short, he’s a good teacher. If he could choose one thing for everyone to learn:
“Live every day like it’s your last, because one day you’re sure to be right.”
“Would Karl Marx support the Iraq War?”
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The Politics of Poetry
TEXT BY NICOLE BOSS / PHOTO COURTESY BEN LERNER “I grew up in the thick of what I consider to be an ongoing crisis of white masculinity, which is also a crisis in representation, because our media is too committed to linking violence to racialized, inner-city bodies - which is itself a form of violence - to reckon with this particular kind of nihilism.” With a BA in
Political Theory and an MFA in Poetry from Brown University, Lerner writes within the conﬁnes of a language, struggling to articulate social and historical phenomena.
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This is his second year as a full time poetry professor at the University of Pittsburgh. “I came to Pittsburgh for the job,” he said. I love how Pittsburgh is a particular, unpredictable place - not just another American landscape of interchangeable strip malls, although it of course has those too.” Before coming to the steel city, Ben lived in Berkeley, Brooklyn, Madrid, Providence and Topeka. “Topeka has had the most signiﬁcant inﬂuence on my poetry to date,” he said. It was wonderful in some ways. Some of my best friends are from there. I liked its general lack of ostentation, the land and unobstructed sky. But it was also an incredibly violent place by the time I left - ranking high in annual homicides per capita. A great proportion of the violence in Topeka was not the kind for which we have readymade accounts - crimes of desperation arising from poverty, crimes originating from conﬂicting beliefs, etc. They were the work of middle class white boys like me.” “My poems, especially in my ﬁrst book, could be understood as an attempt to reckon with, or at least to register, that violence,” he said. Having published two books of poetry, “Angle of Yaw” and “The Lichtenburg Figures” (the latter a ﬁnalist for the National Book Award), Ben brings familiarity with publishing to the Pitt English Department. In his lectures he discusses extended gestures in writing, broad political and social frameworks, and initiates questions about reality and representation, phenomenon and the artifact. He once told a class, “Each McDonald’s has its own individual terror.” Being part of the contemporary poetry scene means reckoning with our conceptions of poetry and our cultural placement of creative writing. “The margins aren’t necessarily a bad place to be,” he said. “They often give you a vantage from which to criticize the center. I don’t want to be Britney Spears. I do wish the kind of formal thinking modeled by poetry were more broadly available in our culture … there are particular artists I feel deserve a broader audience. A few names oﬀ the top of my head: Michael Palmer, Rosmarie Waldrop, Geoﬀrey G. O’Brien, Lyn Hejinian, Cyrus Console.”
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The frame of American policy and history aﬀect the voices of American poets, Ben said. “Our system - capitalism - has relied on ‘turmoil’ in order to implement radical ‘free market’ policies that have never been popularly sanctioned. ‘Shock and awe’ isn’t just a strategy we’ve applied abroad - think of how the Katrina disaster was used to privatize everything.” He suggests watching YouTube videos of Naomi Klein’s talks on “The Shock Doctrine,” her latest book. Ben encourages acknowledging the function of our government and contradictions found within its infrastructure. For all those perpetually seeking movie recommendations, Ben has “… been really into
“I don’t want to be Britney Spears.”
Herzog’s documentaries - ‘Encounters at the End of the World,’ ‘The Great Ecstasy of the Woodcarver Steiner,’ ‘Little Dieter Needs to Fly,’ etc.” Herzog’s Encounters at the End of the World was nominated for an Academy Award in 2009 for Best Documentary Feature. As for music, “Right now, I’m in an elegiac mode - listening to Miriam Makeba, Odetta, both of whom passed away recently.”Despite being busy with teaching, writing, and traveling, Ben is now “looking for new projects, poetically, politically.”
To read up on some of his words, check out the 17th issue from www.slope.org for poems from The Lichtenburg Figures and www.jacketmagazine.com/25/lerner.html for pieces from Angle of Yaw. originalmag.com
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the man-bat of foxport, kentucky text by Ly Li / photos by Ben Rickles With long silvery hair, a gray overcoat and square spectacles that sit on the tip of his nose, it is never a strange sight to ﬁnd Professor Alton Post enjoying a smoke outside of the grand stonework of the Cathedral of Learning. Animated and lively, Post’s eccentric, sweeping gestures and equally quirky sense of humor make his classes a standout experience. Post’s courses range from German language to such peculiar oﬀerings as Madness & Madmen in Russian Culture, Indo-European Folk Tales, Sci-Fi: East and West, Germanic Myths, Russian Fairy Tales and the wildly popular, Vampire: Blood and Empire.
“I’m a theory wonk,” he says. “I love theory because it keeps me one step away from reality. I really love the conceptual aspects [of coursework], for example pulling literary texts through Lacanian psychoanalysis.” One would never have guessed the idiosyncratic professor was once a career military man. Behind his friendly, easygoing demeanor and offbeat jokes, Professor Post’s past tells of humble beginnings, hard work on the atypical path he has traveled to Pitt. At 17, Post “wanted to go to Europe in the worst way possible, and the only way that I could aﬀord to do it was by joining the military.” After earning an exceptional score on an Air Force aptitude exam, Post learned German at the Defense Institute in Monterey, CA, then went into training at the National Security Agency. Before long, he was serving as a crypto-logic linguist and East German air defense expert in West Berlin. Military service led Post on an excursion through Europe from Berlin to Brussels, and on to Groningen, Netherlands. He found himself exposed to “all kinds of interesting, weird, bizarre, great things,” including ﬁrsthand experience of Communist East Berlin. He describes it - as seen from across the Berlin Wall - as a city of “glass and steel…it looked kind of tacky, but it seemed clean. You went four blocks away from it, and they had open sewers. You went another four blocks and they had buildings that were still bombed out from World War II.” Post never forgets his humble roots in Foxport, Kentucky - population 42 - with barely any running water or electricity. Post says he would encourage anybody to spend time in an impoverished region of the world, like Sub-Saharan Africa or Appalachia. “We always talk about Paris Hilton and Donald Trump,” he says. “We think about how the other half lives - well, what about the other ninetenths of the world and how they live?
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While in Europe, Post fell in love with its eccentricities. “You go to a shopping mall here in Pittsburgh, and you go to a shopping mall in Houston, Texas - it’s all the same thing. You get in a car in Belgium, drive for eight hours, you can be in Spain, you can be in Italy, you can be in Denmark. It’s amazing - a whole diﬀerent world.” Despite having traveled the world,
I would really encourage somebody to go somewhere where [by comparison] we’re living like kings here. You know, just perspective. That’s all, just perspective.” After leaving the military at the conclusion of the Cold War, then 32-year-old Post enrolled as an undergraduate student. He supported himself through school at the University of Maryland and Edinboro University before arriving at Pitt for a teaching fellowship, where he received his graduate degree in Germanic studies and international relations. Upon graduation, he began teaching. When asked how he ﬁnds Pittsburgh compared to other places he’s lived, Post replied, “Love it. I absolutely love it.” He cites his disdain for the ﬂat, cookie-cutter neighborhoods of “monopoly houses” found elsewhere in America. In hilly Pittsburgh, he says, “no one house looks like the other. They’re all done diﬀerently because they have to build to the terrain.” Regrettably, Post said that although he would love to
have more time for Pittsburgh’s vibrant arts scene, his extensive teaching duties prevent him from being able to go out much. Through his trademark enthusiasm for novel ideas and contempt for sameness, Post shows he is undeniably young at heart. If his cell phone goes oﬀ during lecture, he draws chuckles from his students by announcing, “Sorry about that, it‘s my parole oﬃcer. After this I have to go pee in a cup.” Post’s anecdotes range from adventures in Amsterdam to Black Sabbath and Rage Against the Machine concerts he attended over a decade ago. Students accustomed to sleep-inducing monotone lectures will ﬁnd Professor Post’s style refreshing. He is known for his animated lectures, which emphasize student participation and discussion of ideas more than note-taking and memorization. Although unconventional, Post’s teaching style seems to ultimately embrace the old adage, “Teaching should be full of ideas instead of stuﬀed with facts.”
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LONG TIME COMING
Seven hours after leaving the South Jersey coast, I arrived in Pittsburgh. It was the fall of 2006, and I felt out of place and bummed about having to give up surﬁng for the school year.
I brought my longboard with me, and Pittsburgh brought many hills to ride. While out skating one night, I heard the sound of polyurethane wheels rolling and sliding on pavement in the distance. Overjoyed at ﬁnding someone to go riding with, I introduced myself to Evan Gates, who was then a freshman at Carnegie Mellon. We became consistent skating buddies, meeting up with some other friends late at night to cruise the streets of Pittsburgh. It was my ﬁrst introduction to the longboarding scene as I knew it, in the city that would come to feel like home. Over the past few years, due to busier schedules and Pittsburgh’s less-than-ideal weather conditions, I skated less and less with Evan and his friends.
But as spring slowly starts to bring life back to the city, people spend more time outside, and more time skating. I got back in touch with Evan, and we got to talking about longboarding. Since I had never seen much written about longboarding in Pittsburgh, I asked Evan to shed some light on the situation.
How did you ﬁrst get into longboarding? One summer during high school, I was taking classes at Stanford. My friends needed cleats for ultimate, so I went with them to some weird combination toy/sports store. In the corner was a rack of Sector 9 longboards. I had always thought they were pretty cool and decided to buy one on a whim. I longboarded through the summer, bought another board or two, and haven’t stopped since.
TEXT BY ANNA BIEGALSKI PHOTOS BY KRISTEN SWAMER Left: Hill-bombing in Oakland. originalmag.com
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What sets longboarding apart from street skating? Longboarding to me is about high speed and deep carves. I longboard the way I ski, and I’m a racer so I like going fast, zipping across the road. That being said, tricks in general are a lot diﬀerent. It’s easier to see it than for me to describe it. Check out the loadednewsletter user on YouTube. My favorite [video] is either “Loaded Dancer,” “Whirling Dervishes,” or “Skating to Sunshine.”
What tricks can you do? I spend most of my time carving, and when I’m not, I’m “dancing” - basically walking up and down the board and spinning on it while carving. I guess the only trick I know that I might actually label a trick would be a shovit, which is diﬀerent on a 42-inch board.
Where do you usually skate? Usual places around here are Circuit Drive, Forbes near CMU, and Schenley Drive. Other than that, I board to and from campus when the weather permits.
Below: The author herself hits the pavement.
Need more skate spots? Take a walk to the corner of Atwood and Sennot to the Oakland Manny pad. Plenty of shredding goes on untill the lights go out. And the locals are all friendly. Also if you want to test your urban skill, try going to the many spots in North Oakland. Schools, stairs, and scars seem to be extremely abundant in this area.
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Why board(s) do you ride?
How would you describe the longboarding scene around here?
Do you enjoy skating in Pittsburgh? Why?
Currently I ride a Loaded Vanguard 42” with Randal 2 180s, Abec 11 83mm 82a wheels, and Abec 11 Bultins. The board was a limited run that Loaded sold to their mailing list, using material meant for the ﬂex 2 Dervish, but used on a 42” Vanguard, making it about the equivalent of a ﬂex 5. Translation: very ﬂexible and springy, feels amazing in the turns. I use a pair of cheap slide gloves I bought, but they get the job done
I’m always trying to ﬁnd other boarders, get a crew together. In general, the more people we have out there for a run, the more fun it is. I do my best to teach whoever wants to learn, including the assistant dean of the engineering school at CMU. We’re looking into making an oﬃcial club at CMU and possibly get funding. We’ll see how that goes.
I love boarding in Pittsburgh. Then again, I love boarding anywhere. If I’m on a board on a hill, I’m happy. That being said, it pains me when I ﬁnd a beautiful hill full of potholes and bad pavement.
“I’ll board wherever there’s a hill. “
Any last shout-outs to anyone? The guys I board with here in Pittsburgh, giving me a reason to go ﬁnd bigger, better hills. And to you - you were pretty much the ﬁrst person I met out longboarding and introduced me to the Z-Boys.
Why thank you, Evan! Below: Evan Gates takes a break from carving and dancing for a photo op.
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e Emerald City Pittsburgh: stinking cesspool of pollution, greasy pierogis and obnoxious Steelers fans? Or progressive city on the cutting edge of green technology? Hang on to your (organic) knickers... it’s the latter! Boasting - and oh, do we boast - 21 LEED-certiﬁed buildings across the city, Pittsburgh has the third-highest number of these buildings in the nation. In fact, if we include the entire state, Pennsylvania is bested only by that ridiculously green state, California. (There’s no competing with a state whose ﬂag is made of hemp; even Governor Schwarzenegger, a robot from the distant future, runs mostly on solar energy). But what is this mysterious acronym, and why does it matter? LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. It is the top U.S. standard for building green, given to existing buildings or new construction that conforms to a strict set of guidelines that regulate everything from construction materials to how water is recycled in the building. It can be extremely costly to construct buildings clean and green enough to adhere to all these standards. One might wonder, ‘Why bother?’ Studies have shown that a healthier workplace signiﬁcantly increases employee productivity and LEED-certiﬁed buildings also operate at a lower cost over time. Still, it will take a serious commitment to transform Pittsburgh into a city that no longer lives up to the once-ﬁtting nickname, “Shittsburgh.” In 2007 the American Lung Association ranked Pittsburgh as the nation’s second most polluted metropolitan area, besting only Los Angeles. There’s that murky shade of dark gray that the Cathedral of Learning turns every year and the seemingly endless amount of smoke pumped out by the Cloud Factory. However, progressive eﬀorts are ensuring that our city is becoming more compatible with renewable energy sources while also keeping some of the charm of good old (dirty) Pittsburgh. One aspect of this is the renovation and construction of LEED-certiﬁable buildings.
TEXT AND PHOTOS BY HELEN EWING Above: In Oakland, Phipps Conservatory is a shining beacon of eco-friendliness.
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Flanking the river bend on the North Side is one such building. Housing the Alcoa Corporation, an international company committed to conservation while using renewable resources, the glass-andaluminum structure unites beauty, ingenuity, and sustainability. Its bold design epitomizes Pittsburgh’s future as a national leader and innovator in environmentally-sensitive design. Many of Pittsburgh’s LEED-certiﬁed buildings are also some of the city’s most beautiful, proving that we don’t have to sacriﬁce aesthetics for sustainability. Phipps Conservatory received a Silver LEED rating since its 2005 renovation, due to features like a 34-foot high atrium with high-performance glazings that work like a greenhouse, reducing the amount of air conditioning needed. Some of Pittsburgh’s
LEED-rated buildings are a little surprising, like the Giant Eagle in Shadyside. “But Giant Eagle - that’s The Man, right?” Possibly, but in this case The Man is building sustainably. The building’s drywall uses recycled coal plant waste, while the cooking oil from the kitchen is reused as a source of alternative energy. Perhaps nothing can be done about the Steelers fans save for locking them away in a LEED-certiﬁed stadium for all of football season on a diet of organic, sustainably produced pierogi. But something can be done - and is being done - to ensure that the brightness of Pittsburgh’s skyline will not be dimmed by the impending shortage of nonrenewable energy sources. Below: The Alcoa buildling snakes along the North Shore
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IT’S EASY BEING
TEXT BY TARA STIEF PHOTO BY OHAD CADJI
n a city that at ﬁrst glance seems to be lacking in greenery, Oakland is one of Pittsburgh’s “greenest” neighborhoods. Oakland is going green in ways other than Schenley Park and Phipps Conservatory, thanks to the Oakland Task Force (OTF).
The OTF is a partnership of institutions, community organizations, businesses and public agencies that come together to make changes and improvements in Oakland. Their mission: “To be a forum for Oakland community and neighborhood organizations, governmental entities, institutions and public agencies for the exchange of information, fostering relationships and to advocate for the resolution of issues that serve to improve the quality of life in the Oakland community for all of its stakeholders.” The University of Pittsburgh is one of the many institutions involved in the OTF. It is through the OTF’s work that projects such as the restoration of Schenley Plaza from a parking lot into a green space with food kiosks, gardens, and tables sitting in the heart of Pitt’s campus has been possible. Other projects have included recycling programs, making buildings “green,” planting trees and gardens, organizing furniture-recycling programs, and establishing Oakland’s farmers’ market, which takes place a block from Forbes Avenue on Sennott Street from the end of June through November. Pitt students can pick it up fresh at the Oakland Farmers’ Market.
The OTF stresses the importance of people making the eﬀort to go green in their own lives. One tip: stop using so many plastic bags! An estimated 500 billion plastic bags are used each year. The OTF suggests taking reusable bags with you when shopping - you may spot their bright ‘Go Green!’ bags - colored accordingly - ﬂoating around campus and throughout Oakland.
For more information on OTF and “going green,” visit www.onlyinoakland.org and www.oaklandtaskforce.org. originalmag.com
66 issue 5 OC
HE WHO BRINGS
FORTH WATERS TEXT BY CHRISTEN DICLAUDIO/PHOTOS BY OHAD CADJI
March 9, 2009. At 12:01 p.m. he appeared through the tall glass door with a man he had told me would be joining him - his father. He was dressed in a black suit and a white shirt with a broken top button, a greenishgray patterned tie that he had borrowed from his dad, black square-toed dress shoes and white cotton crew socks. The two men continued to the metal detector, operated by two friendly but very tough young black women who calmly repeated common-sense orders in very loud voices as many times as necessary for their subjects to comply. “Please take everything out of your pockets,” they said, holding out a dish for pocket junk. The new arrivers put their keys in the dish and resumed forward. The metal detector beeped. “Please take EVERYTHING out of your pockets.” Next, the money clip or some spare change. The metal detector beeped again. “SIR, PLEASE TAKE EVERYTHING OUT OF YOUR POCKETS.” There was always a humiliating paperclip or lighter straggling in those pockets. The two men were preceded, surrounded and followed by inner-city residents who sported forcefully faded jeans and a surprising amount of silk-screened metallic accents on every article of clothing no matter their age, mingling into the lobby as though it was not their ﬁrst time there. I sat waiting for my party in a plastic chair that did not seem to ﬁt the theme of the white, green and maroon imitation marble ﬂoors. The building was four stories high with painfully beige walls that were pretty clean except for some scuﬀs and oil marks that fell under the category of normal public wear and tear. Large and extremely thick steel doors enclosed an assortment of people in each room, many of whom surely felt entrapped.
cheerfully. “Good, how are you?” maybe a little too deadpan. “Fine, thanks! What’s up?” I already knew what was up, so I cut oﬀ his potential answer by introducing myself to the older man with him, who I correctly suspected was his father. Howard was a good-humored physician, a man with an appropriately round physique and endearingly squinty eyes set above a perpetually amused grin and below gray eyebrows that were typically raised high as though to suggest they were making up for his lack in height. His dress was almost identical to Michael’s, the only diﬀerence being that his suit was in the exact shade of his departing gray hair, and with the appropriate socks. With them was Joan, a “Roman Catholic woman priest” who came to encourage for Michael, sort of as an advocate for unconventional forms of worship. I had never encountered one of those before, or even really heard of them, but supposing there is a typical genus for Roman Catholic woman priests, I imagine Joan would ﬁt wonderfully - she wore bifocals and had an eﬀortlessly curled-under bob in a shade of gray that was remarkably similar to Howard’s. The combination of her slacks bordering on sweatpants and the fact that there is really no such thing as a woman priest in Roman Catholicism (in fact, the small fringe group of women that claim to serve in this banned capacity are oﬃcially excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church, assuming they were members in the ﬁrst place) made it hard for me to take her seriously. I didn’t mind her either way. Joan was quite friendly and extremely out of her element, even just in the lobby. We stood waiting for almost 15 minutes for a few of Michael’s friends to arrive. The ﬁrst minutes were almost silent as the three assessed their surroundings. Then Howard read us a sign from the wall behind me.
A mix of police oﬃcers, some young and many old, some appearing displeased and many contented, went out of one steel mystery door and into another enough times for it to be plausible that they just wanted to be noticed, feared, maybe even thought of as appealing. The attention they wanted to draw was in no way covert. These oﬃcers noticed most of those around them as a crowd and wanted the crowd to notice them as the police in return.
“Do not remove any chairs from Pittsburgh Municipal Courts Building,” he read aloud. His son immediately joined him in playfully scheming how they could possibly steal a chair. More silence.
It took a few minutes for the two to clear security, then Michael strolled right up to me and we covered our usual routine:
Howard, looked only in my general direction. “Then you wouldn’t have a story,” he said.
“Hey Michael! How are you?” maybe a little too
“What if the people from the church don’t show?” Michael wondered aloud. “That’d be good,” Joan said.
There was an uncomfortable lull. I was a little embarrassed.
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In front of us was a room full of about 60 silly plastic chairs facing a massive wooden podium structure that could only be entered from a room which I would expect not many could access. A handful of people sat scattered throughout the room. Michael lead his team to the third of four rows. As seats slowly continued to ﬁll, it was obvious by dress and conduct who was being represented Sunday’s best, freshly combed hair and an anxious fake smile; who was representing - suit and tie, daily routine business-appropriate hairstyle and as relaxed as sitting up straight can get; and who was inevitably in deep shit - jeans, bed-head (ﬁnger-combed at best) and slouched. With a substantially sized collection of well-dressed supporters, Michael’s was the only situation to not follow that pattern. 12:40 p.m. – An unfazed, cottonheaded old lady walked to the podium, fusses with some papers, was approached by a man from the seats who asked when we will begin, and murmurs, “don’t know,” practically punching the man in the gut with an annoyed sweep of her thinning white eyelashes. 12:44 p.m. – The police oﬃcers began to stroll in, almost theatrically scowling at the “worthless” crowd and over to a corner where they perched themselves on the edge of a table, smirking at the suckers they were about to bring down.
“I don’t think I’d even recognize them,” Michael added. We all chuckled faintly, more or less as a stand-in for a reply. Then more silence. Michael outsized the lot of us by at least four inches until a few moments later when Dr. Greg Allen arrived, making Michael look short. A clean-cut, burly black man, his professional demeanor and dress did the courthouse regulars the favor of upping the average as far as sophistication went. Dr. Allen is a literature professor at the University of Pittsburgh, and the faculty advisor for Ruach (Spirit in Hebrew), the spiritual group Michael started within the last year at Pitt. He was also there for moral support. Two more of Michael’s friends were expected to show up but did not, without notiﬁcation or explanation - Michael supposed they simply forgot to come. So in we went, beyond the steel door that hung below the words “NON-TRAFFIC.”
1:04 p.m. – A 60-something, pasty, yellowish man entered the room. He wore square glasses, a black blazer and dark gray pants. Michael peered over at me and held up a note he scribbled in a little notebook: “You’ll have a story - they’re here.” 1:10 p.m. - The judge, a sturdy black man appearing to be in his late 40s, stepped to the podium. We all rose. The hearings went briskly. A vast majority of the cases were one of just a few scenarios, like the oﬀenders were picking their scandals out of a hat before they faced the stand. The ﬁrst eleven were mainly between Superbowl riot misbehavior, “ex-”addicts of various drugs making up excuses to get their ﬁne-payment dates extended, and minor cases of domestic violence. At some point during each hearing the judge looked down at each and every pitiful character with his thick, dark eyebrows drawn into a furrow and asked, “What do you do for a living?” and left most of them to soak in the guilt of acting up with a $200-300 ﬁne, plus taxes.
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1:58 p.m. - His name was called. “Michael…Israel?” Without hesitation, Michael ventured up to the podium, crossing paths with the man from the church, who went to stand beside a male police oﬃcer and a female police commander, both middle-aged and overweight. “So, what happened here?” The prosecutors spoke ﬁrst. The male police oﬃcer oﬀered an unclear version of the scenario, only for us to learn that he had not actually been present on the day of the event. It was enough, though, to catch the attention of the other courtroom attendees. The oﬃcer’s associates decided to take over, beginning with the commander. “I was present in the congregation of St. Paul Cathedral in Oakland that Sunday. I was in plain clothes - I was not on duty that day. I attend Mass there every Sunday.” [The bishop was celebrating Mass that day in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day]. “All of a sudden I heard a commotion. I couldn’t see what was going on, but I was alert. The bishop addressed Michael and told him that this is not the right place for him to be speaking out.” The commander then saw two oﬀ-duty police oﬃcers escort Michael out of the church and joined them in the back to see if she could be of any help. The security guard representing the church chimed in, telling the judge, “We told him explicitly not to come back.” And sure enough, he was back the next week. That was when the original male police oﬃcer present at the hearing was called to the church. He was unaware that Michael’s behavior was a recurring event. Michael then got his chance to explain, but before he could begin, it was his turn to be scrutinized by the judge’s bulging brown eyes and asked, “Now young man, what do you do for a living?” He is a psychology and religious studies major at Pitt, he said. Michael spoke very quickly, staying noticeably collected and even sounded somewhat chipper. He gave his side of the story, raising a great deal of eyebrows in the crowd. Posted [on Facebook]: Mon Jan 12, 2009 3:30 a.m. “Post subject: I did it! “[…] I felt like I had two options, to either go to the 8 o’clock mass or the 12 o’clock mass and since I decided to sleep in a bit I chose the latter. This is a HUGE cathedral, and lo and behold the noon mass was being taped! “I was going to speak when I ﬁrst came in but chickened out and sat down. After a while the bishop started speaking. He did have a good vibration to him and he spoke in love, so I didn’t feel the need to call him out on anything that he said. Eventually he started talking about St. John the Baptist and how it was his role to bring forth the living waters and how they could conquer everything. And I started thinking about speaking out then, how it was prophesied that I would bring forth the living waters. But once again, I stayed seated.
I was that man.’ Then some rather large guido type fellows all started walking at me at once. Once they grabbed a hold of me, I yelled, “I Am the Living Christ!” and then they escorted me out. “They frisked me down, checked my ID and then took me into another room where they asked me about my mental health, and then again and then again. They told me, Good Christians do not lie about things like this so I told them that I was not Christian but in fact Jewish, so then they said that good Jews do not lie about this as well. “They asked why I stood and I told them that bishop had said for us to stand and speak our truth. The biggest fellow in the room called me a ‘Jagoﬀ ’ and said [the Bishop] meant that metaphorically. Then they asked why a Jew was even here and don’t we look down upon Catholicism. ‘Some do, but as Paul said, Israel would be jealous of Christ and seek to get closer to him.’ They mocked me for being a prophet, returned to me all of my stuﬀ, and said, ‘You weren’t abused this time, but next time you will be!’ Then we lovingly embraced and parted ways. “I was sad when I left and felt very heavy (with fear), almost on the verge of tears, but I called (other spiritual friends) and they all helped me to lift up my burden so that I could feel the light again. Then I ﬁnally felt the light return and I was ﬁlled with joy. I haven’t needed any food today and have only eaten one meal a day for the past 2 days.” Posted: Sun Jan 18, 2009 7:40 p.m. “Post subject: [No Subject] “I went back again, but this time I was arrested (well, cited). The chief deputy (also a member of the church) recommended me a holistic healer to take care of my (chronic) hiccups, I hope it helps. Love, Michael” 2:07 p.m. - By this point, actual laughs of disbelief began blurting out of a majority of the unashamed mouths in the courtroom. There was more than just a smile even on the faces of Michael’s supporters. Those at ﬁrst half-paying attention now found themselves fully absorbed in this strange and new kind of crime. Michael attempted to defend himself with the First Amendment, but the judge took that as an opportunity to enlighten him with the unspoken rules of just how far it is appropriate to take those rights. “Young man, do you know what’s considered unacceptable under those First Amendment rights?” “Yeah, like don’t scream ‘ﬁre’ at a movie theater,” Michael replied. “Right,” said the judge, “now—” Michael interrupted:
“Then ﬁnally, he said, you must have no fear! You must stand up and speak Truth! And well I think I had taken it to heart a little quicker then he had expected.
“But I didn’t do anything like that, I was talking about Christ in a church.” The judge did not act oﬀended or dismayed that Michael cut him oﬀ. Instead, he continued as though he was trying to knock some reason into a stubborn pupil. He interrupted Michael right back.
“So I stood up on top of the pewseat and said, ‘As prophesied in Isaiah 44 that there would be a man surnamed Israel who brings forth waters upon the dry and thirsty ground, and that
“Yeah, but you can’t stand up on the pew—”
69 issue 5 OC “So it would’ve made a diﬀerence if I had just stood up and not stood on the pew?”
speaking. “But I don’t want you to run people oﬀ for your approach.”
“Well, yeah…” “Yeah, but what I was saying was relevant. It was my right to say it.” “How do you know you didn’t oﬀend anyone? They couldn’t hear what you were saying. All they could hear was a crazy man talking, they didn’t care what you were saying. You were treading on their sacred territory.” “Oh.” It hit Michael, perhaps for the ﬁrst time, that his point might not have come across to the parishioners of St. Paul as clearly as he had hoped or expected. Continuing their argument, Michael compared his actions to several scriptural scenes. He reminded the judge of when Jesus kicked over the collection box after ﬁnding people selling animal sacriﬁces for the temple during his Sermon on the Mount. To the judge, this was not the same. Michael informed him that he had even discussed Acts 10 with the priests of St. Paul Cathedral. This reading depicts Peter throwing water onto the heads of unbaptized people who prophecize the New Testament in order to baptize them. To the judge, this was not the same. Michael shared that in Corinthians 1:11, Paul said that for a man to prophesize, he only had to have his head uncovered. To the judge, this was also not the same. None of these situations seemed extremely relevant to him. Both men stiuck to their guns with no signs of stopping until ﬁnally the judge decided he had enough and asked the prosecutors with what they would like Michael to be charged. The commander suggested behavioral classes and/ or a psychiatric evaluation. The judge did not respond to the commander, instead directing his attention back toward Michael. “Where your people at?” he asked, getting nothing but a blank stare in return. It takes Michael a moment to catch onto the lingo, soon realizing his superior wants to know if he has any family members present with him. “My dad,” he replied powerfully as if they were still bickering and he dramatically pointed behind him, to the back of the room. This was the ﬁrst time many of the crowd members had seen Michael’s full face. It triggered some extra smirks. 2:21 p.m. - Howard was called to the stand. He respectfully shrugged when he spoke, matter-of-factly assuring all that Michael has learned his lesson, that there is no need for psychiatric evaluation. It seemed to have worked. His son was sentenced to a 90-day no-contact order for St. Paul Cathedral and should any problems arise, they will take it from there. After the 90 days, if he wants to go back, Michael will have to ask permission from the priests, two of whom happened to befriend him after the date of his incident. Their goal was to discuss values with him, which Michael lightly took as an eﬀort to convert him to Catholicism. He guarantees the judge and the church representatives that he is the last person they will see in St. Paul, and the judge, still not convinced Michael is fully sane, left him with a few kind words of caution.
2:26 p.m. - The case was dismissed and after signing a form or two, we left the remaining ﬁve or six cases worth of people to chew on what they have just witnessed, grinning at the relief, the luck, the uniqueness of it all. Back in the beige lobby Joan remarked, “Wow, he was a great judge. Very fair.” She gave Michael an awkward hug, wished him luck, and told him to keep in touch. The other four of us headed toward our cars, not knowing what to say. Dr. Allen broke the hush. “No oﬀense but that was pretty entertaining!” We all laughed and agreed, comforted to have found we are on the same page, then split ways to go home. *** “Take the light you have been given by Christ and multiply it in your hearts! You all have the potential to be the living Christ in embodiment! Jesus showed you the way!” These are the words that sent angry tears streaming down my cheeks on Sunday, January 18, 2009. St. Paul Cathedral is the “mother parish” of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh. You are welcomed into the colossal gothic structure through one of three dome-shaped wooden doors. You pass through the foyer and in front of you is an almost overwhelmingly serene wide open space. The ceiling is tastefully plain, giving way to an altar with an extraordinarily intricate presentation of the cruciﬁx. Slightly to the left is the gold tabernacle, a sacred ornamental box housing the Holy Eucharist (in Catholicism, it is believed that the ingested bread and wine become the actual body and blood of Jesus Christ). Slightly to the right are statues of Mary, mother of God and of Joseph, her husband. A little farther to the left is a much larger, almost life-size cruciﬁx. Both sides have a subtle ﬂickering border of white devotional candles, lit by parishioners and not put out until the candle burns down to the end of the wick naturally. The stained glass windows line the walls that hold within them many rows of wooden pews, ﬁlled each Sunday with parishioners young and old, many from the several surrounding universities. Not far from the ceiling behind you is a magniﬁcent ensemble of newly refurbished pipes, inexplicably gathering at some point to form the king of all organs, which envelopes the St. Paul Cathedral choir in the choir loft. That is where you would ﬁnd me on most Sundays of the year. But with choir canceled on the week of January 18, I joined the rest of the congregation, neatly placing myself within the mass of a thousand or so, in the pews. My ﬁrst encounter with Michael was standing 15 pews back from the altar of St. Paul Cathedral. He was positioned about 30 yards diagonally in front of me. We had not the keenest idea one another even existed. He was busy, on this second visit to the Cathedral, searching for the courage and the opportunity to take a stab at speaking his truth again. Eventually, he found that courage.
“I admire you, young man. I admire you for your religious principals.”
And there was I - a conﬁdent young woman, an independent city girl, an easygoing world-traveler - put to tears by words, words not directed to me or even about me. I began to sweat.
“Thank you,” he returned to his brisk and frank manner of
The regular church-goers surrounding me carried themselves
70 issue 5 OC in a way that insinuated they had either never had kids or were past the point of empty-nesting. They acted confused but unalarmed by the sort of outburst that had just occurred, as if it was no shock to them that he would come back a second week. Most pursed their lips, appearing to write him oﬀ as simply deranged or to take note to pray for his peace of mind that night before bed.
him on the street and interrogating him on the spot. After a few days, once I came to terms with the fact that my plan was extremely faulty, I resorted to searching forhis name on Facebook and we ended up arranging a meeting over coﬀee.
Contrary to this general reaction, I was trying my hardest to see and somehow sing the suddenly blurred notes of the processional hymn through a weepy wall of utter fear. I vaguely recognized this guy. We were both students at Pitt. Michael had dirty blond, straight hair - not too long, but not too short - blue eyes and an extremely pointy nose. For no reason at all, he had always struck me as diﬀerent. Michael’s scene stole my thoughts for a number of subsequent weeks; it destroyed my overall focus, distracted my studying, it even kept me up at night. I soon found my feelings fading from fright to anger. Why did he do that? What is wrong with him? Is this a test? Whatever the answers may have been, I was constantly anxious and I dreaded the slight chance of bumping into him on the street. It took those several weeks to build up the guts to track this kid down and ﬁgure out what the hell his deal was. I felt that something like this should not have impacted me so deeply, and that made me thirsty for an understanding. In order to do that, I had to gather enough bravado to interrupt the Sunday chatter of the old ladies who hang around the sacristy for who knows how long after Mass each week. They answered me so casually, I had to wonder if they actually realized I was there. “Oh, his name’s Israel - Michael Israel.” I thanked them and walked as swiftly as possible away from their “oh, you think he’s crazy, you should stick around a little longer,” and robust laughter, directed more toward each other at my expense than to me at his. And then the hunt began. I was unsure of what would be considered a conventional way to present my interest in Michael, to Michael, so I kept my eyes peeled and crossed my ﬁngers that he would be receptive to a stranger approaching
The Israels keep their home in the suburbs of Allentown, a middle-class city that is about a third the size of Pittsburgh, with its own airport. Michael spared me the overused remark that “it’s about an hour north of Philly.” His family of ﬁve consists of his father and mother, Howard and Sue, and two younger sisters who are, “Sixteen and nine…wait, maybe eight.” He couldn’t quite remember. The Israel kids were raised with a loose emphasis on religion. According to Sue, they were taught that it is more important to be “loving, kind, responsible, conscientious people that are good to other people and respectful of others” than it is to worry about attending temple regularly. When they do practice formal religion, though, it is Reform Judaism. In contrast, my older brother and I were raised with great emphasis on religion. The way my mother puts it, my parents have “always been so focused on God and prayer that [they] just automatically raised [us] to be kind and compassionate and expected [us] to also be focused on God. It’s just something you’re born into and it would have to be a really radical decision to stray away from that life of faith and helping others and being kind and giving.” Attending Mass every Sunday was all just a natural part of it; it was and still is important to my family to give thanks in the community setting once a week. Perhaps both sets of parents were just lucky that their children grew to generally agree with their ideals, or maybe there was something more. My faith in God started out as routine and developed into a deep relationship with Him. Michael’s faith in God was preceded by a fulltime commitment to deciding whether or not he could trust Him. Even now, saying he is Jewish is more out of ease than observation. Michael lives out a much more complex version of spirituality than most, including the rest of his family. The journey began at about age eleven. *** Around ﬁfth grade in elementary school, Michael began to feel
71 issue 5 OC lonely and somewhat depressed. He relied on the internet to ﬁgure out how he could improve his social skills, trying many diﬀerent tactics over the years, but none of them seemed to work. In the midst of all this, I was preparing for Conﬁrmation into the Catholic Church. Michael was getting ready to have a bar mitzvah. I remember my mum explaining to me that this means I am now responsible for my own actions in the church. That up until this point it was okay, in a way, if I was not fully committed to God because I did not know any better, but now it is up to me to decide how I live out my faith. I knew this meant I needed to step it up a notch, to really understand and stand for my devotion to God. So I did. Michael’s experience proved nearly the opposite. “At this point in time I wanted to be a rabbi but I think someone talked me out of it. -Someone told me], ‘All boys getting a bar mitzvah think about becoming a rabbi, but you know you’ve always been interested in business and in the stock market. You change your mind every day. So think about it for awhile.’” That comment made becoming a rabbi seem so unappealing that his dependence on himself and the idea that selfimprovement is strictly a mindset lead him to a period, around ninth grade, of atheism. Next, he discovered an old book by Charles F. Haanel, entitled “The Master Key System.” It is claimed to be the ﬁrst book on higher consciousness ever written. It was banned from the Catholic Church in 1933. This reading material got Michael to believing that not only his own brain, but the entire universe was responding to his thoughts - a theory he still accepts as true.
popularity or money. That started to leave him feeling very empty and unhappy. The fact that he found something wrong with this concept was confusing to him. “I grew up in a fairly liberal family. I lived in a hooking up culture. That’s ... our culture of people. We didn’t know any better.” So he turned to God and prayed. Within the next year, an online friend with whom Michael shared religious understandings referred him to a theorist of sorts named Lorraine Michaels. Michael Israel became one of about 200 around the world who follow one of Michaels’ books, “The Master Keys to Personal Christhood.” It acts as a sort of workbook for spiritual development. Mr. and Mrs. Israel began to worry about the amount of involvement Michael had with his computer so they called a local rabbi and set up an appointment for their son. “He told me that we are unable to know truth on our own without a suﬃcient educational background” Michael said. “Basically we needed to be told what to think by people who ‘knew more’ than us.” This turned him oﬀ from going to synagogue altogether. He felt that rabbis are no more worthy than he to experience God, to know He exists and learn inner direction. These days, Michael sticks close to God. Although his spirituality is ever-changing, to him it is going in an upward direction - he is coming closer to his own Truth. “Spiritual growth is not mechanical, it’s a creative eﬀort,” he said. The more you feel like you can’t live without something, the better you realize that you can, indeed, live without it. And I’ve always received more from God than I’ve ever surrendered.”
He started to realize the parallels this philosophy had, even though he was brought up Jewish, with Christianity. He knew nothing about Christianity, but knew this idea had connections to The Bible. Michael paraphrased it:
“If you believe in something and you ask God and you don’t doubt and you pretend like you already have it, then it will come to you,” later clarifying with a description from John 14: 12-14:
Our ﬁrst meeting at the coﬀee shop proved to me that Michael was, to the least of my knowledge, not a physical threat. Since then, I’ve even learned to enjoy his company. His character and behavior outside of that initial setting somehow lead me to believe he was in rare form when he chose to make those selﬁsh appearances - even now, though by no means did I or do I agree with his forward approach. I still get faint shivers of dread each time I think back on the nerve and lack of respect it must take for someone to elevate his body onto a church pew and push thunderous words out of his mouth in the middle of Mass. Twice.
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth in me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be gloriﬁed in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.” He continued his explanation: “Everything, if you break it down, is just eventually like spirit anyways, so you could - I don’t know - I guess your mind has some impact over it. You know, like, we’re co-created as God and we can create.” He made his own sense of this by constructing an identiﬁable version of the theory and sticking to it. Evidently, he was overlooking one small detail of Christianity: that it is based on the faith that there is one God and we are certainly not Him. During his junior year in high school Michael reached a metaphorical crossroad on a trip to California with a Jewish youth group. At this point, he was following a view that if you are ever unhappy, you should force thoughts about sex,
April 15, 2009. 6:15 p.m. - “I think you should tell them why I did it.”
Michael does not regret what he did although, looking back, does acknowledge it as maybe not the best way of getting his point across. He has apologized multiple times for upsetting me, and his mother conﬁrmed that he has never been the type of person to intentionally displease or oﬀend anyone at all. After giving it some thought, he decided to also apologize to the Bishop in the only way he thought safe - through a priest from Saint Paul Cathedral who holds “oﬃce hours” on Pitt’s campus. What Michael and I can agree on is that we are called to work through God. He told me, “God works and then I work,” that the wonderful thing about the world today is that people are allowed by the government to let God work through them in greater ways than before. “Jesus changed the world and he was just one person, so imagine what we can do as many.” “Well, why did you do it?”
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“What else could I do?” When all was said and done, Michael gave me that familiar, friendly smirk. “June 15” There is no easy, straight answer. Michael saw the state of the United States economy. He saw that people as a whole feel they have no control over the outcome, that the population suﬀers from hopelessness. So what can we do? We could just sit around and take it or we could stand up and be an example. Through God, Michael determined that he needed to get on his feet and announce that we are to turn to Him for a peaceful solution.
“June 15 what?” “That’s when I’m allowed to go back.” “Oh! Will you?” “Yeah, sure.” “…and…do what?” He chuckled. “Pray.”
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s u c o F In D R S A T Y H E V G GRA M THOU ARTS WARAKFAST TA FLUZY BRE NION OF OPI K POEM FLOWER PEA NK WALL TS DRU PSSTREE STE
74 issue 5 IF
TALES FROM THE CRYPT
TEXT & PHOTOS BY ADELE MEYER & ANNA RASSHIVKINA
TEPHEN COLLINS FOSTER 1826-1864 (SECTION 21, LOT 30)
Foster was born and bred in Lawrenceville and is now considered the “Father of American Music.” Although he had almost no musical education (he dropped out of Washington & Jeﬀerson after a week), Foster composed his ﬁrst work, “The Tioga Waltz,” at fourteen and “Open Thy Lattice Love” three years later. At 21, he wrote his famous “Oh! Susanna,” which everybody can hum but not many can attribute to his name. Between 1850 and 1855, Foster wrote over 160 works. However, musical legalities were not what they are now, and Foster was unable to properly copyright his music. He made only a hundred dollars for “Oh! Susanna.” In 1860, he moved to New York City, seeking greater opportunity in his ﬁeld. His wife, Jane Denny McDowell, and daughter, Marion, left him and returned to Pittsburgh soon after. Foster fell victim to the alcoholism that had ruined his father but managed to compose “Old Black Joe.” In 1863 he composed his last great work, “Beautiful Dreamer,” before he died from a head injury in New York’s Bellevue Hospital with only 38 cents and a scrap of paper that read “dear friends and gentle hearts” in his pocket.
HARRY KENDALL THAW 1871-1947 (SECTION 16, LOT 119) He would proudly introduce himself: “I am Harry Thaw of Pittsburgh!” He didn’t really need much of an introduction, though. Thaw was born to one of Pittsburgh’s wealthiest families in 1871. He transferred from the Western University of Pennsylvania (Pitt’s forerunner) to Harvard, where he was said to have majored in poker and made his chief extracurricular activities binge drinking and
75 issue 5 IF cockﬁghting. He was eventually expelled for chasing a cab driver across Harvard Square with a shotgun. After his expulsion from Harvard, he began spending his hefty inheritance on frequent travels between Europe and New York. It was in these years that he earned the nickname, “Broadway’s ﬁrst playboy” for lavishly entertaining New York chorus girls. Rumors spread about his reported love of dog whips, and he became known for overturning tables at expensive restaurants. In 1901, he met Evelyn Nesbit, a New York model and Broadway actress. She had met Stanford White, a prestigious architect and Thaw’s playboy social rival, that same year. In 1903, Thaw proposed to Nesbit. She refused, admitting that White had taken her virginity and she was therefore not “suitable” for marriage. Thaw got over Nesbit’s tainted love and they did eventually marry in 1905, but White would not leave Nesbit alone. On June 25, 1906, Thaw and Nesbit were seeing the premiere of “Mademoiselle Champagne” when Thaw saw White, stood up, and shot him three times in the face. White died in Madison Square Garden, in the building that he had built. After several trials, Thaw was declared innocent. In between, however, he had been declared insane and institutionalized. In 1913, Thaw was released and returned to ﬁnd Nesbit with a three-year-old son. She swore the son was Thaw’s but he denied it and eventually won the paternity suit she had ﬁled against him. In 1917, Thaw was convicted of sexually assaulting and horsewhipping Fred B. Gump, a teenage boy. He was again found insane and spent seven more years in an asylum. Thaw died in 1947 of a heart attack and left Nesbit less than one percent of his fortune. Nesbit’s later life was plagued with two suicide attempts, severe drug use, and ﬁnancial instability.
JANE SWISSHELM 1815-1884 (SECTION 10, LOT 485) Jane Swisshelm was a ﬁerce feminist and advocate for the civil rights of oppressed peoples. She is one of the only women of the
19th century to have a formidable public voice for her own rights. Swisshelm moved from Pittsburgh to Kentucky after her marriage to James Swisshelm in 1936. Jane, who had never seen the realities of slavery before Kentucky, was deeply aﬀected and began to campaign against it. In 1847, after the death of her mother, Swisshelm used her inheritance to publish
daughter Henrietta with her. She continued her newspaper work in Minnesota, where her opinions caused local politicians to break into her oﬃce, destroy her printing press and throw the pieces into the Mississippi River. She quickly raised enough money for a new press and continued printing even more highly charged articles. In 1863, she left Minnesota for Washington D.C., where she personally consulted President Lincoln on his Native American policies and nursed Union soldiers in ﬁeld hospitals. In 1865, she started her last newspaper, The Reconstructionist, which she was forced to close after receiving arson and death threats for her heavy scrutiny of President Andrew Jackson’s Reconstruction policies. Jane died in 1884 at her home in Swissvale, Pa., and today remains a pioneer ﬁgure in the history of women’s rights, abolition, and Native American rights.
JOSEPH BARKER (CIRCA 1806-1862)
a newspaper, the Pittsburgh Saturday Visitor. The newspaper focused on abolition, temperance, and women’s rights. Swisshelm had become painfully aware of legal injustice against women when her husband tried to legally steal her inheritance after claiming to have “lost her domestic services” when she returned to Pittsburgh to be with her ailing mother. Swisshelm wrote fervently in defense of black slaves and white women as one under the same sort of oppression. In 1857, she embraced the failure of her marriage and left her husband, taking her
Joseph Barker was a revolutionary orator in a cape and a soapbox hat. He was ﬁercely anti-political and publicly preached against politicians and Catholicism. He became mayor of Lawrenceville in 1849 without ever having to run, despite the fact that he was illiterate and arguably a raging bigot. One day, while Barker was giving a soapbox speech attacking Catholicism, a drunken spectator provoked the crowd to riot. Barker was blamed not only for inciting the riot, but for catastrophically obstructing the streets of Pittsburgh and using lewd and indecent language in public. He was sentenced to a year in prison, but never ﬁnished his term - while imprisoned, his name was written on so many ballots that he won a mayoral election by popular vote. He was a decent mayor and gave up his soapbox speeches for a while. However, since his anti-political perspective involved a disdain for security forces, he created his own police force and attempted to disband the existing one. As his personal constabulary
76 issue 5 IF called out the hours and cared for the occasional street lamps, the Old Guard patrolled the streets and battled Barker’s provocation. In 1851, Barker was ousted from the mayorship by the county courts. He tried to run for mayor the following year and lost. His later years were marked with frequent drunkenness and increasingly obscene public speeches. In 1862, Barker was decapitated by a passing train while returning from a war meeting.
LILLIAN RUSSELL MOORE (1861-1922) (SECTION 40, LOT 5) ““I can still recall the rush of pure awe that marked her entrance on the stage. And then, the thunderous applause that swept from orchestra to gallery, to the very roof.” - actress Marie Dressler Lillian Russell was an opera singer known not only for her voice and beauty but also for her impeccable style. Russell was born Helen Louise Leonard in Iowa to a feminist mother and a father involved in newspaper publishing. Her musical career began in 1879 when she played a chorus girl in the comic opera “H.M.S. Pinafore.” Two weeks after joining the production, she discovered she was pregnant and married her orchestra leader. Her little daughter was tragically killed when her nanny stuck her with a diaper pin. Later the same year, Helen Leonard changed her name to Lillian Russell and made her ﬁrst Broadway appearance in a production by Tony Pastor, who was known as the “Father of Vaudeville.” She quickly became popular and eventually starred in several comic operas in London as well as on Broadway. In 1890, Alexander Graham Bell introduced long distance telephoning. Lillian’s voice was chosen to be the very ﬁrst on a long distance phone call - she sang a song in New York that was heard in Boston and in Washington, D.C. In 1891, Russell started her own opera company, ﬁttingly called the Lillian Russell Opera Company. Eventually, her voice began to fail her. Determined not to retire, she switched from opera to acting, and appeared in several burlesque productions. Her fourth marriage to husband Alexander Moore marked her ﬁnal retirement from show business. She remained in the
77 issue 5 IF public eye through her self-help lectures and her newspaper column advocating women’s suﬀrage, as well as through her continuance as a New York socialite. During World War I, she became an honorary sergeant for the U.S. Marine Corps and later was appointed special agent of the Department of Labor by President Warren Harding. In 1922, Russell was sent to Europe on an investigative mission for President Harding. She died shortly after from a rare disease doctors believed she had contracted while there. She was buried with full military honors, and a ﬁring squad performed a last salute. After her death, a rose mysteriously appeared at the door of her mausoleum every year on her birthday, until an unidentiﬁed man admitted to the gift-giving and never placed another rose there again. Her mausoleum inscription reads: “The World Is a Better Place For Her Having Lived.”
78 issue 5 IF
SUMMER, SUMMER, AND AND ANOTHER ANOTHER
TEXT BY CASSIDY GRUBER ART BY MAXWELL RUSH BEEHNER
You’ll remember, of course, playing ventriloquist with those cowboys in Big Sur? We thought they must have been named for cities in Texas: Austin and Houston or Dallas and Amarillo. They sat too far away from us in the grassy courtyard of the Henry Miller Library, so we had to put the words in the mouths that we could see moving beneath their blond mustaches.
“What a place, this place, this circle of trees and of fading light, surrounded by the sound of invisible ocean waves,” I as Amarillo said. “Yes,” said You as Dallas. “Like a poem by Millay, the one about the ferry.” “And you ate an apple, and I ate a pear.” YouAsDallas and IAsAmarillo talked about this for a while, guessing at voices across the yard beneath that circle of trees and fading light, YouAsDallas suggesting that the poetesses of the twenties really did love though they claimed not too, that it was just a posture of ambivalence to keep a good face when the love failed them. IAsAmarillo had little opinion on the matter. Because, YouAsDallas insisted, as all poetesses know, love is in a state of disequilibrium, you are always missing someone more than that someone is missing you, and if someone is your only one you can bet that you aren’t theirs, so the only thing to do is pretend it doesn’t matter. “Well,” IAs Amarillo said, and thought of your long tan arms reaching up into the trees like a giraﬀe. Crossing the deck of the library to the coﬀee table, swaggering in your cowboy way, YouAsDallas said, “I feel like a Raymond Carver story right now,” and ended our game. Or maybe it was YouAsYou that swaggered and spoke. That library was a like a compound, hidden from the road by a high wooden fence, but with everything strung up in Christmas lights. When we left we ran across the highway and stared into the ocean’s mirror of the sunset and every whisper was for California and our last days there.
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I must have written one hundred letters to you before the one I sent, and ninety-six of them were
that little olive bungalow alone with all of Ruth’s tacky things around me, and her stupid fat cat. You never
in my head and ninety-nine were
got to meet that stupid fat cat with its disgusting
rattling cough. His name is Cookie, Ruth calls him
I told the post mistress that
Cookie Monster, and he stared at me in a mournful
I didn’t care if your package
way for not petting him when he curled up next to
was treated indelicately and she
me on the air mattress. It was hardly my fault though,
asked why send it at all and I said
considering the chunks of fur that I’m sure are miss-
it was complicated. Her name
ing because of Ruth’s feeding him an entire can of
was Wanda, and she worked alone
tuna a day, so much that he got mercury poisoning. I
because there’s not much mail in the
could not have sat on that pink, thinning couch, sur-
Redwood Forest, apparently. Mostly
rounded by those trinkets and oil painting reproduc-
tions that you mocked endlessly, and thought politely
But I realized at that time, though I didn’t say it to Wanda, that it no longer was. Complicated, I mean. Only as complicated as me being in love with you and then not being in love. I sent it and that was the last thing I did in Northern California. You’ll notice a few things about that letter, I think.
of you and us. I needed to ﬁnd another place to write that letter, a not-us place. Of course, then again, I could have sent no letter at all. So where I ended up writing it was a place that wasn’t yours or ours, and can never be mine, and won’t really be anyone’s because who has an In-N-
Maybe it’s eloquence? And witty verbiage? And
Out Burger as a place, you know, and that’s what it
classic imagery? I spent the last few days record-
was, an In-N-Out Burger, just north of San Francisco.
ing every ray of sunlight and ocean wave crashing and foggy rocky coast so that I could bundle up
I was sitting in one of those molded, bolted down chairs, and my table was next to a homeless guy. He
this late season and send it to you perfectly
looked like an East Coast homeless guy for some
packaged and sprinkled with a subtext that re-
reason, just really stereotypical I guess, and he didn’t
minded you of how good our last summer was
say anything to me, but he was moving his mouth
so you’d come to the seemingly independent
like a dummy, so I put the words in them, one sen-
conclusion that you were still in love with me and you were currently getting ready to hibernate with the wrong woman. That’s Trisha’s term, the hibernating thing. She
tence, which was “My name is Bingo George.” Then he went back to eating his French Fries which I had bought for him, incidentally, and then later he said one other thing which was something
says that when you get that ﬁrst day that’s a little
like “Well, think of the one person you miss most and
cold in the shade you start to think of winter and
if it’s me that’s proving my point that I established
how you’re going to want to curl up with someone
previously which is that you ain’t never someone’s
and just hibernate. It’s like reversed cabin-fever.
only one and that person you are thinking of ﬁrst
Trisha’s my hairstylist.
never thinks of you ﬁrst and just like you they are
That’s one new thing. I’ve got a hairstylist now.
thinking of someone who isn’t thinking of them or
And it’s written in pen, the letter, which I think
missing them anyway.”
shows ﬁnality and conviction and certainty, and it’s
“Well,” I said to MyselfAsBingo, and thought of
full of witty and relevant observations on the imper-
your long tan arms reaching up into the trees like a
manence of life and how these days I can only cry
in libraries and in spaces that seem too large, either
And when I was done putting those words in Bingo
for fear of them swallowing me whole or for sadness
George’s mouth I wrote that one hundredth letter to
that they don’t.
you and then I waited to get to somewhere with an
And there are contractions because it is easy to miss the “not” of “do not” and “can not” and most importantly “will not,” and there are abstract allusions
interesting postmark, like Myers Flat, where Wanda works, along the Avenue of Giants. One last untruth in that letter is that I didn’t mind
and equally abstract illusions because you are away
your call last week after you found out I would be
from me and therefore can not see how indelicately I
staying with Ruth in that little olive house again,
am treating the line between truths and untruths.
although this time alone and only for one night. I no-
One truth is that I did not write to you from a
ticed, and minded, the delicacy you took when asking
place that we both know. I certainly did not write to
me to send you the guest key when I was done using
you from a place that was ours. I could have sent that
it and the little ceramic bird that you had bought sea-
letter, and that key and that ridiculous bird, straight
side and made sing for us all summer long with your
from Monterey, but then I would have had to sit in
delicate voice-thrown song.
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Pop-tarts in furs BY ROB SHEAFF
eading to the kitchen, I open the third cabinet from the left; breakfast items are in here. Though mainly composed of strictly sugarloaded cereals, occasionally a lone box of Pop-Tarts will be in residence. Raspberry today, very good. Upon initial assessment, the cardboard ﬂaps are interlocked, almost deﬁnitively proving that I have previously eaten from this box; thus, there have to be fewer than four shiny packets left. Immediately, rationing comes to mind - it’s Wednesday, I go shopping on Sundays, how can I best enjoy these Pop-Tarts while still spreading them over the next few days? An absolute number is necessary; I open the cardboard. There are three silvery gloves. I’m relieved. A reasonable plan materializes. I’ll eat one packet today, one Friday, then one Sunday morning. If I alternate each day, I won’t get anxious for Pop-Tarts, since I know I had either eaten them in the morning, or would eat them the next. Excellent. I plug in the toaster, always unplugged when not in use to prevent ﬁre, cautious. I remove one packet from the cardboard and begin sliding the shining wrapping oﬀ. Sliding the shining leather oﬀ a vicious lover, violent but cautious, warily relishing in the submission and victory aﬀorded to me. On edge from the constant threat of a misstep, on edge anticipating the approaching pleasure. One hand holding back the whip, one hand tearing through the leather, cautious, cautious, cautious. Rob Sheaﬀ in furs. Tarantulas do this when mating, except the whip is a set of fangs. Vaguely vagina dentata, maybe. There are two
outcomes: death or sex. It’s much more dangerous business, though no more serious. This digression is resolved when the foil is successfully penetrated and the two vaguely-pastries won. I set the toaster to a power of 2.5, an optimal setting for the business at hand, and inspect it closely. It’s clean enough to proceed; the danger of some hangeron catching ﬁre is negligible. Excellent. I carefully put both in, making sure to orient them in opposite directions so that the frosted sides are facing the outer burners in the toaster. This is vital for a successful reheating (they have already been pre-baked in a factory in some distant nowhere land). I slowly push down the lever to activate the toaster. Watching intently, the red coils slowly light up in that lovely, hypnotic way. Burning ﬁngers tickling the frosted coating and ﬁery teeth nipping at the bare underbelly. Two metal hands grip ﬁrmly on each side, naked, exposed, and ambiguously willing; chained up in a metal basement located in the exact center of my kitchen. All the wrath of a mass-produced toaster is slowly unleashed, a lightning storm of domestic fury. The murmurs of other appliances are now audible, the strange spectators in the damp coliseum of my kitchen light up. A refrigerator groans along with the blistering frosting, ﬁlling, pushing up through concrete like magma, ready to spill onto the grand streets of ﬂour. This continues. The microwave stares on with no small hint of jealousy, forbidden to touch the distressed, paling breakfast treats, conspicuously overlooked. Let him run wild, he doesn’t care. This continues; a rhythm establishes. The toaster, ever the exhibitionist, gleefully delights in the voyeurs surrounding him. Pushing on feverishly, skillfully weaving to the exact breaking point as the buzzing crowd watches. Pushing, Pushing, Pushing, P-USSSS-H. ing. Breakfast in the doldrums. The tension raises unbearably, nervous, climax hits, SNAPPPP, silence….. the
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metal Venus Flytrap relaxes and the Pop-Tarts are released. Excellent. I open the second cabinet from the left, dishes are stored in here. I spy a familiar cheap plastic plate, covered in marker. Mutant family members glide across, penguins, torsos with limbs. No hands. Lines. Crushed faces. Bizarro hair. I made this at age three. People aren’t penguins. The Pop-Tarts shouldn’t be too hot anymore, I better check, cautious. Test 1: ﬁnger on for one second, oﬀ. Test 2: ﬁnger on for two seconds, oﬀ. Test 3: ﬁnger on for ﬁve seconds, oﬀ. I pick them up. Slowly looking around the edges, running my ﬁnger to feel the texture, very gentle, inspecting for overheating. Nothing. Excellent. I kindly run my tongue across the frosting. It’s just about white, slightly oﬀset by a purplishpink hue. While probably useless, the sprinkles
ﬁlling ﬁrst. I realize I have dramatically decreased the enjoyment of eating the remaining shell of a Pop-Tart. However, drinking the ﬁlling without ﬂoury distraction was far more enjoyable than consuming the Pop-Tart as a whole. The trade-oﬀ is intriguing, but what’s done is done, I suppose. I eat the shell, uneventfully, boringly. The ﬁrst PopTart is now ﬁnished. I continue. I stare down the second and ﬁnal PopTart. He sees me all right. A stand-oﬀ. I think. Self-doubt. As quickly as it began, my fantasy combusts. Paranoia pours through synapses. Am I hungry enough? Will I be the ill-fated Labrador Retriever who gluttoned himself into a ruptured stomach, unaware that the option of abstaining exists? Is consumption so ingrained in my most primal instincts that I will continue to eat, even pathologically, as long as something
Bumble beeing. Hurtling into windshields. The Pop-Tart. White on white. Porcelain on ﬂour. Teeth like a lance. are aesthetically pleasing and, when paired with the warm sandpaper scrape against my tongue, I think they’re necessary. I continue to explore, appreciating what new nuances I can discover. Slowly, absorbing the heat given over, I shed the frosting with ﬁngers, softly, pulling it back, carefully removing the Pop-Tart’s iced underthings. I slide my ﬁngers across. Down to business. Raspberry ﬁlling begins slowly oozing from the pores. Sweating. Sweeting. Sweetly. Lurching forward with all the grace of an errant cicada. Bumble beeing. Hurtling into windshields. The Pop-Tart. White on white. Porcelain on ﬂour. Teeth like a lance. Bleeding the Pop-Tart. Subtly impaling as the raspberry exits. My tongue cleaning out the last bits of a pink slime trap. A husk. The kind of dried-out husks spiders leave on webs. Flytraps between their leaves. Vampires beside coﬃns. When they’re lazy. Or tired. After this is over, something hits me. I begin to brieﬂy lament my decision to suck out the
is in front of me? On the other hand, will I hate myself for not eating the delicious Pop-Tart? Will I spend the rest of the day bitterly regretting the abandoned wooden fuck shack of glory, decaying as a thousand cars roll across the side of the highway, or as a breeze rolls across my kitchen? Termites tear through the lacquerless siding. Prometheus v. Epimetheus. Forethought v. afterthought. Regret v. regret. Hopelessness sets in. Pandora’s Box, empty. My choice is meaningless; no discernable good will result. This glorious morning has completely crashed down with an Olympian thunderbolt of shattered cool. Every single bit of vacuous joy gleaned from my adventure desiccates, evaporates, and then laughingly ﬂoats away. The Pop-Tart does not need to be very keen to see my obvious failings, my once-sturdy poker face in shambles. I eat half and go back to bed.
82 issue 5 IF
POEMS BY NICOLETTE TELECH ART BY ADELE MEYER
She knows something of solitude, skims an arrowed button, owns a potted plant. Her desk is littered with news. News read by big rimmed rosy bifocals. All day, it seemed, that cat slept in her lap like a trees leaves in summer or a bird on a seed patch. She wheels forward, three paces, after supper to put a tub of margarine back in the fridge. There are banana peels, ice tea bottles from a husband that isnâ€™t home littering the counter of some beer garden in an old city where the homemade food wonâ€™t come from the homeland much longer.
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Women should have curve signs lines i asked her to describe me in one word: paisley powders burning in corners of houses pink televisions without screens thirty eight seconds on microwave and is that corn banana yarn or even a shade of yellow at all? rings across the ocean from diving hairs feathers dust-mites cotton i saw an egret and wondered if she had to listen to electro to clean run that vacuum up and down paisley pop hair on top of lake warblers dippers wrens these words: are they the corners of my mouth the upper edge that hangs without falling?
I go back to my tulip house Yellow pebble ﬁlled sand on upper east coast I am thirteen sitting in it, white lace curtains blowing past my head, mixing with hair from a tiny tuliped cabin behind me. Rollerblading through a city full of crossdressers, gay bars, I buy a painting at a gallery as big as my kitchen, a Newfoundland, beautiful. I am watching three men kiss on a porch swing facing the street I am thirteen I am happy. My father thinks Cheerios taste like cardboard, my mother’s favorite wine like kerosene. I go back to my tulip house. Waves crash through front windows, screenless the curtains continue to blow. No television here on my Massachusetts’s cape. I indulge in a love of or for water lapping my toes on their inside, can barely pull myself away to my tiny closet of a bedroom where I make toy soldiers out of red colored cardboard. Walking through streets, I buy mint chip ice cream with pity change. My hair a ﬂame of humidity. Men scarce. I pet a barking dog on the corner. I am twenty one and making dinner naked. No, I am wearing a maroon bandana and lip balm. My thighs are sore. My body is screaming to lose a quarter or two of itself or gain a child or fall in love with its on skin again, and again
84 issue 5 IF POEMS BY RYAN KAUFFMAN
PEAK POEM I push through the helicopter cathedral the left bus stop pillow or the zebra-tiled convenience store ceiling no one looks up from a shame between glance from the Eden ﬁg leaf f rom theMonet hung up the wall blank ceiling shoves ignorance dow n our votes to our shoulders too large from too much press too many reps sets against the medicine made from bull liver Hubbert Hubble consecration of an unend ing desire a political unconsciousness bough t with disease and the terrible plight of yearn ing of reaching for God’s hand always that pain ted inch away where years have yet to dry and the holy shit I just realized my whole life has been inter interrupted never comes soon enough nor does the end of civi lized participation the Titanic Tristan and Isolde IMAX my father has worked at the same job the same road the same ﬂesh the same crimes for thirty-ﬁve years or more and I have barely begun to scrape the ceiling of that normal curve kind of desperation and humankindness
85 issue 5 IF
I su ďŹ€er throu the hel icopter c athedral fo r you I shal l push throug h the left bus s top pillow so I m ight reach your be droom door with an ounce of humanity left We can talk now of poss ibility and the front door's being unaware of the back the future is on our side this side of the peak we've never b een so sure of anything not even that it is our forms that keep us ti ed to inability to paralysis there is n o more sense in being free we are born and then we live and then we die we nev er hold these truths to be self-evident we
PEAK POEM 9 originalmag.com
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text: Eoin Koepﬁnger illustration: Maxwell Rush Beehner
INTERVAL 1: The Prophet and the Madman I was standing outside the chapel on ****** Street at an early 3 a.m. when I encountered a homeless man cursing a statue of Christ. He was a tall white man with long hair tied back in a shoddy pony tail splaying out the back of his ratty baseball cap. He did not attempt to vandalize or even touch the icon, but merely stood and hurled exclamatory
insults at it for a multitude of iniquities for which he blamed it. Though the statue could not turn the other cheek, it managed to uphold its image by maintaining its outstretched arms and compassionate stare (albeit chiseled). Searching for creative inspiration had been hard enough the past month that ﬁnding not one but two exceptional subjects this night
seemed quite a novelty. I asked him why he was so concerned with the fully-sculpted ﬁgure, but not the cruciﬁxion eﬃgy above the chapel. He explained that he could not bear to insult a dying man. Had my notebook and pen been ready I would have attempted to copy down some of the monologue. I do, however, remember how he concluded his tirade: by smash-
ing his paper-bagged bottle of liquor upon the pavement and quoting Julian the Apostate:
There’s a dive bar down near the river, not too far from a puking factory. It’s the kind of bar that has those windows composed of a grid of thick glass cubes, seemingly impossible to break through, yet at least one has a shattered hole
that looks suspiciously like a bullet made it. I came here to fulﬁll the sorry stereotype of the writer who puts himself in real danger just to make his story more “authentic.” I tried to dress as disguised and lowkey as I could, even donning a
too-large trucker hat to obscure my face, but it’s pretty clear that this is a 45-and-over hangout. Oh well, I’ll just try to ﬁnd the nuttiest person here and
down next to a grizzled fellow who may have been missing some teeth by the way he spoke. “Man, them gas prices and that drink tax must be really breakin’ your bank for you to come here.”
Robby is 51 years old. He is sometimes happily married with two wonderful children. He won’t tell me yet where he works. He’s more interested in
telling me exploits * of his*youth. “Acid ain’t nothing compared to sniﬃng smoke. I once climbed to the top of that factory down there’s smokestack
one dangerous confronts me. I sat *just to inhale the fumes.
I grew wings and ﬂew away. I chilled with some angels who thought I was pretty cool. I woke up on the river shore and met this
“Thou has conquered, O Galilean.”
A PARABLE mermaid. I married her and that bitch won’t leave me alone since.”
AN ASIDE BEFORE I RETURN TO THE NARRATIVE En route here I saw an individual on the bus with a tabloid magazine speaking of a celebrity who apparently tried to commit suicide. “We could only be so lucky,” I mused before mentally retracting my statement. I reminded myself that when celebrities die prematurely (is that possible?), they get an extra shelf life of at least 10 years on the media
The more exceedingly disgusting and irrelevant the celebrity is,
the more the media resources will be taken up on reporting the death of this grossly insigniﬁcant smear of tissue, while real news ﬂounders trying to convince the reporting bouncer that it should be on the VIP list. America is rife and festering
with this cult of the crestfallen pop icon. The unwarranted curiosity in the lives of these “people” is perhaps more morbid than hanging a miniature execution device around one’s neck. The most degenerate libertine writer could not have invented a fetish quite as disgusting as the one that violates my sensory organs every time I venture out for a carton of ce-
real milk. I declare a personal damnatio memoriae upon ALL washed-up coke-sniﬀers. So please… you, whose name I dare not mention upon pain of self-inﬂicted death, let thyself fade into obscurity, and then (only then)
die quietly of a diet pill overdose.
87 issue 5 IF
88 issue 5 IF
CENTERPIECE - A Night of Horror “Picture this, “You’re in one of those college-town nightclub/bars full of polo-shirted date-rapists and wine cooler heirodules. There’s a full moon out. A sinister fog creeps out from the river and into every crevice of the Chamber Pot District. A street vendor selling grilled beef kielbasa is the ﬁrst victim. Inside the establishment, debauchery and bliss (accompanied with copious ignorance) is the law of the land. That is, until tonight’s special uninvited Guest arrives to perform his hit single, “The Colon Cleansing,” of which the evening’s patrons are currently unaware, but will soon ﬁnd to be the most pressing issue on their minds. Unfortunately, it cannot be pirated from the internet to the safety of your overpriced All the while, the Owner, the only person with enough wit to combat this menace, has just ﬁnished counting his money from the previous night and is now ready to launch into action. It’s not that he cares about the lives of these people; rather, he is losing sales each time the Guest vacuums a brain that would have been so willing to part with its cash for low-quality alcohol and a chance to copulate. He now ﬁnally springs from behind the bar counter with an assault riﬂe he carried in preparation for such invasions and introduces our Hero to a lead chugging contest. A ﬂurry of explosions later, the fog recedes from the pub, and the lights re-advance. On the ﬂoor, amidst spread-eagle brain wrappers, the Guest twitches in death throes. He turns his head to the side and
telephone-slash-media device. Speaking of pirated music, the generic faux-hip-hop dance product composed of previously existing hooks stops abruptly to herald the arrival the Guest. The door bursts open letting in the night’s menacing haze as the lights dim and our Hero makes his entrance. He is not your typical client at such an establishment. In fact, you might say he seems rather out of place considering that his toddler-sized body resembles an amalgamation of a crocodilian and a chimpanzee. His head, devoid of any humanizing features such as eyes, narrows into a long, rigid proboscis ending in a razor sharp beak. The Guest sets to work immediately, scampering over to the underfed woman who had been dancing the most
obnoxiously tonight. He crawls up her body and perches upon her back in the posture of a mosquito before inserting his snout through her brain stem. Unknown to her, his saliva contains a corrosive chemical which helps to liquefy the cerebral matter he now sips with greedy hunger. He ﬁnishes in minutes, yet his stomach still purrs with appetite. Her dancing partner is the next course, followed by the dumbfounded DJ. The Guest hops from drunkard to drunkard, ﬁlling is bottomless belly. All the while, he emits a buzzing chitter from some oral organ. A few of the brighter humans have attempted to make way for the door, but the evil fog, our Hero’s accomplice, promptly shuts and fastens the door, while rendering
squeezes the contents of his stomach through his proboscis like a sausage-making machine. Another DJ arrives to take over the turntables. The patrons slowly but surely resume their previous activities. The beat goes on.
I left at closing time, just in time to watch the ground beneath the bar open up and swallow the place with the slow, savoring suck of a child grasping a lollipop in its soft and tiny ﬁst. You may also imagine, if you wish, a neighborhood witch cackling, for she has poisoned said lollipop and distributed many other contaminated treats into the bags and pillowcases of costumed brats.
I left at closing time, just in time to watch the ground beneath the bar open up and swallow the place with the slow, savoring suck of a child grasping a lollipop in its soft and tiny ﬁst. You may also imagine, if you wish, a neighborhood witch cackling, for she has poisoned said lollipop and distributed many other contaminated treats into the bags and pillowcases of costumed brats. *
the windows impenetrable. Two-thirds left to devour, so sad the ﬁrst-third feels but a light snack in his stomach. Next, the Guest hones in on a 30-something jailbait-hunter who is cowering under a table and frantically praying to his god. The creature’s buzzing chatter now ﬂuctuates into a pattern resembling digitized human speech and informs the hors d’oeuvre that it was precisely God who sent him to thin the herd of human ﬁlth. He then folds his hands and recites grace: ‘Bless us, O Lord, in these, Thy gifts, which we are about to receive from Thy bounty. Amen.’
EPILOGUE: A MOTIF OF HARMFUL SENSATION I suppose it was inevitable that the police would arrive to quiet my most infuriated friend. Yes, by this point, after witnessing nearly 20 minutes of uninterrupted polemics, I felt I made some subtle connection with the vagrant - a bizarre, somewhat disturbing, but ultimately benevolent bond of spirituality, though he had rarely acknowledged my presence. And to think – after all this time – his foe remained far from defeated, had not even batted an eye! O tenacious sculpture! Ah well, the hobo did not resist much aside from assaulting one oﬃcer’s pelvic region. After they had packed him into the back of the wagon, he turned to the Reader and issued this Prophecy: “Stop! Cease reading immediately! You know not the danger you tread with each word you pass. Know you not the truth of this document? …That the author, stricken with disgust for his progeny, aborted the embryo, tossing the anencephalic stillbirth into a ravenous furnace? Had you only been there to witness the lapping tongues of ﬂame brown and crumble the text from the edges, boring holes through its center! These very words dissolved into a blackened then graying powder! And yet its existence persists! Surely such an omen cannot be anything but unsavory! So I urge you, dear naïve reader…cease your rumination! Nothing good may come of this. Cease, lest this document corrode your mind, rape your morals, shoehorn nonsense into your psyche! ….Cease! Cease! Cease!”
He began to play a pipe, and the rats followed as they drove him away.
text and photography by Julia Sinn
90 issue 5 IF
Drive far enough toward the foot of any slope in the city and you’ll ﬁnd Pittsburgh’s paper streets roads that become staircases. There are 334 paper streets in city bounds, according to step-obsessed Robert Regan, who logged and mapped all the city’s staircases in his book “The Steps of Pittsburgh.” The world of paper streets is like the initiation secret of a hidden, locals-only club that GPS can’t seem to navigate. Yet with my intense scrutiny of GoogleMaps and the neurotic planning of my step-searching journey, I realized that paper streets truly are not hard to ﬁnd:
just head for the hills.
previous page: looking up 57th St. in Lawrenceville
In Upper Lawrenceville, paper streets are like sidewalks. Houses are settled at their sides, mailboxes and all. Residents park their cars where the street ends and the steps begin, and walk the rest of the way home.
From flat ground in the South Side it can be dizzying to look up at the stairs climbing between houses where the streets grow too steep.
The slopes of the South Side call for steps in place of sidewalks, like here, where Oakley Way weaves up the hill that leads oďŹ€ of paved, car-accessible 27th Street.
Oakley Way above Josephine St.
Stairs lead up Eleanor St. on the South Side.
92 issue 5 IF The way down James St. in Fineview on the North Side.
If the climb from the bottom doesnâ€™t weaken your knees, the view from the top will. Paper streets provide a view of the cityscape to rival those of the motorized inclines. When satisfaction and shallow, stabbing breaths (the kind of feeling that only come from pounding concrete three hundred times) combine with the panorama from the paper streets - itâ€™s the way Pittsburgh does Rocky.
93 issue 5 IF
Monastery Way at the peak of South Side Slopes.
Graib St., oďŹ€ Compromise St. on the North Side, is a sheer drop to I-279.
94 issue 5 IF
In some places, the staircases replace impossible sidewalks,
Christopher and 57th Streets intersect on the side of a slope in Upper Lawrenceville.
snaking at the curb of precipitous streets. Some streets just narrow into pathways that sprout steps, most of them carving tunnels in the surrounding foliage. There are entire sections of neighborhoods that are built on intertwining paths of staircases, stretching up and around the hills like a crazy Dr. Seuss fantasy. Lawrenceville and Stanton Heights connect through a network of streets that are stairs. Go far enough up on the South Side and the only way to go is stairs.
95 issue 5 IF
The depths of South Oakland and Panther Hollow boast some of most treacherous and commuterworn paper streets; here, the intersection of Romeo and Frasier.
96 issue 5 IF
The cracking concrete steps and rustedthrough handrails of the paper streets live in need of deep TLC, some more than others. These staircases are old, and it shows. But even the most disintegrated railings have been painted brightly, if once upon a time, in teals and oranges that glow like ďŹ‚ares on the sides of Pittsburghâ€™s hills.
97 issue 5 IF
illustration by Maxwell Rush Beehner
98 issue 5 CG
the smallest community guide for the smallest community yet
Photos by Molly Burkett and Sarah Bartley
99 issue 5 CG
square REGENT SQUARE 101: AN INTRODUCTION BY HILARY NYKWEST Ensconced between the tenacity of steel and constant waves of technology there is Regent Square. The scene is unarguably calm. In fact, there seems to be no evidence of arguing in the atmosphere. What are visible are aesthetics, comfort, and roads lost in time. In a world of corporation and assembly lines, this is one of the vestiges of Pittsburgh that got away. Rays of light meander with the wind and cascade through jaunty trees, pouring onto the quaint sidewalks. Remnants of brick roadways and bucolic alleys weave throughout the nearly hidden community that sits below Squirrel Hill. Regent Square is a living portrait of where the wilderness of Frick Park and the embrace of rustic living merge. Yet plastered to this canvas is a ﬂagrant ﬁgure of spunk and modern ambiance. It is within these veiled streets that you ﬁnd man’s most atavistic qualities kicking in. You cannot experience Regent Square with just one of your senses, you must welcome them all. The ﬂavor of the air changes with the distance you walk. At ﬁrst the square tastes like a beautifully crafted pizza with the perfect balance of grease, garlic, cheese, and unbeatable crust. But further in your travels you may inhale the ﬂavor of freshly brewed coﬀee. There is as much diversity in Regent Square’s food as the shapes amongst the leaves and twigs that coat its sidewalks. And where your nose and mouth cannot lead you, your eyes will. Art, ﬁlm, and inimitable merchandise are ﬁxed among the borders of nature. Independently owned shops ﬁll South Braddock Street and there’s not a monopoly or chain in sight. Regent Square can be considered a place you could travel to when the variant is exactly what you’re looking for. Your search could lead you to the eclectic corner thrift-clothing store or the gloriously audacious bricolage of LeMix. The only thing you may have trouble ﬁnding is a People magazine. You are greeted with sounds and sights of the unexpected. The soundtrack to your entrance is a mix of distinct birdsong, amiable chatter, and stereo music sauntering out the doors of open buildings. An explosion of art smiles at you from a wall of the corner convenience store. But nothing beats the salutation from an avuncular wizard festooned with a grape headdress ﬁxed to an apartment building’s wall. Regent Square slows down the unforgiving pace of our modern time. It is resilient, provincial, mystically edgy, and a twist within Pittsburgh everyone should experience.
100 issue 5 CG
BY LARISSA GULA AND PRIYANKA KAURA
alking around Regent Square with a notebook and recorder in hand, it wasn’t hard to see a kind of charm in the community. The houses were rustic and well maintained, the sidewalks were clean, the side streets were quiet, and almost every passerby was friendly enough to smile or say hello. Mothers took their children to the playground, and multiple dog owners passed by with their variety of companions. Five residents were kind enough to be interviewed for this issue, giving their opinions on why they live where they live.
Q: WHY REGENT SQUARE?
Q: WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE THING TO DO?
John M. (John spoke to us while reading on the grass of Frick Park): I just really like the area. I like the proximity to the park, I also like the business district. It’s on a bus line and I work pretty close by.
Rich: “Go to the movies if I stay in the neighborhood. There’s a movie theater…run by Pittsburgh Filmmakers.”
Rich (Rich spoke to us while sitting in front of his favorite cafe): It’s a great neighborhood. There’s a lot of diversity, a lot of students and young couples who have lived here for decades. The houses are nice, there are a lot of nice things. A little bit of culture – Frick Park is a great place to walk, too. John O. (this kindly older gentleman spoke to us while walking his little dog on a side street): It’s a very attractive community. My wife and I run a business and it doesn’t have the same tax rate that the rest of Pittsburgh has. That and we like living in this area. It’s a very beautiful area with many tree-lined streets and old houses. That’s deﬁnitely a plus. Plus the little downtown area has a revival theater. It has a great little café for breakfast or lunch. Cindy & David Convenrenel. spoke to us together while walking their dogs in Frick Park. Cindy: “We love it here because it’s so central to everything. We can walk to Squirrel Hill, if there’s a terrible snowstorm we can still walk to a restaurant or walk to Giant Eagle. We can be downtown in no time. We love the fact that we don’t have to get in our car to do something. It actually has sidewalks, and it’s in close proximity to the parks.”
John O.: “Oh, in the summer time, just sit around on the porch, and have dinner on the porch. Or talk to friends. Things like that.”
Q: ARE YOU EVER BORED IN REGENT SQUARE? (Both Convenrenels virtually screamed “No!” at the idea.) Rich: “It depends on what you like to do. It’s a great place to meet people. I especially promote it to people who are single because it’s a very friendly neighborhood. It’s easy to make friends here.” John M.: “One thing I like about it is that it’s not really self-suﬃcient. There’s not a grocery store right in Regent Square, there’s not a pharmacy. So you can’t isolate yourself in Regent Square, ever. You have to explore other neighborhoods to get all of your needs met. That prevents you from getting into a rut where you are pretty much just dwelling in the same area. It’s deﬁnitely not the place for a Friday night life. It’s pretty quiet. Everyone has dogs, it’s pretty much chock full of…Obama voters.”
Regent Square was a collection of farm properties until 1863, when Judge William Wilkins (who later served in both the Senate and the House of Representatives, and became Secretary of War in 1844 under tenth President John Tyler) bought six hundred and ﬁfty acres of the area. The territory originalmag.com was named the Devon Plan until realtor and philanthropist William E. Harmon (whose ﬁnancial generosity in Lebanon, PA goes virtually
101 issue 5 CG
Q: WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PLACE TO HANG OUT? Rich: “I’d have to say the park. It’s an escape from the city. I live in the city, I work in the city. I can just walk a few blocks away and I don’t hear any traﬃc.” John O.: “I’d have to say the Square Cafe, where there’s a very good brunch. Secondly would be the movie theater where they show old ﬁlms on Sunday night and ﬁrst-run ﬁlms too.”
Q: ANY RECCOMENDATIONS FOR THOSE WHO ARE NEW OR VISITING? John O.: “I would say wander around the area. It’s a very pleasant area to stroll around.” John M.: “I deﬁnitely think one of the big draws is Frick Park. It’s the most ideal neighborhood to have access to the park. And then dinner. If you have a lot of money go to Lagoon. It’s an excellent little bistro type place. Get some beers or catch a movie afterwards.”
Q: NO COMPLAINTS? John O.: “School taxes, but that’s a whole other ball of wax.” Cindy : “Well because we live on the main street. No, I actually love it here. There is no other neighborhood I want to live in.” John M.: “Braddock can be really busy so that’s one drawback. I moved right on Braddock and the traﬃc is pretty constant from 6 a.m. going all the way to midnight. I don’t have any other complaints. The only thing that really comes up is the coﬀee house isn’t adequate in terms of the hours. …It opens up early enough for people to go to the Cafe pretty early but it closes very early on the weekdays and weekend. It’s sort of the only show in town in terms of that.” Rich: “No. I own a house here so I’m pretty well planted. It’s a nice alternative to other areas. It’s cheaper and it’s very safe. Parking can be diﬃcult. It’s a walk area.”
Q: WOULD YOU EVER MOVE OUT OF REGENT SQUARE? Cindy C.: “For the beach. If I could live by the beach, maybe. It’s just really convenient. We’re really, really spoiled.”
unmatched) purchased it and renamed it Regent Place in 1919. Exactly when or why William E. Harmon decided to change “place” to “square” is unknown. In the same year, sixty-nine year-old millionaire industrialist and art patron Henry Clay Frick died of a heart attack and left one hundred and ﬁfty acres to the city of Pittsburgh. Although Frick was known as “America’s Most Hated Man,” named one of the “Worst American
102 issue 5 CG
Wet noses sniﬀ ground
Past glows like sunspots
teeth bare through a smile
padded feet explore the square
dusty antique window panes
wrinkled faces split open
every man’s best friend
nostalgia holds fast
at youth passing by
HAIKUS AND PHOTOS BY MOLLY BURKETT
CEO’s of All Time” by the once-notorious Portfolio magazine, and only barely survived an assasination attempt by famed anarchists Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman for indirectly murdering several of his employees, he held a soft spot for his only daughter, Helen Clay Frick. Helen was a rebellious young heiress with a deep love for the outdoors (and her mare, Patricia), and requested a park for her seventeenth birthday/introduction to society.
103 issue 5 CG
A History of the Teeth of a Stranger FICTION BY LIAM SWEENEY ILLUSTRATION BY MAXWELL RUSH BEEHNER
I saw Jerry for the ﬁrst time on Forbes Avenue. I was sitting on the short wall at the corner near the clothing stand, trying to decide whether to spend the night with my girlfriend, paralyzed in indecision. He was walking in kibed bare feet against the traﬃc, hunched and clumsy like a turtle might be on its hind legs. His eyes were sunken into his forehead. You know the way an eclipse is like an opaque version of the moon? Those were his eyes, and his skin looked moist, pale, as if it were subterranean. I noticed he held his pants up, and he wore an unbuttoned ﬂannel shirt. I could see the excess of the waist of the pants hanging over his hands as he passed the clothing truck and went out of my sight. I turned my attention back to the conversation I was having, and eventually decided to walk to upper campus and stay at her house. We passed 7-11. There he was. He shuﬄed into one of the windowed nooks of the sidewalk and bent down to pick up a stray Five Guys drink. I turned, terriﬁed and fascinated, as one of his hands reached for the drink, allowing the fabric of his pants to slump down around the middle of his thighs. This revealed his anus buried in black hair like an axis dividing the same moist pale skin.
He ran from the witness, looking over his shoulder. By the time he turned his head around he had made it to the street corner and, in fact, was concussed by the street sign. When he woke up he was missing a tooth. A stranger incident occurred a dozen years earlier. Jerry was asleep on the street. A man in a suit shook him awake and oﬀered him two thousand dollars for every tooth he could pull out of his mouth. Jerry asked the man, “Why’re you oﬀering so much money for teeth?” The man said, “I have plenty of money. I’m looking for new ﬁelds of entertainment.” After a puzzled look from Jerry he added, “You could say my sense of humor is…esoteric.” They went into a white bathroom with white ﬂorescent lights and blue toilet stalls with yellow-stained toilet seats. The man handed Jerry a pair of pliers. Jerry stopped in the middle of trying to get the third one out; the fellow had a larky sort of grin on his face. He scribbled out a check for four grand. The memory of the blue ink on the white check, the red blood on the white porcelain sink, the blue bathroom stalls and the yellow-stained toilet seats, and the white man in the black suit all doused in the white ﬂorescent light has become a regretful one to Jerry. The money was gone at the end of the year.
The last tooth Jerry lost was on the corner of Overton and East End in Regent Square. At the corner of the street there is a fenced back yard. The fence is a chain-link fence with green planks slipped between the links obscuring the view of the garden. On the outside of the fence there are a few sparse purple ﬂowers. Above it the second story of the brick house can be seen. A few yards past the fence but before you come to the alleyway in between Eastend and Burdock is a used condom, losing its translucence, blending in with the sidewalk. Jerry used that condom as a vessel for his semen. He intended to throw it over the fence, but was interrupted and dropped it in the spot where it rests now when a car pulled up next to him on Overton and he heard a scream of disgust.
The story of how Jerry lost his ﬁrst tooth is, perhaps, the most noteworthy. You see, Jerry had previously lived in the brick house at the corner of Overton and East End in Regent Square, the one with the green planks between the holes in the chain link fence and the sparse purple ﬂowers on the outside. It was the home of his in-laws. He was twenty-seven and recently laid oﬀ. He and his wife were on the way to a sonogram on 376 West. He was listening to The Beach Boys and coming around that Oakland bend to see the Pittsburgh skyline. A forest green Waste Management truck didn’t see him on the inside and changed lanes. The steering wheel robbed him of the ﬁrst one; the truck never noticed.
So upon her father’s death, the one hundred and ﬁfty acres and a two-million dollar trust fund towards upkeep and expansion became the very belated birthday present Regent Square residents now enjoy as their back yards (Helen was also responsible for the generous donation of “Frick Acres,” on top of which the beloved Cathedral of Learning was built). Largely thanks to the creation of Frick Park and America’s mostoriginalmag.com
104 issue 5 CG
BRADDOCK & WEST HUTCHINSON On wires that carry current to not so current buildings, perched birds look down their noses at grass growing through pavement cracks.
On a two-brick bus stop throne, perched humans squint through swept bangs at “dirty poetry” taped to dirty lampposts. If alleyway valleys between brick cliﬀs could talk, how would the stories sound?
successful harnesser of electricity, George Westinghouse, encouraging his employees (executive, managerial and low-level) to build homes in the area, Regent Square became the leafy and refreshingly economically-diverse (some of the homes are opulent mansions and some are the “working man’s” “Hulley” home) place that we chose to focus on for Issue 5’s community guide!
105 issue 5 CG
CONCEPT ART GALLERY By Ryan O’Shea
Imagine the We Sell Your Stuﬀ on eBay store from “The 40-Year-Old Virgin.” Now take away Jonah Hill’s shiny silver boots and replace them with the ﬁnest art and furniture in Pittsburgh. That’s the Concept Art Gallery, a ﬁne art and antique shop located on South Braddock Avenue in Regent Square. Owner Sam Berkovitz has been in business here for over thirty-ﬁve years, and four times a year he empties his store of top-quality sculptures, paintings, chairs, and carpets in a live auction. “The four “D”s, death, divorce, downsizing, and debt,” said Marianne Chijner, who was working at the shop during one of my visits, “are how we get a lot of the property.” Don’t get too attached to the beautiful works of art, though, because you can’t buy anything until it goes up for auction, including Concept Art Gallery’s impressive selection of Japanese woodcuts. Not only are some of the items from the Far East, but so are some of the buyers. The online catalog and Internet bidding make it a truly global market. “Our buyers range from local collectors and dealers to art enthusiasts from Australia,” said Marianne. For those who are fonder of the Pittsburgh art scene, the Gallery also represents the regions established and emerging artists, including Albert F. King, who is hailed by the gallery as Pittsburgh’s top still life painter during the 19th century. One of his works, an oil on canvas depicting various fruits, was recently auctioned oﬀ by Concept with a starting bid of $19,000. This luxury art isn’t limited to the wealthy dealer and collector, however. Some of the items have a starting bid as low as $10, far below their appraised values. Much of this artwork is found through their appraisal service, which gives sellers and buyers a good estimate as to the value of the items. Sam is a licensed auctioneer and certiﬁed member of the Appraisers Association of America, so it’s not all guessing games. Marianne is quick to point out that the store doesn’t own any of the artwork or antiques - they are all on consignment and are simply housed in the gallery for preview. In perhaps one of the most impressive (albeit dizzying) collections of 90 degree angles known to man, the gallery features an entire corner comprised of sample picture
frames, an indication of the gallery’s professional framing services. With plenty of experience handling and preserving the valuable art and antiques, Concept has framed for regional museums and galleries as well as for the ﬁrst time buyer. Finding the shop isn’t hard. Located right beside other self proclaimed “high end” shops in Regent Square, Concept Art Gallery’s refurbished two-story complex gives it a lot of natural light and a nice contemporary atmosphere, a ﬁtting juxtaposition with the natural, homey feel of much of its property. The knowledge and passion of the staﬀ is evident and, art enthusiast or not, Concept Art Gallery oﬀers Pittsburghers a cultural melting pot for ﬁne art and storied antiques from around the world. Whether you’re looking to buy or just want to enjoy the art during a preview opportunity, Concept is one of Regent Square’s hidden gems.
The Original Magazine is a semiannual magazine covering the arts scene in Pittsburgh.