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INSIDE: WEAPONIZING CITY BUILDING CODES /PAGE 4 VOL. 2 ISSUE 24

Nov. 26, 2019 - Dec. 9, 2019 PGHCURRENT

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STAFF Publisher/Editor: Charlie Deitch Charlie@pittsburghcurrent.com Associate Publisher: Bethany Ruhe Bethany@pittsburghcurrent.com

EDITORIAL Managing Editor: Meg Fair Meg@pittsburghcurrent.com

CONTENTS Vol. II Iss. XXIV Nov. 26, 2019

COVER STORY 15 | Gift Guide

Art Director: Larissa Mallon Larissa@pittsburghcurrent.com

NEWS 4 | Faulty Inspections? 6 | The Champ Is Here 7 | Brewed On Grant 8 | Checks And Balances

Music Editor: Margaret Welsh Margaret@pittsburghcurrent.com

OPINION 9 | All-Inclusive

Visuals Editor: Jake Mysliwczyk Jake@pittsburghcurrent.com Staff Writer, Arts: Amanda Reed Amanda@pittsburghcurrent.com Columnists: Jessica Semler info@pittsburghcurrent.com Craft Beer Writer: Day Bracey info@pittsburghcurrent.com Contributing Writers: Jody DiPerna, Nick Eustis, Mike Shanley, Justin Vellucci, David DeAngelo, Emerson Andrews, Tom Leturgey, Emma Christley, Nick Keppler, Matt Petras, Hugh Twyman info@pittsburghcurrent.com

ART 13 | 14 | 27 | 17 | 32 |

Visual Transformation Industrial Arts Of The People Latest Dance The Can't Miss

MUSIC 34 | Year of Growth 35 | Family Trip 36 | First/Last FOOD 37 | Day Drinking EXTRA 38 | Savage Love

Logo Design: Mark Addison

ADVERTISING Vice President of Sales: Paul Klatzkin Paul@pittsburghcurrent.com Senior Account Executive: Andrea James Andrea@pittsburghcurrent.com

CREDIT:

COVER ART BY: JOE MRUK THE FINE PRINT

Sales Associate: Kiara Cooper Kiara@pittsburghcurrent.com

The contents of the Pittsburgh Current are © 2019 by Pittsburgh Current, LLC. All Rights Reserved. No portion of this publication shall be duplicated or reprinted without the express-written consent of Pittsburgh Current LLC.The Pittsburgh Current is published twice monthly beginning August 2018.

Sales Associate: Zabriawn Smith Zabriawn@pittsburghcurrent.com

The opinions contained in columns and letters to the editors represent the views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Pittsburgh Current ownership, management and staff. The Pittsburgh Current is an independently owned and operated print and online media company produced in the heart of Pittsburgh’s Beechview neighborhood, 1665 Broadway Ave., Pittsburgh, PA., 15216. 412-204-7248. Email us or don’t: info@pittsburghcurrent.com.

PITTSBURGH CURRENT | NOVEMBER 26, 2019 | 3


NEWS

Sheila Ali shows off the citations and the work she's been doing at her Shadyside home. (Current Photos by Jake Mysliwczyk)

FAULTY INSPECTIONS? CITY HOMEOWNERS ARE BEING'BLUDGEONED' BY WEAPONIZED BUILDING CODES

BY NICK KEPPLER - PITTSBURGH CURRENT CONTRIBUTING WRITER INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM

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heila Ali sits at a table in her backyard, clutching a folder labeled “city fuckers.” It’s stuffed with building code citations and letters from city officials concerning the small house she owns on a back street in Shadyside. She’s waiting for another visit from an inspector from the Department of Permits, Inspections, and Licenses. She wears pajama pants and clutches a coffee cup. In the last ten months, DPIL has cited her for rust and deterioration of a metal fence that enclosed her backyard, loose bricks around her windows, leaky gutters and roof space and overgrown vines. An avid gardener, Ali has grown ivy that clings to the brick exterior, including a thick mane of it extending from her front porch. She has done all the repairs on the house, which she’s owned since 2006, herself. “If I didn’t, I would put myself in some major credit card debt,” says Ali, a visual artist and director of the Irma Freeman Center for Imagination on Penn Avenue’s gallery row. A ladder

leans against the house and a stack of spare bricks sit in the yard, next to her accumulation of potted shrubs and plants. “I feel like I am doing this with a gun to my head,” she says. Although the city is pressing Ali, the ordeal started with a dispute with a powerful neighbor. Almost all of Pierce Street is owned and rented out by Standard Realty, which acquired row houses over the years. Ali and her brother Robbie are the only holdouts from the era of low-income families. The rest of the street now has a jarring uniformity: Every house has the same concrete porch, black front door, and font spelling out its house number. Decorations are limited to a single wreath or flower box. Sheila Ali’s house stands out, with its orange-painted window frames and free-flowing garden projects. Ali’s vines were apparently a bother to Tom Seabrook, owner of Standard Realty, so he made a report through the city’s 311 tip line, which led to the other citations. Almost all code

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inspections of residential properties in Pittsburgh originate with a complaint, according to DPLI spokesperson Sally Stadelman. The city implemented the 311 system in 2006, allowing residents to anonymously report nonemergency issues — from potholes to street light outages to blighted buildings — and get them funneled to city bureaus and departments. In areas fraught with development and gentrification issues, the building code has been used as a bludgeon against homeowners amidst neighborhood disputes. Sheila Ali admits she’s been abrasive towards Standard Realty as it assimilated the block. She and her brother have had run-ins with the company’s employees over issues like dumpsters and construction material. She has suspected (for obvious reasons) Seabrook has wanted to buy her house. Years ago, she saw him on Pierce and told him bluntly, “My name is Sheila Ali and you will never own my house.” Their current dispute could have been resolved by a pair of pruning shears. In an interview, Seabrook said he made a report about vines extending from Ali’s porch because they reached a gas meter on one of his properties. He also said he contacted Robbie Ali, who has been more amenable to Standard Realty, to resolve the issue before contacting the city. Both Ali siblings dispute this narrative, saying a citation was their first notice Seabrook, or anyone for that matter, had a problem with the vines. Ali cut the plants, removed the fence and — ever an artist — redid the bricks framing the windows with shards of glass and porcelain to make mosaics. The inspector said the house was in compliance. Still, she feels anxious. “When you’re poor in a neighborhood like this, you always feel like you can be pushed over,” she said. After decades of stagnation, home prices in hot Pittsburgh zip codes have doubled or tripled in the last ten years. Executives at neighborhood groups in these desirable zip codes have noticed

an uptick in building code violations that have coincided with disputes pitting developers and affluent newcomers against longtime residents. David Breingan, executive director of Lawrenceville United, said the organization’s objectives in terms of code enforcers have shifted . “Ten years ago, we were trying to deal with problems with blight,” he said. “We were trying to get absentee landlords to repair their properties. It’s almost over-corrected. People are cited for minor issues that are not threats to the community’s quality of life.” Rick Swartz, executive director of the Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation, said that the system is being used by developers to “apply the screws” to homeowners. “Maybe it's time that DPLI inspectors are told who authored the complaint in the first place,” he added. Maura Kennedy, director of DPLI, said inspectors should not make a “value judgement” on a tipster. If there is a complaint, they investigate it. “We’re not picking winners and losers,” she said. “Having a home that is not fixed is not a win to anyone.” Kennedy added that the city has resources for homeowners who struggle to afford repairs. Stadelman, the department spokesperson, added that the department has a hands-off policy on properties that


NEWS are not the subject of complaints. “If there are high weeds on a house, maybe people in that neighborhood know that person has been sick,” she said. However, this makes the system a weapon for individuals involved in neighborhood feuds. Christopher Gates and Stephen Pascal are a New York City couple who hoped to find a quieter life on Pittsburgh’s North Side. Their path has been unconventional. They now have four homes on the North Side, deliberating about which to fix up as their permanent residence and which to sell off as they split time between Pittsburgh and New York, according to Gates. Before they’ve fully moved in permantly, they’ve alienated many of their neighbors. “We’ve been very outspoken at board and commission meetings,” said Gates. He’s gone door to door to enlist neighbors against an illuminated sign proposed for Allegheny General Hospital and he filed several complaints against venues, for supposed alcohol and occupancy capacity violations, during the Deutschtown Music Festival. They are fixtures at Zoning Board meetings, filing complaints and appeals on developments. One particularly earned the animosity of neighbors. The city has long attempted to implement some new development at the vacant site of the Garden Theater, a movie house built in 1915 that had a latelife stint as a porn theater. The Urban Redevelopment Authority bought it in 2007 and since then several proposals have fallen through. Pascal is one party in a lawsuit to block the demolition of the complex, helping to delay a redevelopment many support and have long awaited. In August 2018, a poster in a Facebook group called Allegheny City Central and Mexican War Streets encouraged residents to make 311 complaints of supposed code violations on their properties, claiming they “are in various levels of disrepair and dilapidation.” “The owners are also the ones responsible for halting the work on the Garden Theater and various other

projects on East Ohio,” she added. “Any help reporting these issues would be appreciated.” (When contacted, the poster said she “just wanted the community to be aware of the dilapidated properties.”) One member replied that “it doesn’t seem appropriate to recruit other people in the neighborhood to harass them.” But many in the group piled on, agreeing to call 311 on the properties. They were cited for various reasons, said Gates, and some of the code violations may have been “legitimate” but inspectors were “incentivized” by a “witch hunt and a hate campaign,” he said. However, they didn’t take from the experience that anonymous complaints shouldn’t be utilized like this. Instead, they started making 311 complaints about their neighbors as part of a legal strategy to create evidence of selective enforcement, said Gates. “There was a string of residential code violations starting a year ago after they attended housing court,” said Gina Grone, president of the East Allegheny Community Council. Her home was one, she said; an inspector found that her fence, formerly never a bother to anyone, was past the property line. “I think they are retaliating against being retaliated against,” said Grone. “It’s a mix of retaliation, of being a victim, obstructionism and power play.” Gates said he feels no remorse if some random North Sider who never feuded with him or his partner is cited because of this campaign. “I feel that it has exceptional seething rage just under the surface [of the North Side],” he said, “and that any citizen enacting their legal right to have a voice triggers such latent fury that these people are making some of the dumbest choices I have ever seen anywhere.” Despite this attitude, Gates said he and Pascal are still committed to settling in the neighborhood someday and continuing to press the courts and city bureaucracy to their own ends. Lawrenceville is arguably the neighborhood most strained by change. A magnet for tech employees and Pittsburgh’s nuevo upper class, average

home price boomed from $71,000 to $219,000 in a decade, according to Zillow. Tight streets, built for row houses, are cluttered by construction vehicles and industrial waste bins. Century-old houses stand next to new builds listed for as much as $740,000. One such dichotomy sits on Keystone Street. A three-bedroom house of neat modernist geometrical shapes, priced at $695,000, sticks out next to the homes of brick and vinyl siding. All summer contractors hired by Blinov Construction worked on it. It was a contentious summer by all accounts. Sharon Dawson, who has lived all her 62 years on the house next to the new construction, said workers cluttered the street with construction materials and knocked off parts of her siding. The new siding and a palette of building materials were visible on a recent day. “This is what I have to put up with,” said Dawson. Melissa Washington, who lives on the other side of Dawson’s home, said construction noise woke her in the mornings and workers accosted drivers who parked near the site. “There was a sense of entitlement of the whole street,” she said. Ivan Blinov, owner of the firm, said the neighbors were the aggressors. “I’ve been nice to them since day one but

I want nice normal conversation,” he said. “From day one, there was nothing but yelling from them.” There was one particularly nasty confrontation between Dawson’s son Christopher and a construction worker over the placement of a car. A screaming match ensued. According to Washington and Christopher Dawson, one worker called Dawson, who is gay, a slur. Three days later, Sharon Dawson received a PDLI citation about a 20-yearold wooden fence on her property that apparently straddled the property line. Blinov said it’s conceivable a worker reported her. He uses subcontractors and did not directly employ anyone at the site. Now Dawson faces another issue. Blinov’s workers put iron fences between the two properties, blocking Dawson from a side of her own home. “If there was something wrong with my foundation or I wanted to work on my siding, what would I do?” she asks. Blinov said, “She could just ask us or the new owners.” With tensions high and animosity built up over a battle that echoes the conflict at the heart of Lawrenceville, Dawson said a neighbor-to-neighbor solution seems impossible. She called a DPLI inspector.

PITTSBURGH CURRENT | NOVEMBER 26, 2019 | 5


SPORTS

Bob Backlund, right, with his manager Arnold Skaaland and Bruno Sammartino. (Photo courtesy of Pro Wrestling Illustrated)

THE CHAMP IS HERE

WWE LEGEND BOB BACKLUND COMING TO KSWA BY TOM LETURGEY - PITTSBURGH CURRENT CONTRIBUTING WRITER INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM

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n Bob Backlund’s 70th birthday this past August, the former two-time WWWF (now WWE) World Champion performed 20 pull-ups with his legs perpendicular to the floor. When he told the story just months later, he had reduced the workload to only 15 repetitions. That same mid-November morning, he did 150 “rolled wheel out” reps. Fans may immediately ask about Backlund’s famed “Harvard Step Test.” The fitness enthusiast has trimmed down that session from 60 to 30 minutes. “I feel better today than I ever had,” Backlund told the Current recently during a drive to his Connecticut home. Backlund is looking forward to his return to the Steel City as the featured guest at the Keystone State Wrestling Alliance (KSWA) FanFest/Toy Drive at Spirit Hall on Saturday, December 7 in Lawrenceville. He’s already got permission from the promoter to stand on his head in the center of the ring, “split” his legs and perform flexibility moves that routinely brings crowds to a fevered tizzy. Backlund remembers his first appearance in Pittsburgh as the World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF) World Heavyweight Champion. It was only a few months after winning the

belt from “Superstar” Billy Graham on February 20, 1978. The newly-minted champion’s May 12, title defense was against the “Iron Greek” Spiros Arion at the Civic Arena. Backlund won that contest, albeit by count-out. A native of Princeton, Minnesota, Backlund got his start in professional wrestling after college in the early 1970s. He traveled throughout the Midwest, before getting opportunities to hone his craft in Louisiana, Texas, Florida, Georgia and then St. Louis. It was in St. Louis where he caught the eye of promoters interested in finding their next World Heavyweight Champion. By the mid-1970s, the northeast’s WWWF was searching for its next standard-bearer. As observers would tell fans, Bruno Sammartino was nearing the end of his historic second reign as WWWF champion and promoter Vince McMahon Sr. had his sights on Backlund. According to his autobiography, “Backlund: From All-American Boy to Professional Wrestling’s World Champion,” promoters all favored the former NCAA Champion wrestler’s poise, reliability and machine-like work ethic. It was also helpful that Backlund, like Sammartino, lived a clean life and

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knew what was expected outside of the ring. “Bruno was the greatest wrestler ever,” said Backlund. After winning the title, Backlund hit the ground running in the Northeast. As records attest, Backlund was defending against top contenders like Ken Patera, Professor Toru Tanaka, and former WWWF Champion Stan Stasiak, practically every single day. The night after defeating Arion in Pittsburgh, Backlund bested “Crazy” Luke Graham in Altoona. The year 1979 was much busier for Backlund in Pittsburgh. The champion first arrived at the Civic Arena on Friday, February 16 to take on Peter Maivia (the grandfather of Dwane “The Rock” Johnson). According to Wrestledata.com, the match ended in a count-out loss for Backlund at the 23-minute mark. That year, the master of the “Cross-face Chickenwing” wrestled in Pittsburgh about every other month, oftentimes with Sammartino also on the card. “When I first got to the WWWF, Bruno and I didn’t know each other,” Backlund adds. Always humble, Backlund confirmed stories that when he came to Pittsburgh to defend the World Championship, he paid to park in the lot outside of the Civic Arena and walked alongside fans, instead of finding priority accommodations. And there was this, “I once stayed out until five in the morning outside Madison Square Garden signing autographs,” Backlund said with a chuckle. “Pat Patterson told me not to do that. I did it anyway.” On December 6, 1983 Backlund had his final WWF title defense in Pittsburgh at the Civic Arena against frequent-challenger the Masked Superstar (Brownsville, PA native Bill Eadie), where the challenger won by countout. Backlund spoke highly of Eadie, who would later become a two-time WWF tag team champion as half of Demolition. Ten days after that defense against Eadie, Backlund lost the championship to the Iron Sheik at Madison Square Garden. The ending of the championship was controversial as Backlund’s manager, Arnold Skaaland who served

a similar role for Sammartino years earlier, “threw in the towel” when Backlund seemingly couldn’t break out of the Sheik’s infamous Camel Clutch. That ended Backlund’s 2,135-day reign (the second-longest in WWE history, second only to Sammartino). Backlund’s loss was the first step in the WWF’s first foray into the mainstream. Less than a month after winning the title, Iron Sheik would drop the title to Hulk Hogan and the rest was history. In 1994, Backlund would come back as “Mr. Backlund” and defeat Bret Hart for his short, second championship run. It’s interesting to note that Backlund says portraying the bombastic “Mr. Backlund” has helped him open up to fans today more than he ever would have without that run. Backlund says he continues to live life to its fullest and as happy as he could possibly be with his family, and that includes a daily, vigorous workout that would gas most men half his age.


NEWS

pittsburghcurrent.com

Repeal Day Party Thursday, Dec. 5th / 7 - 10 PM the speakeasy at Max's Allegheny Tavern

PITTSBURGH CURRENT | NOVEMBER 26, 2019 | 7


NEWS

Jean Leon Gerome Ferris’ early 20th-Century painting, The First Thanksgiving 1621

CHECKS AND BALANCES

DESPITE THE RIGHT'S BLOVIATIONS, THE PILGRIMS WERE CAPITALISTS BY DAVID DEANGELO - PITTSBURGH CURRENT CONTRIBUTING WRITER INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM

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o, the colony of Pilgrims in what is now Massachusetts was not an example of a failed socialist experiment. I mention that because it’s Thanksgiving week and that means it's time for that stinky rightwing landfill gas (that the Pilgrims were socialist failures) to burp up into the conversational air that everyone else has to breathe. Most every year for decades, our radio-friend Rush Limbaugh has delivered this stinker. It's what's known in the biz, as a “zombie” story. It's a story that will not die, no matter how often it's debunked. But debunk we must, so that when the MAGA hatters at your Thanksgiving table pause between shoveling down moist forkfuls of your turkey and stuffing in order to educate you on the “real” American history, you'll be ready. We get a good idea of the story from a transcript from Limbaugh's website last year. After giving a strawman argument over what's “really” taught

in the nation's schools about Thanksgiving, he sets up the discussion with a description of the Mayflower Compact: Here is the part that has been omitted: The original contract the Pilgrims had entered into,” the Mayflower Compact, “with their merchant-sponsors in London…” They had no money. They had to have people help them here. The original contract … called for everything they produced to go into a common store,” a common account, “and each member of the community was entitled to one common share.” In other words, everybody got the same as everyone else. That’s the way it was set up. It was fairness and it was equality. “All of the land they cleared and the houses they built belong to the community,” not to the people personally. “They were going to distribute it equally. All of the land they cleared… Nobody owned anything. “They just had a share in it. It was a commune,” pure and simple. “It was the forerunner to the communes we saw in

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the ’60s and ’70s out in California — and it was complete with organic vegetables, by the way. And for Rush Limbaugh that means it was collectivism; that it was socialism. Something, he added, that always fails. For Rush Limbaugh and the right-wing noise machine, the real story of Thanksgiving, the one that's being hidden from our view, is that it should be seen as a celebration of capitalism over the Pilgrim's failed socialism of the early 1620s. Here's the thing. Rush got a tiny but central fact wrong. If you were to actually look at the text of the Mayflower Compact, it says nothing about “a common account” or anything in the way Limbaugh describes it. It does say: We, whose names are underwritten, the Loyal Subjects of ...Do by these Presents, solemnly and mutually, in the Presence of God and one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil Body Politick, for our better Ordering and Preservation, and Furtherance of the Ends aforesaid: And by Virtue hereof do enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions, and Officers, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general Good of the Colony; unto which we promise all due Submission and Obedience. Perhaps he's thinking about the contract between the pilgrims and the English landowners who made up the Plymouth Company – the business enterprise in England that invested a thousand or so pounds in the journey before anyone set sail. The settlers were expected to pay that money back (with interest) over the course of seven years. Sounds like capitalism to me. But what do I know? I'm not a conservative radio talk show host. The point here is that we're not really talking about a proto-hippie socialist commune, are we? The land and everything on it was, by virtue of the contract, owned by the joint-stock

company. A very important fact omitted by our good friend Rush, don't you think? As Nick Bunker, a real-life Pulitzer nominee for his book on George Washington wrote in 2011: Far from being a commune, the Mayflower was a common stock: the very words employed in the contract. All the land in the Plymouth Colony, its houses, its tools, and its trading profits (if they appeared) were to belong to a joint-stock company owned by the shareholders as a whole. Indeed as William Bradford (our source for the Mayflower Compact) wrote in July of 1620: The persons transported and the adventurers shall continue their joint-stock and partnership together; the space of 7 years, (except some unexpected impediment do cause the whole company to agree otherwise,) during which time, all profits and benefits that are got by trace, traffic, trucking, working, fishing, or any other means of any person or persons, remain still in the common stock until the division. [Modernization of spelling, punctuation mine.] Beyond this, the zombie story says that the first (“socialist”) years of the colony were such a failure that Bradford shut it down and then doled out personal property to every family. From that point, the colony flourished. Yay, capitalism! Down with socialism! Bradford shut down the “socialism” in 1623, two years after what some have called the first Thanksgiving in July of 1621. If the “socialist” system failed then how was there enough food to celebrate in the summer of 1621? Let me state it yet again, everything in that colony was owned by the jointstock company and would remain so until the company's investment was paid back. That's some serious capitalism, my friends.


OPINION

Scenes from the Trans Day of Remembrance vigil. (Current Photo by Kat Procyk)

ALL-INCLUSIVE

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BY JESSICA SEMLER - PITTSBURGH CURRENT COLUMNIST INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM

ednesday, November 20, was Transgender Day of Remembrance. SisTers PGH and the LGBTQIA+ Advisory Council of Pittsburgh held a vigil on the steps of the City-County Building. It was a powerful ceremony. Trans leaders from our community spoke, and attendees honored and celebrated the lives of the trans folks the world lost this year to violence -- more than 300 that we know of so far. Many at the vigil were holding signs regarding the “suspicious” death of Elisha Stanley who was found in Downtown hotel room at the end of September. Many in the community believed her death to be a homicide, but the Allegheny County medical examiner just this past Tuesday ruled her death an accidental overdose. At the rally,

folks held up signs with her image and the words “Give Us Our Roses While We Are Still Here.” In Pittsburgh (and all around the world), black trans women are leading the way in the fight for equality, and they always have been. Stonewall was a riot started and led by trans women of color, who moved it beyond a moment into a movement. But they have yet to see the fruits of their labor. Meanwhile, on Tuesday, it was announced that the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) gave Pittsburgh a perfect score on its Municipal Equality Index. Now, the HRC isn’t the end all be all arbiter for these metrics, particularly when it comes to trans folx. Just last month, 100 trans leaders wrote an open letter to the HRC, reading: “Trans people, and primarily Black

trans leaders and trans leaders of color, have been leading the work for trans liberation since long before HRC existed…Our work in recent decades has more often been opposed and undermined by HRC rather than supported.” But the Delta Foundation, arguably Pittsburgh’s most well-known LGBTQ organization, seemed to take it as gospel shared an article about the HRC score with quotes from their president, Gary Van Horn, touting the supposed progressiveness of the Steel City. How can we have a perfect score for LGBTQ metrics after receiving a report that says Pittsburgh is so bad for black women that the best thing they could do to improve their life expectancy is to leave? Where was Delta’s post about that report? Do they not recognize the black women and femmes in the

LGBTQ community? The juxtaposition of the celebratory post from Delta a day before a black trans women-led vigil mourning their dead sisters is in keeping with the friction that has happened for ages between groups of affluent white cis gay men and LGBTQ people of color. This segregation and contrast is something Pittsburgh sees every year, the divide is so wide that we have two Pride celebrations. People’s Pride, led by SisTers PGH, centers and celebrates the most vulnerable of our LGBTQ community. Contrast that to Delta’s, which is bolstered by corporations like EQT, Walmart, 84 Lumber, and tobacco companies. LGBTQ young adults are twice as likely to use tobacco, but at least they can get it in a rainbow package! Even anti-choice groups, whose explicit purpose is to shut down Planned Parenthood (a big provider of quality LGBTQ healthcare in Pittsburgh), have been welcomed at Delta’s Pride. When I had a conversation with Delta board members about this a couple of years ago, a member said, “Well, you can be gay and pro-life. Some gay people are even Trump supporters. Intersectionality, right?” Naw, that is not what that means. I thought about this as I watched the Democratic Presidential Debate last week. I was expecting (and frankly looking forward to) Pete Buttigieg getting dragged for his multiple recent missteps with the black community, but it didn’t happen. I was excited when Pete announced he was running, and apparently, many others were, too. Pretty quickly, several LGBTQ organizations endorsed Buttigieg as their presidential nominee, which on some level makes sense; it is a big fucking deal to have someone out and gay running for president! One of the groups that endorsed him was the Victory Fund, a national organization that works to get as many LGBTQ folks in office as possible. I am a fan of them, and hey, they also endorsed me when I ran for office this past cycle!

PITTSBURGH CURRENT | NOVEMBER 26, 2019 | 9


OPINION But the thing is, just because Pete is gay doesn’t mean he’s the best candidate for LGBTQ issues, and I think that needs to be centered when it comes to endorsements that benefit and potentially claim to speak for that community. Personally, I believe Pete Buttigieg is the flesh and blood personification of the Delta Foundation. Talking this over, my friend Ronnie put it perfectly: “Pete Buttigieg is like Bud Light at Pride.” Representation matters so damn much. But just because someone is part of an oppressed group doesn’t mean they are the best person to enact policies benefiting that group. Intersections are also important. Pete Buttigieg is gay, and while gay rights are under attack, Pete is also a cisgender white Christian man. He has a lot of privilege that many LGBTQ folks simply don’t have, and so far, it doesn’t seem like he is very in tune with that reality. While his polling has been climbing in Iowa, folks have raised doubts about Pete’s electability since he lacks support from folks in the black community. This is in part due to issues in his town of South Bend, Indiana. During his term as mayor, he fired the town’s first black police chief. In June 2019, Buttigieg took a break from the campaign trail when a police officer murdered a black person, and he’s been scrutinized for how he handled it. Another police officer on the force had a history of police brutality against black folks going back years, and despite public pressure at various points, Buttigieg didn’t have the will or the leadership to get him removed. In July, a month later, the Buttigieg campaign released the Douglass Plan, a plan for black America, touting a list of 400 black South Carolinian folks who endorsed the plan. One big problem: a lot of folks on the list didn’t know how their names got attached to it! Also, a lot of them were actually white. Seriously, 42% of this list of “black leaders” were in fact white folks. Johnnie Cordero was one of the black leaders that was mistakenly listed

as a supporter. He said he was asked to give the Buttigieg team feedback on the plan, but before that happened it was released with his name on the list. “It’s presumptuous to think you can come up with a plan for black America without hearing from black folk. There’s nothing in there that said black folk had anything to do with the drafting of that plan…We’re tired of people telling us what we need. You wanna find out what we need? Come and ask us.” What really bothered me was when results from a focus group were leaked recently, the folks who conducted it attributed Pete’s lack of support with the black community to homophobia. This is insulting to black folks, incredibly lazy, and not backed up by research. Black writer Charles M. Blow said in an opinion piece in the New York Times, “Reducing Pete Buttigieg’s struggle to attract black support solely to black homophobia is not only erroneous, it is a disgusting, racist trope, secretly nursed and insidiously whispered by white liberals with contempt for the very black people they court and need.” Last week was a reminder for me and for many others that we still have a long way to go when it comes to LGBTQ representation and equity. It also shone a light on the struggles so many people of color, particularly black trans women face every day. They deserve leaders, both in the community and in politics, who will truly listen to their concerns, acknowledge their own privilege, and work to improve society for our most vulnerable. Because we need our Pride to be bold, not light. Lives are depending on it.

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ART

A piece from Amanda Struver's "Cerberus Milk"

VISUAL TRANSFORMATION AMANDA STRUVER EXAMINES THE SELF IN "CERBERUS MILK"

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told that we need to achieve, or a thing that you need to be, which is just commentary on social constructs,” she says. “Then a lot of my work goes out and tries to do that, but actually becomes something else while trying to be something that it's not. And, in a lot of ways, Shimmer is one small layer of that.” “Cerberus Milk” features two other shows within the exhibit: “Moth Room,” which combines sculpture, digital renderings, installation, video and audio from 16 participating artists, housed in Bunker’s bedroom space where artists-in-residents sleep, and “Trophy Room,” a mobile project space parked outside of Bunker dedicated to exchanges between emerging artists living and working in non-major cities, featuring two artists’ work in conversation with one another. Struver says collaboration like this is at the core of her practice. “You're not alone shouting into a

void. You don't have to be. Some people choose to and then they work better that way, and I totally respect that. But for me, it's always been [asking] other people, ‘What are you thinking about? What do you think about this?’” she says. So, when Struver arrived in Pittsburgh, she asked who was making work and how. Although she was able to compile a group of artists for her show, according to her, she wishes she had more time to delve into the Steel City art scene. “I don't think I've barely even scratched the surface,” she says.

AMANDA STRUVER.

“Cerberus Milk.” Nov. 29 through Dec. 13 (Dec. 6, opening reception). Sundays 12-4 or by appointment. Bunker Projects. 5106 Penn Ave., Bloomfield. www.bunkerprojects.org

BY AMANDA REED - PITTSBURGH CURRENT STAFF WRITER AMANDA@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM

f you ask Bunker Projects artist-in-residence Amanda Struver if she thinks people are true to themselves, she’ll disagree with you. Her opinion is based on time living in borrowed bedrooms, traveling and taking part in artist residencies. “You are the product of environments of people that you surround yourself with, or different places that you go, which I have felt for the past year-and-a-half after grad school,” she says. Struver examines this potential for transformation in “Cerberus Milk,” which runs from Nov. 29 to Dec. 13 at Bunker Projects in Bloomfield. Here, sculptures and performances tell the story of Shimmer, a version of Struver that lives on the Internet, performing pop songs of hopes, dreams, love and power. “Cerberus Milk” uses classical and contemporary icons and mythology to look at the possibility of becoming anything. According to Struver, Shimmer helps symbolize the absurdity of contemporary pop culture.

“Shimmer is this canonized identity, essentially. She isn't great at what she does, which is the idea, that she's not actually trying. When I think about her, it is a genuine attempt at something,” Struver says. Struver’s interest in pop culture stems from growing up in the 1990s and early 2000s, where young people were told that they could be whoever they wanted to be if they tried hard enough, which didn’t take into account socio-economic barriers, according to Struver. “In the end that goes to pop culture because you see these people who do incredible things, but it's all kind of filtered through archetypes of being a person. It's built a narrative of fulfillment or success,” she says. Struver’s work often blurs the lines between animal, creature, human, mutant and object, and exploring the self as being at a constant state of decay and evolution. That’s also the case with “Cerberus Milk,” according to Struver. “A lot of my work is about trying to achieve something that we've been PITTSBURGH CURRENT | NOVEMBER 26, 2019 | 13


ART INDUSTRIAL ARTS PITT'S UNIVERSITY ART GALLERY FEATURING TWO EXHIBITS THAT LOOKS AT THE CITY'S INDUSTRIAL PAST BY NICK EUSTIS - PITTSBURGH CURRENT CONTRIBUTING WRITER INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM

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ittsburgh is, in many ways, a monument to the man-made. From its famous steel mills to the magnates who called it home, Pittsburgh’s history is inextricably linked to industry, a link that can appear in some surprising places. The University Art Gallery is currently displaying two original exhibitions, The Curious Drawings of Dr. Clapp and Metal From Clay: Pittsburgh’s Aluminum Stories. Held in the Frick Fine Arts Building on the University of Pittsburgh campus, both exhibits tell stories of Pittsburgh’s history through a specific focus. The Curious Drawings of Dr. Clapp focuses on a large collection of items donated to the University Art Gallery by George Hubbard Clapp, president of Pitt’s board of trustees in the early 20th century. The focal point of this show is a book of 300 Renaissance drawings. The drawings are displayed in a variety of settings, revealing details like pinpricking, used to create copies, and drawings on the reverse of other drawings. Curious Drawings is a museum-studies curated exhibit, meaning they were researched and organized by students in Pitt’s museum studies program. “Last semester, students researched these works, and this semester, they worked with Professor Alex Taylor to curate the show,” says Sylvia Rhor, director and curator of the University Art Gallery. “They looked at each of the objects, wrote wall labels, thought about the exhibition design, and really investigated these drawings from the 15th to 18th centuries.” Clapp was an extremely wealthy man in his era, and used his vast resources to become something of a Renaissance

man, collecting art, coins, animal shells, and more. Much of these collections have been donated to various Pittsburgh institutions, including the University Art Gallery. Such immense riches came to Clapp because of his key role as treasurer in the early days of ALCOA, the company which brought aluminum production to Pittsburgh on a grand scale. Thus, Clapp also finds himself the starting point of the Gallery’s second exhibition, Metal From Clay, which seeks to tell stories of Pittsburgh’s history through the lens of aluminum. Metal From Clay is the culminating project of Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh, a collaboration between 11 museums and cultural institutions in the city, including the Carnegie Museums, the Andy Warhol Museum, Mattress Factory, and more. Alex Taylor is the Academic Curator for Collecting Knowledge, and first had the idea to create an exhibition around aluminum. “[Taylor] started to think about aluminum as something that might tie together all these different collections, but also expand our notion of Pittsburgh being a steel city,” Rhor says. The exhibition features pieces from all 11 institutions in Collecting Knowledge, pieces which relate in some way to aluminum and its production. Displayed items include sculptures, advertising, and even a dress made of aluminum mesh, designed by Oscar de la Renta. Metal from Clay seeks to expand the discussion of Pittsburgh’s industrial past, and tell stories about how aluminum has impacted the world, for better and worse. “We think [Pittsburgh] being called the Steel City is far too restrictive,”

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says Rhor. “We wanted to think about aluminum stories, from raw materials to avant-garde fashion, but also some of the labor issues and exploitation as a result of industrialization.” Filling the rotunda of the Frick Fine Arts Building is an original installation by contemporary sculptor Atticus Adams. A West Virginia native, Adams is renowned for his use of metal mesh to create large-scale projects with abstract, organic shapes. This installation, titled From the Velveteen Closet, is the centerpiece of Metal from Clay, but also works in conversation with Curious Drawings. “We commissioned [Adams] to do a work for the Metal From Clay show, because he works in aluminum and metal,” says Rhor. “It ended up being a good cross-section of the two exhibitions because he played on the drawing exhibition for the shape.” Inspired by memories of searching

through his grandmother’s closet as a child, Adams took that inspiration and related it to Helen Clay Frick, who funded the construction of the Frick Fine Arts Building. He said he pictured her as a child playing in a closet full of crinoline skirts. This can be seen in the light and frilly nature of the aluminum mesh, mimicking the ornate nature of clothing from Helen Frick’s time. Adam’s work distills the idea behind these exhibitions to its essence: that seemingly fragile materials, like aluminum, can become the backbone of things much larger than itself, be it art, airplanes, or cities like Pittsburgh.

THE CURIOUS DRAWINGS OF DR. CLAPP and METAL FROM CLAY: PITTSBURGH’S ALUMINUM STORIES

will be on display at the University Art Gallery until December 6.

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM BY WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE

FEBRUARY 13-29, 2020 FRED ROGERS STUDIO AT WQED

TICKETS ON SALE NOW CALL 412-561-6000 OR VISIT PICTTHEATRE.ORG


2019

Holiday Guide PRESENT DANGER In order for the thought to count, you actually need to put it into gift giving

W

hen it comes to holiday receiving, most of us try to live by the much-used adage, “it’s the thought that counts.” And while that is certainly true (no one should be an ungrateful jagoff), sometimes, as gift-givers we don’t always hold up our end of the bargain--but actually putting the thought into what we’re giving. Think about it. When we hear that phrase it means we just gave someone the crappiest gift they’ve ever received. That happens because more than likely, the gift-giver didn’t put any thought into the present. If you’re giving your 10-year-old niece a Slim Jim, scratch-off lottery tickets and a pack of Marlboros, I feel confident saying that there wasn’t a thought around for miles when you made that purchase. Or when you give your bald dad that new hair dryer that you bought on Black Friday for $7 and it had to go to someone. But, that’s OK. Thinking is hard, especially around the holidays. It’s that special time of the year when there’s more real-life stuff to juggle than usual. So over the course of the next several pages, we’ve put some thought into some gift ideas so you don’t have to.

PITTSBURGH CURRENT | NOVEMBER 26, 2019 | 15


By Ch

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BUY LOCAL CHECK OUT THESE MERCHANTS FOR GIFTS THAT ARE UNIQUELY PITTSBURGH

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hen it comes to gift-giving, shopping local, especially at small businesses, is an important part of the holiday season. Not only are you buying a great gift for someone, you’re giving the local merchant you patronize the gift of business that they rely on to keep the doors open. Nov. 30 is the annual Small Business Saturday promotion that encourages shoppers to hit up their neighborhood businesses. And even if you’re a strict online shopper, there are plenty of Pittsburgh-based merchants open in cyberspace. One of those is Subtl Beauty. Subtl Beauty is the brainchild of entrepreneur Rachel Reid. In Fall 2018, Reid launched her company offering makeup products that come in neat, stackable containers. In August 2018, Reid quit her job at UPMC and began developing the product, which she saw the need for as a frequent traveller whose beauty products took about 20 percent of her carryon space. She launched a kickstarter last fall and it was fully funded in just a shade over two days. The product launched in January and success soon followed. “It’s really been great,” Reid Says. “We really spent the first year testing the market. Since then, we have blown all of our goals out of the water. We quadrupled our sales goals and tripled our estimates of how many units we would move.” The Pittsburgh-based company also has a large customer

The new shades and names of Subtl Beauty's Pittsburgh-named concealers

base across the United States and internationally in countries like New Zealand, Australia, Singapore and Canada. There are two components that are key to the company’s rapid success. First, is a quality cosmetic and the second is the ability to stack those containers in a way that saves space. “Like

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every great product, it was born out of a solution to an existing problem,” Reid says. The product line includes makeup bag mainstays including concealer, bronzer, powder and lip color. When the products launched, because it was a startup business, the product line didn’t include as many shades and col-

ors as Reid wanted in an effort to make the product accessible to everyone. So this year, Subtl Beauty is adding 19 new concealer colors. And to salute the city they come from the colors named after Pittsburgh Neighborhoods. The names include Bloomfield, Hays, Morningside, Overbrook, Highland, Homestead, Perry and Carrick. She


SHADES ON POINT

www.shadesonpoint.com This locally based online company sells sun glasses that are uniquely Pittsburgh. You can tell because some are emblazoned with the city’s skyline on the stem and others carry uniquely Pittsburgh names like The Allegheny, The Mon and The South Side

YINZER CARDS

www.yinzercards.com/ Stop me if you’ve heard this one. “Three jagoffs go into the greeting card business…” That business is Yinzer Cards, the line of unique cards developed by Radio personalities Jim Krenn and Larry Richert and political cartoonist Rob Rogers. The cards are unique, funny and pure Pittsburgh. Cards can be purchased online and at select Giant Eagle and Hallmark stores as well as the Do-it Best Hardware store in Ambridge. A handmade chess set at 10,000 Villages

says she began researching how products like this were being named. “What we found was most colors are named after food, there was a lot of sameness,” she says. “We thought there had to be something that was more interesting and we thought of all of Pittsburgh’s cool neighborhoods. The city has been very good to us and this was a way to pay homage.” The neighborhood names have no correlation to the colors that they represent. Reid says she and her team, just started thinking about neighborhoods that meant something to them. Highland, for example, is where they had their first office. “We will be adding more colors and neighborhoods as we move forward,” she says. “But I like the idea that a customer in Singapore is deciding whether they are a Chartiers or an Arlington.”

Here are some other small businesses and holiday markets worth a look for your holiday shopping needs:

a holiday edition of the queer makers market. The Queer Craft Market is an event that’s been part of Pittsburgh’s Queer Maker community for years. This fun event showcases local makers, creatives and artists for a fun one day vendor show. Guests can shop, make stuff, connect with community, and enjoy sweet jams & refreshments all day. This event is free admission and all ages.

I MADE IT! MARKE LAST MINUTE SHOPPING

Dec. 14, 8013 McKnight Road, Ross It’s your last chance before the holidays to hit up Pittsburgh’s “nomadic-indie craft marketplace.” More than 100 vendors will be on hand with handmade crafts and gifts.

QUEER MAKERS HOLIDAY MARKET

Dec. 9, The Gym at Ace Hotel, 120 S. Whitfield St., East Liberty WorkshopPGH & Assemble present

10,000 VILLAGES

5820 Forbes Ave., Squirrel Hill You’ll get an all-around good feeling buying handmade gifts from this Squirrel Hill shop. You can get great handmade pieces from around the world that were acquired ethically and at a fair price to the maker. They have everything from handmade clothing and accessories to puzzles and games.

STEEL CITY CLOTHING

625 Smithfield St., Downtown Whether you want a t-shirt featuring the Eat-N-Park Christmas Tree or a beer koozie that reads, “Hail To Pitt,” this local clothier has you covered.

"The South Side" from Shades on Point

PITTSBURGH CURRENT | NOVEMBER 26, 2019 | 17


By M

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COMIC BOOKS

Pittsburgh is filled with talented comic book writers and artists putting out wonderful books. Earlier this month, Jim Rugg and Brian Maruca put out Street Angel: Deadliest Girl Alive ($20), a paperback book that collects every Street Angel comic ever, including Street Angel Goes to Juvie and Street Angel VS Ninja Tech, in addition to extra content. Street Angel follows the adventures of a badass teenage skater-girl, which looks dynamic, blunt and cool thanks to Rugg’s great artwork. Marvel Comics also put out the third collection of X-Men: Grand Design comics, X-Tinction ($30), written and drawn by Pittsburgher Ed Piskor, last August. With Grand Design, Piskor is condensing and retelling the story of X-Men with his unique, retro art style and dense page layouts. The first two collections of Grand Design should also be easy to pick up for the geek completist on your list. If you want to get someone a comic indicative of the holiday season, the hardcover collection of Klaus ($35), a wonderful, comic booky retelling of the Santa Claus mythos comes highly recommended. Legendary writer Grant Morrison and artist Dan Mora reimagine Santa Claus as a hero of the working class with plentiful dashes of the sort of ridiculous fun one usually finds in a superhero comic. Local comic shops like New Dimension Comics at the Waterfront and Phantom of the Attic in Oakland should carry all of these comics.

GIFT IDEAS FOR THE GEEKS IN YOUR LIFE Every family and friend group has its share of geeks. And around the holiday, these people can be very difficult to buy for because they want things that only other geeks probabl know about. I remember one day, my grandmother told my mother that I, the geek in the family, am easy to get gifts for - “just get him a comic book!” she’d say. “But what comic book does he want?” my mother rebutted. “It’s not easy!” Thankfully for you, dear reader, I’m here to help you get holiday gifts for the geeky Pittsburghers in your life.

VIDEO GAMES

Cash-In Culture, a local chain of retro-themed stores with lots and lots of secondhand geeky goodies like video games and toys, sells a game made by the Pittsburgh developer Retrotainment Games called Haunted Halloween ‘86 ($60). This is a classic-style 2D platformer produced on actual Nintendo Entertainment System cartridges played on original or reproduced NES consoles. You can also check out the first game, Haunted House ‘85. If you’re willing to splurge, the Nintendo Switch ($300) or Nintendo Switch Lite ($200) are both great for seasoned or casual gamers. The standard model can be played both on-thego or on a television, and the cheaper model is slimmer but cannot be played on a television. Conveniently enough, Retrotainment put out a digital version of Haunted Halloween ‘86 that can be downloaded on the Switch for $10. Otherwise, consider The Outer Worlds ($60), a game released in October for Playstation 4, Xbox One and PC. It is a massive science-fiction role-playing game developed by Obsidian, the makers of the beloved-yet-buggy Fallout New Vegas. The studio decided to make a game apart from its former publisher, Bethesda, which has become infamous among gamers for rushing its games. Want proof of that? You can probably get a used copy of Fallout 76 for just a few bucks.

TABLE-TOP GAMING

Comic shops often have lots of

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table-top gaming supplies for sale, and some have space dedicated to gaming in the store. Also, across from the Phantom of the Attic comic store in Oakland is a store dedicated to gaming supplies, Phantom of the Attic Games. For friends or family members who love gaming, it’s never a bad idea to pick up some extra dice, miniatures or table mats. If you’re looking to get someone a game to play, Wizards of the Coast put out a new campaign sourcebook for Dungeons and Dragons called Eberron: Rising from the Last War ($50), complete with a new setting and fantasy race options for characters. For something more casual, Catan ($50) is always good. This year, the makers of this beloved table-top game rereleased Catan Starfarers ($100), a science fiction-themed spin-off of the series.

TECH

For someone you want to really splurge on, we recommend a smartwatch. The new Apple Watch Series 5 (starting at $400) features an always-on display and is perhaps the most premium smart watch on the market. For android users, there are a bevy of Samsung smart watches, several priced from $300 to $400. FitBit smartwatches, while not as feature-rich as the products from Apple and Samsung, offer a cheaper alternative. Cheap options include the FitBit Inspire Activity Tracker, which runs from $70 to $100. Wireless charging pads have become popular and are pretty convenient and inexpensive. The Insignia 10W Qi Certified Wireless Charging Pad runs for $25 at Best Buy and will wirelessly charge just about any iPhone or Android phone you place on it.

COLLECTIBLES

If you’re looking for something inexpensive and fun to get the geeks in your life, you can never go wrong with Funko Pop Figures. You can find figures of just about every pop culture character you can think of, across franches like Avengers, Star Wars, Cheers and Sour Patch Kids. Some figures have a Pittsburgh flavor to them. Consider the figures of the Pirate Parrot, Mister Rogers, and the version of Spock played by Pittsbugh-native Zachary Quinto. You can find multiples of Jeff Goldblum, including one of him posing sexily on his side in the role of Dr. Ian Malcolm from Jurassic Park.

Funko Pop Figure - Mister Rogers.


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SOUNDS OF THE SEASON GIFTS FOR MUSIC FANS

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We all have those tricky people on our holiday gift lists: Your sister who already has everything she wants, your mom, for whom your mere presence at Christmas dinner is a present, your nephew who thinks you’re desperately uncool. The answer for the hard-to-gift is -- almost -- always music … and shouldn’t music haters get lumps of coal in their stockings anyway?

FOR THE PERSON WHO DOESN'T WANT MORE JUNK: Concert tickets! For holiday-themed music (and early gift-giving) take a peek at the Heinz Hall holiday schedule. It starts early with Handel’s Messiah on Dec. 7 ($2198), then Highmark Holiday Pops featuring the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh and Broadway star Ashley Brown (Dec. 13-22, $22-99). On Monday, Dec. 16 and Tuesday, Dec. 17 BC Taylor carries on the legacy of his father’s annual holiday concerts with Feel the Love ($45.75-73.75). And Celtic Women: the Best of Christmas will perform an assortment of Irish Carols and festive anthems on Dec. 18

($35-95). And of course there are plenty of big, giftable tours coming in 2020. To name just a few: indie-pop up-and-comer King Princess at Stage AE, Saturday, Feb. 8 ($27.50-30); country weirdo Sturgill Simpson at the Petersen Event Center Wednesday, March 4 ($80.50); worldbeat indie rockers Vampire Weekend at Stage AE Wednesday, June 3 ($49.50-55); pop heart-throb Harry Styles with Jenny Lewis at PPG Paints Arena Tuesday, July 14 ($69.50 and up); and Green Day hits PNC Park on Aug. 15 ($56.50-450) with Weezer and Fallout Boy.

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FOR THE BUDDING MUSICOLOGIST: A portable turntable ($49.99-239.99, www.musitrend.net) and a starter vinyl stash. If you’re shopping for a younger person -- a daughter, a nephew, your best friend’s kid -- help them explore and develop their taste with an assortment of records by local artists. Try Dead and Pathetic by goth punks Empty Beings ($15, www.playalonerecords.com); Circular Signals by trippy hip-hop duo The Latebloomer & Moemaw Naedon (five year anniversary release $20, soulslimerecords. bandcamp.com); Knife EP by garage psych-rockers Astrology Now ($8, astrologynow.bandcamp.com); Pressure by soulful arena rock ensemble The Commonheart ($25, www.thecommonheart.com); or Good Days Never Last Forever by indie rapper Mars Jackson ($20, https://marsjackson412. bandcamp.com). If you feel like doing some brick and mortar shopping, swing by one of Pittsburgh’s record stores to pick something out, or grab a gift certificate. To name a few: Jerry’s Records, 2136 Murray Ave., Squirrel Hill (412-4214533); Cruel Noise Records, 3138 Dobson St., Polish Hill (412-621-1715); The Attic, 513 Grant Ave., Millvale (412-821-8484); The Government Center, 519 E. Ohio St., North Side (412-208-3262).

FOR THE ASPIRING ROCK STAR: Studio time. You know that brilliant artist in your life? The one who’s been gigging around the city, writing songs, and recording on their laptop? Help them reach the next level by buying them some time with a professional recording engineer. There are many to choose from, including: +/- Recording in South Side (plusminusrec.com); Mr. Smalls Recording and Mastering Studio in the North Side (mrsmallsrecording.com); Very Tight Recordings in Sharpsburg (verytightrecordings. com); and Tuff Sound Recording, in Point Breeze (tuffsoundrecording. com). Hourly rates vary depending on the engineer and the project, so contact studios for more information. Remember, choosing a recording studio can be a very personal decision, so you may want to give your beloved artist a heads-up before you drop the cash. If you don’t want to ruin the surprise … musicians always need gear. Another great opportunity to play it safe and pick up a gift certificate! Avoid the big box stores and try Pittsburgh Guitars (1305 E. Carson St., South Side, 412-431-0700) or N Stuff Music (formerly Pianos N Stuff, 468 Freeport Rd., Blawnox 412-828-1003).

PITTSBURGH CURRENT | NOVEMBER 26, 2019 | 19


By Jo

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f you're on my Christmas list, there's a good chance you're going to get a book under the tree. Or maybe two. Or three. (Smart money would take the over.) But I do try to make the book fit the person and here are a few ideas so you can get just the right book for just the right reader while supporting local writers in the process. Everybody wins! For your uncle, so that you can avoid talking politics with over the holidays, sports are a good way to flip the script and find common ground. Pick up a copy of 'When Pittsburgh Was a Fight Town' by legendary Pittsburgh sports-writer, Roy McHugh. For your aunt with whom you also want to avoid talking politics with over the holidays, bond over your shared love of all things Penguins with If These Walls Could Talk: Stories from the Pittsburgh Penguins Ice, Locker Room and Press Box, by the Old-TwoNiner, Phil Bourque with Josh Yohe. For your cousin who thinks JD Vance speaks for all of Appalachia, pick up one or both of these collections, both from WVU Press, 'Appalachian Reckoning: A Region Responds to Hillbilly Elegy' and 'LGBTQ Poetry and Fiction from Appalachia.' For your friend who likes Stranger Things, Carnivale and Twin Peaks, 'All the Names They Used for God,' Anjali Sachdeva's collection of short stories are weird and fanciful, aching and wonderful. For your badass niece, 'Dominicana' by Pitt creative writing prof Angie Cruz is a powerful, compelling immi-

LIT GIFT IDEAS FOR EVERYONE ON YOUR LIST

grant story and a coming of age tale. For your friend, the Social Justice Warrior, help them tap into their righteous humanity with 'Life Sentences, Stories from Inside an American Prison,' from the Elsinore Bennu Think Tank For your dreamy cousin, long-time Pitt Prof Toi Derricotte's work is so transcendent she passes through artful into the rarified air of artless. Pick up her sweeping collection nominated for the National Book Award for poetry, 'i: New and Selected Poems.' For your friend who likes to stay up all night drinking and talking, 'East Pittsburgh Downlow,' by Dave Newman is the perfect gift -- a wild, tender ride through the mind of a welder, runner, drinker and writer (all the same person!) For your writer friend, Lori Jakiela's memoir, 'Belief Is Its Own Kind of Truth, Maybe,' is tender, wistful and periodically laugh out loud funny. For your thoughtful friend who loves Faulkner 'Marilou Is Everywhere,' by Sarah Elaine Smith is the best piece of fiction writing I've read in all of 2019. If your friend doesn't like this book, you should unfriend them IRL. For everybody. Damon Young writes about fashion and barbershops and poetry and how Pittsburgh kills black folks. And, he does it all with the same wit and grace he brings to VerySmartBrothas. 'What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker' is so great you should pick up a copy for yourself as well as the folks on your list.

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STEEL CITY STORIES




 

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MADE WITH LOVE om

HANDMADE ARCADE CELEBRATES 15 YEARS OF CONSCIOUSNESS CURATION

Deer Jerk, a first time vendor, will be selling digitized dinosaur tv woodcuts in sticker packs.

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or 15 years, Handmade Arcade has been putting in work to uplift and celebrate makers and artists from the region and the larger craft community nationally. Its 15th iteration will feature more than 180 vendors and a variety of opportunities to play and make things yourself while in attendance. During the holiday season, it can be easy to make excuses about why it’s too tricky to buy small or local, how you’d rather be able to shop for everything in one go. Handmade Arcade blows those excuses to bits, as you can get gifts for every friend and family member, every neighbor, neighborhood dog or cat and beyond. There’s clothing to buy, houseware, prints, stuffed animals, ornaments, toys, books and beyond. The event also features 18 free activities and crafting stations, so hypothetically you could even make a gift for a

loved one while you’re there shopping. You can feel good about buying from the artists of Handmade Arcade, as it is part of the organization’s mission to showcase a unique variety of emerging and established artists, returning vendors and first-timers in an effort to provide its 13,000 attendees with a totally unique experience. There are 20 Emerging Makers in the Craft Corridor sponsored by Commonwealth Press, and a total of 84 first-time vendors in the entire marketplace. One of this year’s first year vendors is Deer Jerk, the endeavour of West Virginian Bryn Perrott. The Deer Jerk style is distinct--the intricate woodcuts are mesmerizing to look at and have a kind of mystical, folk art energy. For those familiar with Jackie O’s Brewery in Athens, OH, its distinct artwork on its Mystic Mama and Firefly Amber cans are digitized versions of some of

22 | NOVEMBER 26, 2019 | PITTSBURGH CURRENT

Deer Jerk’s woodcuts. At Handmade Arcade, Deer Jerk’s table will feature everything from woodcuts to bandanas to collectible toys to sticker packs to pencils and beyond. And while Perrott is excited to sell art, there’s something most exciting about being in a space with so many makers and crafting-enthusiasts. “You always meet people,” explains Perrott, “On the internet you have to look for things, but if you’re walking through a space you’ll just see things and meet people organically. I like buying things from other artists.” “I get money in my hands and I’m like, ‘Awesome, I’m gonna buy that thing I saw over there!’ Every event I’ve ever done, the excitement is that I’ll get presents for people or art I’m really excited about it,” says Perrott. Handmade Arcade will also feature a new corridor called Youth Maker Alley, putting 12 young artists aged 13-18 on

display as part of the 2019 Youth Maker Scholarship Program. The scholarship not only provides youth makers with free vendor space and stipends, but it also provides mentorship and professional development workshops for youths from Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania. These 12 eclectic artists will be showcasing jewelry, houseware, accessories, clothing, paper goods, prints and beyond. Celebration of youth artists doesn’t end there, as nine maker groups with students from grades 3 through 12 from local schools will be bringing their art to the marketplace for sale as well. Handmade Arcade is tons of fun for kids of all ages, and parents and aunts and uncles are more than welcome to bring the kiddos along. If you’re worried about the ‘drop’ part of shopping til you drop with kiddos, this year will introduce the Hatch Nest, a quiet spot to play and relax for children six and under and their parents who need a break from the action. In its 15th year, Handmade Arcade seems to show no sign of slowing down on innovation, inclusion or excitement. Come ready to spend! Handmade Arcade Friday Night Preview Party Friday, Dec. 6. 5:30 p.m. - 8 p.m. $20. www.handmadearcade.org Handmade Arcade Saturday, Dec. 7. 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Free. www.handmadearcade.org


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GIVE BACK SOMETIMES THE BEST GIFTS ARE THE ONES YOU GIVE TO THE ONES WHO NEED IT MOST. While 2019 may be coming to a close, the season of giving has just begun. Many of us have causes close to our hearts, be it LGBTQ rights, saving the planet, or helping kids in need. For those looking to make a donation this holiday season, there are plenty of local charities and organizations that need support to do their important work.

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THE ARTS:

CHILDREN:

Marine Toys for Tots collects new unwrapped toys and distributes them to children in need during the holiday season. Their goal is to “help bring the joy of Christmas and send a message of hope to America’s less fortunate children.” For information on how to donate to the Pittsburgh chapter, go to north-versailles-pa.toysfortots.org. The Sarah Heinz House (SHH) offers over 100 after-school and summer programs for children grades 1 through 12. SHH has been operating since 1901 with the mission to “empower all kids, especially those who need us the most, to laugh, learn, and lead.” To donate, visit sarahheinzhouse. org

FAMILY CRISIS RELIEF:

Jeremiah’s Place in Larimer works to provide “a safe haven of respite, health, renewal, and support for children when their families are experiencing a critical need for childcare.” Jeremiah’s offers judgment-free, 24/7 short-term childcare for parents in need, for reasons ranging from medical emergencies to job training. To donate, visit jeremiahsplace.org.

Women’s Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh provides shelter, support and advocacy for survivors of domestic violence. Last year, they served over 8,000 adults and children through their programs. To donate, visit wcspittsburgh.org.

ANIMALS & THE ENVIRONMENT:

Animal Friends is a no-kill animal shelter dedicated to ensuring “the well-being of companion animals, while ending overpopulation, abuse and unwarranted euthanasia.” They provide spay/neutering services and animal wellness programs to owners in need, as well as help abandoned animals find forever homes. To donate, visit thinkingoutsidethecage.org. Grow Pittsburgh works to combat food insecurity and poor nutrition, as well as help the environment, by teaching local communities how to grow their own food. They “envision the day when everyone in our city and region grows and eats fresh, local and healthy food.” To donate, visit growpittsburgh. org.

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LGBTQ SUPPORT:

Artists Image Resource (AIR) in the Northside is an artist-run nonprofit studio, opened in 1996 “to serve as a laboratory for artists, educators and the community.” They provide technology, equipment and workspace for artists interested in printing techniques. They also collaborate with schools to teach the basics of printmaking to youth across Pittsburgh. To donate, visit artistsimageresource.org. BOOM Concepts is an artist collective that provides opportunities and studio space for artists in marginalized communities. They host a variety of community events from their home base in Garfield, events that encourage people to use art to benefit their daily lives. They seek to be “a space for field building, knowledge sharing, mentorship, and storytelling.” To donate, visit boomuniverse.co.

Allies for Health & Wellbeing, formerly the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force, is a nonprofit dedicated to creating “a healthier community whereby all individuals access integrated medical care and supportive human services in a respectful setting, free of stigma and discrimination.” They provide STI testing, PrEP & PEP, and medical and behavioral services, as well as emergency resources to those in need. To donate, visit alliespgh.org. Proud Haven is a Northside-based nonprofit that provides temporary shelter and resources to LGBTQ youth between 18 and 25 who are experiencing homelessness or housing instability. They also partner with other organizations in Pittsburgh to create a larger support network for LGBTQ youth. To donate, visit proudhaven.org.

FIGHTING ANTI-SEMITISM:

The ACLU is “a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to defending and protecting our individual rights and personal freedoms.” The Pennsylvania branch is currently working on cases related to online privacy, victim’s rights, and probation reform. To donate, visit aclupa.org/en/ join-donate-or-both. Casa San Jose is a nonprofit that provides social services to Pittsburgh’s Latino community. These services range from child education and ESL classes, to legal and financial support and advocacy for those detained by ICE. They also work to educate immigrants at risk of deportation on their legal rights, and help them get their affairs in order. To donate, visit casasanjose.org.

The Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh works to “keep the stories of Holocaust survivors, victims, and rescuers alive for future generations.” To that end, they provide educational training for teachers, organize events, and host exhibitions in their Squirrel Hill space. To donate, visit hcofpgh.org. The Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh is a nonprofit providing a number of services from children’s camps to elder care, in addition to serving as the cultural center for the Pittsburgh Jewish community. They were also a critical support resource in the aftermath of the shooting at Tree of Life synagogue. To donate, visit jccpgh. org.

SOCIAL JUSTICE:

PITTSBURGH CURRENT | NOVEMBER 26, 2019 | 23


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THE GIFT OF CULTURE om

MONEY CAN'T BUY HAPPINESS, BUT IT CAN FUND SOME LOCAL ADVENTURES The pressure to give the perfect material gift during the holidays is stressful--and to be honest most of us already have way too much stuff. Instead of cluttering up someone’s home, gift them a year’s worth of experience by giving the gift of local culture. bringing cash or some of those other things and get lost in the magic of Trundle Manor. https://www.patreon.com/trundlemanor

MUSEUM MEMBERSHIPS

Randyland

A DAY AT RANDYLAND

You can’t buy a season pass to Randyland, because going to Randyland in the North Side is free. Instead, save up some cash to donate when you get there and go on a date with your gift-receiver, taking some time to be carefree and happy in Randy’s colorful yard/perma-art installation. Hula hooping surrounded by colors and mirrors and bric-a-brac will be much more joyful than the feeling your pal gets from looking at the watch you bought them, probably.

AN EVENING AT TRUNDLE MANOR

Trundle Manor in Swissvale is a hidden, freaky gem in our lovely city. The self-proclaimed art house/tourist trap is a private collection of weird objects from taxidermy to medical implements to art installations to weaponry. A group of one to 15 can tour at once, and all tours must be scheduled ahead of time. Like Randyland, this creative hub is powered by donations. Unlike Randyland, Trundle Manor does accept taxidermy, dead things, weapons and booze as donations, so consider

24 | NOVEMBER 26, 2019 | PITTSBURGH CURRENT

There are so many museums in Pittsburgh, and it’s easy to take that for granted. When you only stop in at a museum once a year, it can be overwhelming to tackle the whole place-instead, make consuming culture casual and see all the installations and collections that pop up throughout the year. If you gift a membership to the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh you’ll have free admission to Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History, the Carnegie Science Center and the Andy Warhol Museum. Whether it’s taking a day to talk about Warhol’s place in art history in the presence of his art or giving a rowdy kiddo a random afternoon at the science center to burn off energy while learning, a Carnegie Museum membership has you covered. If you need to buy a gift for a pal that is more tactile, a membership to the local modern art museum is probably a good move. The Mattress Factory showcases art that’s generally handson, challenging and atypical, and it’s permanent Greer Lankton installation could eat up a whole afternoon of oogling if you had the time. Its membership options vary too, so you can gift membership for an individual, a pair or a whole family. The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh has a membership program that really hooks it up for patrons, including unlimited free admission for

members and discounts for non-member friends who are joining them at the museum. It’s a great gift for family members and friends with kiddos, but it’s also a great gift for those who are kids at heart--this museum isn’t just for literal children, and there’s plenty to see and explore for kids of all ages.

THE OPERA, THE SYMPHONY

Whether you have an enthusiast in your life or a friend you think would love to witness some opera and symphony performances, gifting the gift of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and Pittsburgh Opera is simple. Make it a buddy experience and buy tickets to a single event for you and your pal or instead consider a subscription to the PSO. You can build your own subscription by choosing three to 20 events with interchangeable ticket options and flexibility. It’s the better deal if your gift-receiver is trying to hit several shows throughout the year. As for the Pittsburgh Opera, individual ticket gifts are an option, but you can also engage in a membership option that grants you access to dress rehearsals, show previews and beyond.

DANCE & THEATER

Pittsburgh’s dance community is eclectic and vibrant, and there are a lot of ways to gift the gift of dance performance to the folks you love. For the more traditional, tickets to a Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre performance or a subscription or membership to the Pittsburgh Dance Council, part of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust may be some good options. The Pittsburgh Cultural


Trust also offers overall membership options for those who you’d like to gift plays and musicals too, and also special access options. In addition to memberships, buying tickets to the amazing range of shows at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater and its Alloy Studios, Attack Theatre and beyond are all great ways to gift unique cultural experiences to friends. What’s a more exciting gift than the opportunity to engage with unique, local performance?

WORKSHOP PGH CLASSES

Consuming art and culture is cool, but making it is also very cool. Workshop PGH is a DIY school that centers classes taught by local makers and business owners. The classes not only teach great creative and practical skills, they’re also a lot of fun. For the

hands-on creative in your life, consider buying a gift certificate so they can pick a class of their choosing or buy two tickets to participate in a class together that you’ll both be excited to dive into. Have you and your pal or mom or whoever always talked about getting into leatherworking? How about knitting? Do you both need to build a stylish and simple wooden shelf to store all the other gifts you’ve bought each other up to this point? Workshop PGH probably has a class to suit at least one of those needs.

nature and animal-loving friends, or to the little cousin, sibling or nibling in your life who is obsessed with animals and biology. Not only is it cool to see so many creatures, but both locations also offer interesting educational class-

ZOO, AQUARIUM, AVIARY MEMBERSHIP

There are plenty of opportunities to see and learn about wildlife and preservation in our city. Consider gifting a membership to the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium or The National Aviary in the North Side to your

es and opportunities to contribute to preservation efforts. When it comes to environmental protection and natural education, it’s probably good to start them young! Donate to an arts organization on behalf of those you love If the people you love are super busy or have unpredictable schedules or your just not sure a membership or ticket to an event is the right move, pick an arts or cultural group you know your pal loves and donate to it on their behalf. It shows that you pay attention to what culture your friends and family care to support, and it’s a gift to the cultural groups that are here in our city doing the most to keep it colorful, cutting edge and exciting.

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ART

Caption

OF THE PEOPLE

DAVE NEWMAN ON HIS NEW NOVEL, 'EAST PITTSBURGH DOWNLOW' BY JODY DIPERNA - PITTSBURGH CURRENT SENIOR CONTRIBUTING WRITER JODY@PITTSBURGHCURRRENT.COM

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'm sipping on a pint of Guinness and he's drinking a Coors Light at a bar/burger joint in Oakland and we're just about to dig deep on the inciting event of his new novel, East Pittsburgh Downlow (2019, J.New Books.) "I'm sorry to interrupt," she says, as she interrupts. "But are you still best friends with somebody from high school? I'm trying to explain to my daughter," motioning to her teen-aged daughter. "Yes," I say. "You're ruining my point here. Now, how much best friends are you?" Dave pipes up, "My best friend is from preschool." We talk with mom and daughter for a few more minutes about lasting friendships and then hoot when they leave: what a perfect microcosm of this strange, prosaic city.

Later, I wonder, is it just Pittsburgh or do these things happen to Dave Newman all the time? He's that kind of guy -- approachable, warm and unassuming. He talks about beer and music and poetry and writing like they really matter, but not in a precious, ivory-tower way; more in the way of someone who has at some point in life watched the sun come up while sitting on the trunk of a car, drinking beers, arguing about Sonic Youth or James Baldwin. Newman is more Nelson Algren than Jonathan Franzen. This is Newman's third novel (he also writes poetry) and his prose here is propulsive and insistent. It invites staying up late to read just one more chapter, then turning the page to the next and the next. And, like much of Newman's previous work, East Pittsburgh Downlow hinges on work, bringing stories of the underpaid and

underappreciated to the forefront. His protagonist, Sellick, a former welder who wrote cowboy novels on the side, now teaches creative writing at a community college. His students drive UPS trucks and work in the produce department in the supermarket; they tend bar and wait tables. They come to college to try to get away from working these low paying jobs, sometimes more than one. When he's not teaching or grading papers, he's most often doing one of three things -- writing, drinking, or running, which he does obsessively. Sellick loves his students. "I think he has a hard time being by himself when he's not writing," Newman says. "He's pretty anxiety-driven." This is fiction, not a memoir, but the way Newman writes about this place -- the small towns and forgotten places which surround Pittsburgh -- feels inhabited and authentic. As Sellick and a friend drive through the Electric Valley on their way to the city to avoid turnpike tolls (such are the economic realities) he writes, "You've never seen beauty until you've seen a place that was but still is to the people who stayed." Newman grew up in Irwin and now lives in Trafford with his wife, Lori Jakiela. He knows these places. He stayed through some of the grimmest economic years in the 1990's. "I was so broke back then. I didn't even have the money to leave," he laughs as we trade stories of those lean, rough years when we both stayed and rode it out. "I wanted to be a writer and I had bad jobs, so my life was jobs, reading, writing and bars. I didn't need a lot to be happy if that makes sense." As with much of Newman's work, his world is populated by characters who balance on an economic razor's edge, a context or subject he finds lacking a lot of writing. "I think people are culturally turned off by discussions of money and work. Like there's something different required of you to engage with somebody without money," he says. "There can be

a tendency to have a pity party for your characters." Newman writes about economic pressure and anxiety without turning his characters into beatific tropes of the working class -- saintly and downtrodden and sepia-toned. Instead, Sellick crosses paths with the kind of insidious racism that exists in Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania. There are some horrid people. But there are also plenty of characters who are kind and funny and wild and coarse and whose only sin is a lack of a monetary safety net. There are interactions between virtual strangers that remind us of the better possibilities. Characters who could be flat and one dimensional have life and fullness. They all have their own stories and those stories matter to Dave Newman. "You have to believe your voice matters," he says.

CITY GROWS

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PITTSBURGH CURRENT | NOVEMBER 26, 2019 | 27


ART and important arts organizations in the process, especially when it comes to dance. I asked the award-winning Solomon about her time as director and the many challenges and successes she and the organization have experienced. Given next season will be the Kelly-Strayhorn’s 20th anniversary, why not wait until then to step down? My goal was to develop an organization that matters, one that people could see the value in through our art-making. I feel I have done what I came to do and it is a great point for a handoff. I am proud of the growth and the incredible work we have brought to our studios and stages, of the artists whose careers we have helped flourish and the values we have brought to the community.

Janera Solomon. Photo courtesy of Kelly-Strayhorn Theater.

LATEST DANCE

A CONVERSATION WITH OUTGOING KELLY-STRAYHORN THEATER EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR JANERA SOLOMON AND A VERY ELECTRIC CHRISTMAS AT THE BYHAM THEATER BY STEVE SUCATO - PITTSBURGH CURRENT DANCE WRITER INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRRENT.COM

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ith her 11-year tenure as Executive Director of Kelly-Strayhorn Theater coming to a close at the end of the year, Janera Solomon has a lot to reflect on. Since immigrating here from Guyana with her family when she was 9, Solomon has found a home in the arts. She earned a B.A. in Multi/Interdisciplinary Arts from The University of Pitts-

burgh in 1998 and then took a job as curator of Philadelphia Live Arts and Philly Fringe from 2005-2007. In 2008, Solomon became director of a floundering Kelly-Strayhorn Theater and has since grown the organization in a multitude of ways including increasing its annual budget from $300,000 to $1.35 million, raised its profile nationally and created one of Pittsburgh’s most vibrant

28 | NOVEMBER 26, 2019 | PITTSBURGH CURRENT

What were you initially tasked with in the job? Find resources, build a program and get people interested in it. How did you go about that? I started to talk to people. I went out into the community and asked business owners, artists, arts organizations, funders and individuals what they were interested in, where the needs were and what their passions were. Pretty early on we started testing program ideas based on that feedback and on what we thought KST could be and should be. What was your vision for the organization? We knew we wanted to be really diverse with our programming. We knew we wanted to focus on dance and Jazz because of our namesakes Gene Kelly and Billy Strayhorn. We knew we wanted to support artists who wanted to take risks with their work, and we knew the programming had to be really inclusive of the [East Liberty] community so that they felt that the Kelly-Strayhorn was their theater. That vision has remained constant throughout What accomplishments are you

most proud of? I am really proud of the over 50 works we have commissioned and the theater being an incubator for artists and their works, our merger with the Alloy Studios, us hosting the National Performance Network conference, and how our audiences have grown locally and beyond. You have also been ahead of the curve in dance in Pittsburgh including being an early presenter of Kyle Abraham’s work, transgender company Sean Dorsey Dance, the many choreographers involved in the newMoves Contemporary Dance Festival over the years as well as being the first to present Cuba’s Malpaso Dance Company. Yes, that has been exciting for KST and Pittsburgh. We are an organization committed to social justice. I am also proud of our Pay What Makes You Happy! model for all of our programming. What were some of the biggest challenges? Learning about people and organizational management, fundraising, and most difficult for me, because I strive for excellence and integrity, being accused of wrongdoing [in 2014 a former KST employee sued the organization and accused Solomon of a financial conflict of interest] and not being able to defend myself at the advice of our lawyers. Were there things you wanted to do but hadn’t yet realized? I always wanted to do more literary programming, family programming, and more live international music. There were also other artists I wanted to present but for whatever reason couldn’t and we never realized a capital campaign for a planned redesign and renovation of the theater facility. What will you miss the most? I have friends in the organization that I will miss talking and joking with each day and most of all I will miss the


ART conversations with the artists about what they are working on and thinking about. KST continues its search for Solomon’s replacement that they hope to name by early 2020. As for what’s next for the 44-year-old Solomon, she says she and her family will remain in Pittsburgh and that she is looking forward to having time for other creative endeavors such as photography, writing and cooking as well as spending more time with her husband Jeremy and daughter Mira.

DANCING LIGHTS

gin their journey south for the winter. When Max gets blown off course and ends up at the North Pole where he meets Nutcracker toy soldiers, caroling worms, performing poinsettias and an evil Rat King on his journey back to his family. Founded by Ian Carney and Corbin Popp, two former dancers with Twyla Tharp’s Broadway hit Movin’ Out, Lightwire is internationally recognized for their electroluminescent artistry performing in complete darkness, making for a truly illuminating experience. Shows 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.; Tickets $20-35; trustarts.org or (412) 456-6666.

TV’s America's Got Talent semi-finalists Lightwire Theater return to Downtown’s Byham Theater on Saturday, November 30 with their family-friendly holiday show A Very Electric Christmas. Part of the Cohen & Grigsby TRUST PRESENTS Series the hourlong production, set to timeless holiday hits by Nat King Cole, Mariah Carey and Tchaikovsky, follows the story of a young bird named Max and his family as they be-

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5820 Forbes Avenue Mon–Wed–Fri–Sat 10–6; Tue–Thu 10–8 Winter hours begin 12/27: Mon–Sat 10–6 412-421-2160 pittsburgh.tenthousandvillages.com A Very Electric Christmas. Photo courtesy of Lightwire Theater.

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Pittsburgh Current, Dec 2019 issue


EVENTS THE CAN’T MISS BY EMERSON ANDREWS AND MARGARET WELSH INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM FEATURED EVENTS IN AND AROUND THE PITTSBURGH REGION

NOVEMBER 26

The Melting Pot invites friends out to their 3rd Annual Friendsgiving event on Nov. 26 and Nov 27. Three course and four course meal options are available, and pre-registration is encouraged. 4 p.m. 242 W. Station Square Dr. $21.95 - $32.90. 412-261-3477 or meltingpot.com/pittsburgh-pa (EA)

NOVEMBER 27

Threadbare Cider and Mead hosts a pre-Thanksgiving pizza dinner with vegetarian and vegan menu options in partnership with Humane Animal Rescue. A portion of all bar and to-go bottle orders will be donated to Humane Animal Rescue. Pre-registration is required. 5 p.m. 1291 Spring Garden Ave. Free admission. Threadbarecider. com (EA) Southern Tier Brewers Co. holds their annual Gobblers Ball. Featuring an all-day happy hour with deals on drafts, wine & spirits and appetizers, the party will go on until midnight. 11 a.m. 316 N. Shore Dr. Free admission. 412-301-2337 or stbcbeer.com/taprooms/pittsburgh (EA)

NOVEMBER 29

TRYP HOTEL hosts a Small Mall Holiday Market on Nov. 29 and Nov. 30. Art, handmade goods and apparel from local artists will be available for sale, with some artists present to take commissions on unique gifts for the holidays. 6 p.m. 177 40th St. Free admission. 412-552-3600 or casey@ caseydroege.com (EA) Those looking to avoid the shopping crowds can enjoy a Family Day at the Mattress Factory. Hands-on activities, a hot chocolate bar and music by DJ

Dave Zak are just some of the things attendees can experience. Student, senior, veteran and child discounts are available. 1 p.m. 500 Sampsonia Way. $20 general admission. 412-231-3169 or info@mattress.org (EA) Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens presents their Winter Flower Show and Light Garden from Nov. 29 through Jan. 12. Indoor and outdoor holiday displays cover 15 acres, with a new Rainbow Glow Tree. Family friendly activities as well as a drinks station are just some of the additional benefits. Reservation is required, with student, senior and child pricing available. Members attend for free. 9:30 a.m. One Schenley Park. $19.95 general admission. Phipps.conservatory. org (EA)

sion. 412-364-1171 or jpavlot@theblocknorthway.com (EA) The Gothees -- Pittsburgh’s long-standing purveyors of “bubble goth,” an irreverent mix of ‘60s flower-power pop and ‘80s post-punk gloom -- are celebrating a new record. But even if you’ve never heard the band, you’re likely to find the release familiar. Titled The Birds, The Bees, The Monkees & the Gothees the EP, which the band is releasing on white vinyl, features seven tracks, all covers of Monkees songs. And the cover art is a “cover” too (sort of) paying tribute to 1968’s The Birds, The Bees and the Monkees, and features a meticulous and painstaking assembling of authentic Monkees memorabilia and Gothees-related details. The band celebrates the release on Saturday, Nov. 30 at Howlers in Bloomfield. Horehound, Dabris and Dumplings also perform, with art by Murphi Cook. 9 p.m. 4509 Liberty Ave. $8. www.howlerspittsburgh. com (MW)

DECEMBER 1

We learned at the 7th-grade science fair that music helps plants grow. Just think about what it must do for us! On Friday, Nov. 29, head to Spirit for House Plants, an evening of dancing, chilling and (maybe?) a little growth. Resent DJs Michael Kaiser, Ryan Schroeder and Patrick Backeris will provide house and techno grooves, and special guest Brian Bohan AKA Father of Two offers a mix of midwestern dance music, UK sound system culture and global club sounds. 9 p.m. 242 51st St., Lawrenceville. Free. www.spiritpgh. com (MW)

For World AIDS Day, the Andy Warhol Museum holds their thirtieth annual Day With(out) Art. This year’s program, Still Beginning, features new work from a variety of artists covering subjects such as anti-stigma work, public sex culture, and the FDA’s ban on blood donations by gay men. The Allies for Health + Wellbeing will be at the museum to provide information and services for those who have or are at risk of HIV, viral hepatitis, and sexually transmitted infections. Student, senior and child discounts are available. 10 a.m. 117 Sandusky St. $20 general admission. 412-237-8300 or information@warhol.org (EA)

NOVEMBER 30

DECEMBER 2

Q92.9 and BOB FM invite those in need of holiday photos to step inside a 20 foot tall Giant Snow Globe this year. Enter raffles for Gold passes to Cedar Point and tickets to the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, with a holiday vendor village available for gift shopping. 12 p.m. 8013 McKnight Rd. Free admis-

32 | NOVEMBER 26, 2019 | PITTSBURGH CURRENT

City of Asylum @ Alphabet City screens Erroll Garner: No One Can Hear You Read. The film, about Pittsburgh-born pianist Erroll Garner, covers the musician’s rise to popularity, his music and his personality for the first time on film. The screening is free with reservation. 7 p.m. 40 W. North Ave. Free. 412-657-6916 or info.sembenefilm-

festival@gmail.com (EA) Andy’s at Fairmont Pittsburgh holds a series of Holiday Cocktail classes on Dec. 2, Dec. 9 and Dec. 16. Students will receive instruction by Andy’s cocktail specialists, hors d'oeuvres, three cocktails and food pairings, recipes and a cocktail shaker. Reservation is required. 7 p.m. 510 Market St. $85. 412-773-8904 (EA)

DECEMBER 4

Join REI at Threadbare Cider and Mead for a Holiday DIY. Learn how to take a used bike wheel and upcycle it into a festive wreath. A tour of the cider house and samples will follow the class. All materials are provided by REI, and pre-registration is required. 6:30 p.m. 1291 Spring Garden Ave. $10 for members, $12 general admission. Rei.com (EA) AR Workshop Robinson holds a Chunky Knit Blanket Workshop. Learn the step-by-step process to make a cozy 40” x 50” blanket for yourself or as a gift just in time for the holidays. No needles or knitting experience is necessary. All materials are provided with color choices available, and pre-registration is required. 6:30 p.m. 6511 Robinson Centre Dr. $85. 412-407-9002 or arworkshop.com/robinson (EA)

DECEMBER 5

The Heinz History Center puts on a traditional Italian Holiday Concert with Italian standards performed by Vito DiSalvo, Marco Fiorante, and Daniela Pasquini with musical accompaniment. 7 p.m. 1212 Smallman St. $15. Heinzhistorycenter.org (EA) Radio fans and Pittsburghers alike can enjoy the new parody “Yinzer Scrooged: A Pittsburgh Christmas Carol”, presented by Bricolage Production Company. Performed like a radio show, the Dickens’ classic has been updated with Pittsburgh legends and celebrities, while attendees are asked to participate just as a live studio audience. The show runs from Dec. 5 to Dec. 21. A Happy Half-Hour 30 minutes before the show includes free


EVENTS drinks and holiday-themed activities. Student and group pricing are available. 8 p.m. 937 Liberty Ave. $35 general admission. 412-471-0999 or fred@ bricolagepgh.org (EA) Though Pile has steadily released records since Rick Maguire started the project in the late 2000s, the band sometimes flies under the radar. It may be because Pile is hard to classify: the Boston-bred quartet moves from straight-ahead singer-songwriterly melodies, to weirdo avant noise, to aggressive post-rock. But those who count themselves as fans are usually fierce in their love, and with good reason. Whichever side you fall on -have you seen the light or haven’t you? -- don’t miss your chance to see the band when it comes to the Mr. Roboto Project Thursday, Dec. 5. Calyx and Big Baby open. 7 p.m. 5106 Penn Ave., Friendship. $13. All ages. www.therobotoproject.com (MW)

DECEMBER 6

Handmade Arcade is selling tickets to a Preview Party for shoppers who wish to skip the lines on the official opening day. Attendees can speak to the artists and craftspeople, participate in special raffles for artwork and products and enjoy a cash bar. 5:30 p.m. 1000 Fort Duquesne Blvd. $20. info@ handmadearcade.org or handmadearcade.org (EA) See a live radio performance of Little Women by Louisa May Alcott at the Merrick Art Gallery presented by R-ACT Theatre Productions. The show will be performed once on Dec. 6 and once on Dec 7. R-ACT and Merrick members receive discounted tickets, and the show benefits Relay for Life. 7 p.m. 1100 5th Ave. New Brighton. $7 cash at the door. Ractproductions.com (EA)

DECEMBER 7

Handmade Arcade opens to the public at the David Lawrence Convention Center for its 15th year. Shop for artwork, crafts and products from local artists and vendors, enjoy a hands-on activity area and participate in raffles.

A special Early Bird shopping hour is available for $15 from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. for those who wish to get in early. 11 a.m. 1000 Fort Duquesne Blvd. Free admission. info@handmadearcade.org or handmadearcade.org (EA) The Kelly Strayhorn Theater holds a Family Dance Party. Kids and parents can enjoy the wintry theme, crafts and treats all while having fun on the dance floor. 12 p.m. 5941 Penn Ave. Free. 412363-3000 or margo@Kelly-Strayhorn. org (EA) For teens and adults 14 and up with a little dance experience, the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre is holding a “The Nutcracker” Workshop. Learn the original choreography to this holiday tradition from Marcella Day and Shanna Naider to experience the magic set to Tschaikovsky’s famous score. 1:45 p.m. 2900 Liberty Ave. $60 before Dec. 7, $75 on Dec. 7. 412-281-0360 or pbt.org (EA)

DECEMBER 8

Pittsburgh’s Holiday Book Sale for those interested in Indie reads returns for a seventh year, this time at Spirit Hall. Returning and new booksellers will have a wide and unique selection available. Browsers and buyers can partake in cocktails at the cash bar in the saleroom as well as a buffet brunch downstairs from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. 12 p.m. 242 51st St. Free admission. etsy. com/shop/KarensBookRow (EA)

DECEMBER 10

You know when you go home for Thanksgiving and you find your old box of CDs and you start listening to them on the family stereo and getting weepy? Depending on how old you are (i.e. if you’re my age), you can lean into that feeling at the Rex Theater on Tuesday, Dec. 10. That’s where Sioux Falls emo-pop band The Spill Canvas will be, offering up some true, earnest early-2000s alt-rock feelings. Cory Wells opens, along with -- and here’s a real Pennsylvania nostalgia trip -- the Juliana Theory. 7 p.m. 1602 E. Carson St., South Side. $20. www.rextheater.net

PITTSBURGH CURRENT | NOVEMBER 26, 2019 | 33


MUSIC

Flower Crown

YEAR OF GROWTH

W

BY JUSTIN VELLUCCI - PITTSBURGH CURRENT CONTRIBUTING WRITER INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRRENT.COM

hat was Pittsburgh musician Richie Colosimo listening to while his band, Flower Crown, tracked dream-pop single “High Fantasy” at Mr. Small’s recording studio in October? Black metal, of course – why do you ask? “I know they’re kind of polar opposites but the things I’ve always liked about [black metal] are the walls of sound they use and the sense of space,” says Colosimo, of Bloomfield, a tech worker by day and Flower Crown’s de facto frontman. “Shoegaze and metal are both similar in the way that they both create a wall of sound. It really puts people in a space. It’s been called a vibe. We don’t live near the beach but you could listen to this music and relax. It puts you in a different spot.” 2019 has been very, very kind to Flower Crown. The quintet – Colosimo is joined, alphabetically speaking, by Zach Bronder (yes, the guy from Bat Zuppel) on synths, Mike Iverson on guitar, Jon Sampson on drums and Chris Sexauer

on bass – released the barbiturate-sedate, critically acclaimed LP Sundries in May, toured throughout the East Coast in June, and stole the spotlight at this summer’s Deutschtown Music Festival. A weekender tour of Buffalo, Toronto and Detroit followed. They got tremendous – and tremendously positive – press, including a shout-out from Bandcamp’s national music curators. And they’ll cap the year with a 21+ show to celebrate the release of the single “High Fantasy” – the group’s first foray into professional recording – Dec. 13 at Spirit. The bands Century III and Side Sleeper also are set to perform. “It’s been a hell of a year for these guys,” says the band’s longtime “merch guy” – Devin “Scrubs” Beichner, of Swissvale. “I’m happy for them. But, you know, if they get worldwide fame, they better take me on the road with them!” The roots of Flower Crown grow in Bradford, Pa., which sits just 78 miles south of Buffalo near the Pennsylvania/ New York border. The small, northern

34 | NOVEMBER 26, 2019 | PITTSBURGH CURRENT

Pennsylvania municipality – a shrinking former oil-boom town, estimated 2018 population: 8,280 – is home to lighter manufacturer Zippo, a University of Pittsburgh extension campus and little else. “It’s the middle of nowhere,” Colosimo says dismissively. But it’s at Pitt-Bradford that Colosimo met Beichner, Sexauer and others, and really spread his wings, so to speak, as a flowering musician. His ever-growing resume, which took him from Bradford and through Erie before he came to Pittsburgh about three years ago, includes bands like Sky Lime, Frame and Mantle, and the doom-metal outfit Mires. “It seems like whatever music Richie’s picking up, what he’s listening to, just shows up in his playing,” Beichner says. “Any time he finds a new record that impresses him, he’ll go off and reinvent it – just with his own flare.” “A million bands fit into our genre,” Colosimo responds. “I’d call our music

‘hazy.’ Or, at least, we try to make it hazy.” But that “hazy” music – which defines itself through languid time signatures, chiming guitar figures, half-whispered vocals, and thick layers of reverb – carefully buries the secret that it boasts multiple points of reference, and multiple points of entry. “I think most of us listen to lots of music,” says Sexauer, who also works for a technology concern as his day gig. “Mike and I listen to a lot of hip hop. We listen to a lot of punk. Zach, our synth player, listens to lots of acid rock. We have a relatively eclectic music taste.” “With our live show, you can definitely tell we’ve all played in punk and hardcore and metal bands,” he adds, with a laugh. “It is a very defined sound we have but we try to pull things in from other production cues.” Just as Colosimo sees a dotted line between shoegaze and black metal, Sexauer says he understands how he could have played the four-string in high school in hardcore bands like Grave of a Cynic and now play bass in a Pittsburgh dream-pop outfit. “Hardcore for me was an outlet for aggressive emotion,” he says. “And this kind of shoegaze/dream-pop thing, it’s about evoking emotions, trying to create sounds that very empathically create emotions.” Flower Crown played an energized set at Spirit to mark the May 24, 2019 release of Sundries. Colosimo, at least, is hoping to recapture the energy and magic of that night when the group returns to celebrate its new single on Dec. 13. “This spring, it was lit,” Colosimo says. “I’m hoping we can get people out and excited on a Friday in December.”

FLOWER CROWN

with SIDE SLEEPER, CENTURY III. 9 p.m., Friday, Dec. 13. Spirit, 242 51st St., Lawrenceville. $7. www.spiritpgh.com


MUSIC FAMILY TRIP BY EMMA CHRISTLEY - PITTSBURGH CURRENT CONTRIBUTING WRITER INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRRENT.COM

T

he last time Pittsburgh saw Bailen, it was as the opening act for Hozier on his Wasteland, Baby! tour. Now, the NYC-based band heads to Club Cafe on December 5 for its own headlining show with Hailey Knox supporting. Made up of twins Daniel and David and younger sister Julia, Bailen combines elements of pop and indie rock inspired by their parent’s expansive record collection. Influences such as Joni Mitchell, Stevie Wonder, and even Steely Dan have a heavy thumbprint on the siblings’ work. But Bailen’s sound is entirely its own. What particularly stands out is the songwriting. A bug, as they describe it, which comes from their musical childhood and their father singing to them. “He knows every Beatles, James Taylor, and Simon and Garfunkel song and he has plenty of amazing originals too,” the siblings explain via email. “In the beginning, we never really knew the difference between the tunes our dad wrote and the tunes he didn’t write.” Like many of their musical inspirations, the three describe a lot of their lyrical inspiration as coming from books they’ve read. “Something Tells Me,” a track from 2019’s full-length debut Thrilled to Be Here, was inspired lyrically by Steinbeck’s East of Eden. The siblings aren’t strangers to Pittsburgh, playing here a few times before, including one memorable and somewhat frightening visit that involved running out of gas 30 miles outside of the city and getting stuck in a wild thunderstorm. They bravely returned again, incident-free, for the Hozier show here in May, which they describe as “seriously one of our favorite shows ever.” “It also happened to be the twins (Daniel and David’s) birthday show.

The Hozier band had the whole crowd sing ‘Happy Birthday,’ and we couldn’t have had a better time,” they write Fans who may have been introduced to Bailen at that show and know them more as a supporting act will find a very different experience seeing them this time around as a headliner. “An opening spot is… a shorter set. It’s also mostly people who have never heard of you. You have to get on stage and give it your all for around half an hour, win the crowd over and then get off the stage,” they write. But this headlining show will allow the band to connect with the audience who is there just for them. It’s also a chance to showcase a wider range, including softer tracks and B-sides. Fans can also anticipate a solo or two, and definitely a few bad jokes. All of which the band says gives “a real arc” to the set, which is hard to portray as a 30-minute opener. The band remembers exploring the city after that last stop in Pittsburgh, when the city was sunny and gorgeous. Now they can’t wait to come back.

Discover something new every Thursday!

Bailen

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Featuring access to the galleries, art-making, and special performances, ART TIL 8 is the perfect way to kick off your weekend or unwind after a long day.

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This month, we’re partnering with the Pittsburgh Opera, New Hazlett Theater, and independent artists for our featured performances.

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8 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 5. 56 S 12th St., South Side. $15. www.clubcafelive.com

PITTSBURGH CURRENT | NOVEMBER 26, 2019 | 35


MUSIC Savages at the Mercury Lounge in NY, January 2015.

Sierra Sellers (Pittsburgh Current Photo by Jake Mysliwczyk)

FIRST/LAST THE ARTISTS OF SECRET SANTAPALOOZA BY HUGH TWYMAN - PITTSBURGH CURRENT SENIOR CONTRIBUTING WRITER INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRRENT.COM

I

am thrilled to announce this year’s return of HughShows Secret Santapalooza! These are like ‘office parties’ for the members of the Pittsburgh music community and you are invited as bands play quick 4-5 song sets incorporating cover songs of other Pittsburgh musicians into their own originals. These shows have become legendary and after a few years off, I couldn’t be happier to have it return. The free show is presented by the Deutschtown Music Festival and Misra Records. 7 p.m. Saturday, December 7. Kollar Club, 3226 Jane Street, South Side. Find the schedule online at pittsburghcurrent. com

Favorite album of all time? Sierra Sellers: Who is Jill Scott? Words and Sounds Vol. 1, or The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.

I want to thank these performers for playing on what will be an amazing night and to also thank them for participating in this group edition of First/Last.

First concert attended? Chad Sipes: The Cure at Starlake. ‘Friday I’m in Love’ tour. 7th grade.

The first album you ever bought? Jordan Hightower (Ladylike): American Idiot by Green Day. Your last album bought? Vic Morgan (Drauve): Sundries by Flower Crown. Supporting local music!

Least favorite/most disappointing album? Jeanean Naqvi (Honey Prism): Hmmm, I don’t think I can answer this one. Whenever I’m meh about an album, I just assume that there’s something I don’t get about it. Except I am pretty disappointed with Nicki Minaj. Remember how boss she was on “Monster?” She was the female emcee sent to deliver us from a world post-Missy Elliott, but I felt like she never came through for us. C’mon, Nicki.

Last concert? INEZ: Smino in Philadelphia (2019). Favorite concert ever? Lindsay Dragan: I’ll give you my top three: Feist, Carnegie Music Hall, on the ‘Reminder’ tour (I think that was 2006 or 2007?); The War on Drugs at Terminal 5 in New York, Sept 2017;

36 | NOVEMBER 26, 2019 | PITTSBURGH CURRENT

Least favorite concert? Sharon Mok (The Real Sea): I really can’t say. Of course, we’ve all been through concerts that have been tough to watch, or maybe even boring, but knowing that the artist is putting forth an effort and sharing their songs with you makes it hard to criticize the music, wouldn’t you agree? I can’t say that I go to a lot of shows where the artist is less than earnest in their effort, or at least their desire to make music. OK, in that regard, I guess seeing an artist completely wasted on stage is the most painful kind of concert. But I’ve only seen that once. Favorite thoughts, experiences about Pittsburgh? Patrick Maloney (The Pump Fakes): The camaraderie of local bands playing in an environment that hasn’t

always been the best for cultivating live bands – but it’s getting better. Hugh’s Take: Thanks, all. I am really looking forward to the show. We are going to have such a fun time. I am so excited to hear Hugh Twyman (AKA HughShows) has been documenting the Pittsburgh music scene since 2004. His website (www.hughshows.com) features a comprehensive Pittsburgh Concert Calendar, episodes of HughShowsTV, a newly launched public Pittsburgh music database, exclusive audio streams from local bands, thousands of his concert photos and his trademark First/Last interview series. Support HughShows: www.hughshows.com


FOOD DAY DRINKING

KEEPING TABS ON PITTSBURGH'S CRAFT BEER SCENE

N

ov. 14, 7 p.m.: I’m at Couch Brewery in Larimer for the semi-monthly meeting of the Three Rivers Underground Brewers. I don’t brew beer and have zero interest in ever doing so, but I am here to recruit a few good men to pour their art at our comedy shows. I order the only stout they have on tap since Couch is gearing up for their Blackout event on Saturday that will feature an exclusive lineup

BY BY DAY BRACEY - PITTSBURGH CURRENT CRAFT BEER WRITER INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM of stouts. I make myself comfortable while I wait for the meeting to begin, which is the easiest thing to do in this brewery. Let me state this for the record, Couch is the most comfortable brewery in America. It lives up to the name. The place is decked out with vintage couches and board games that make it feel like a gay man’s ultra lounge or a well-curated hippie van. There are a group of elderly ladies at a table sharing a beer, no doubt reminiscing on days when these surroundings brought more adventures, illicit drugs, and pregnancy scares. Nov. 16, 4 p.m.: I’m at the Galleria of Mt. Lebanon for Farm to Table’s Harvest Tasting. There are dozens of booths representing small businesses from across the state. Elias Khouri, one of the area's most talented guitarists, is casually playing light tunes while people peruse produce. My first stop is KingView Mead. They have a selection of ciders, meads, and wines that range from 5-12%. If I stand here long enough, I may catch a buzz. I’m most impressed by the spiced red wine. It’s dark, dry, and has hints of nutmeg and cinnamon. I imagine this would pair well with the racist uncle you’re trying to ignore at Thanksgiving this year. Nov. 16, 5 p.m.: Uncle Jammy’s is here. If you recall, he

treated to a flavor adventure like none I’ve experienced before. Salsa Aguilar and Liberty Pole Spirits collaborated to make La Libertad, a spicy (like brown people spicy, not that gringo shit you get at Mad Mex), bourbon salsa with hella smoke and heritage. There are so many Mexican flavors on my tongue that ICE officials may confiscate my toothbrush later tonight.

paired with Recon Brewing at Fresh Fest for a 6%, dry-hopped, cranberry smoked ale called Smoke Ring & Mirrors. He has some of the best sauces and rubs in the city. I purchase a bottle of his famous “Burgh Seasoning,” then head over to the table next to him to purchase dry-aged beef from a local farmer to use it on because that’s the beauty of these Farm to Table events. You can plan a whole dinner and your dollar never has to leave the state. Better food for you, better roads and schools for our children. Nov. 16, 6 p.m.: I run into a mom & pop cider shop called Tattiebogle Ciderworks. Now, I’m not the biggest cider fan, but good lord. The flavors and mouthfeel you get with this booze are noteworthy. Which is why I’m noting it. It’s sweet, but not too sweet, and finishes dry, which leaves you wanting more. While here, I sample the dry-hopped, classic, and blackberry/cranberry versions of his ciders. They aren’t quite open yet, but they will soon be in business in the Laurel Highlands area as part of the Laurel Highlands Pour Tour. Well worth the trip! Nov. 16, 7 p.m.: Before I go, I’m

Nov 22, 8 p.m.: I’m at City Theatre with Ed Bailey. We’ve been invited to watch "One Night in Miami," a play about a night in Miami shared by Cassius Clay, Malcolm X, Sam Cooke, and Jim Brown that led to the song “A Change is Gonna Come.” The bar has Penn Brew in bottles and some overly priced North Side whiskey that I can’t be bothered to waste money on. The Penn Dark is perfect for this all-Black production. First off, who knew these Black icons were pals?! It’s like they formed a supergroup after the Justice League told them they had filled their diversity quota. The set is beautiful and the entire play takes place in one room. There are only six cast members, and they are more than enough to keep my attention for 90 minutes. The dialogue is poignant, funny, thought-provoking, and reflective of the times both then and now. At times, I find myself challenged as a Black man who operates in predominantly white spaces. "Why are the light-skinned negroes always the most militant? Are you proving something to them or us?" So many questions raised with so few answers given. Written, directed, and starring Black men, this play certainly pairs well with that racist uncle you’re trying to educate this Thanksgiving. You can catch it now through Dec 1.

PITTSBURGH CURRENT | NOVEMBER 26, 2019 | 37


EXTRA

Savage Love

I

BY DAN SAVAGE MAIL@SAVAGELOVE.NET

’m a heterosexual cis woman in a monogamous marriage. My husband and I have always struggled to connect sexually, mostly because he has extreme anxiety that makes doing anything new or different difficult. He’s been in therapy since before I met him, but it doesn’t seem to be helping much. His anxiety has caused him to shut down every sexual ask I’ve ever made because he’s afraid he won’t “do it right.” He’s a PIV-and-nothing-more kind of guy, but I’m not asking for varsity-level stuff, just boring things like talking about fantasies, a little role-play, staying in bed on a Sunday just to have sex, etc. All of it is off the table. I understand he has a right to veto sex acts, but isn’t this all pretty basic, run-of-the-mill stuff? He’ll still get his PIV; I just want there to be other elements before the PIV starts. It’s still a no. Talking to him about this sends him into a depressive episode where I then have to spend hours telling him he’s not a bad person, so I’ve stopped bringing it up. I’ve tried to talk to therapists about navigating this issue, but most change the subject. One actually told me that it was good that we don’t have good sex, because if we did, we wouldn’t have good communication in other areas. (I never went back to that one.) This has gone on for so long that I’ve lost all interest in sex. My libido, which used to be very high, has vanished. Whenever he wants sex, I do it—but I dread it. Do you have any ideas on how I can navigate this topic with my husband so he doesn’t shut down? How can I make him understand that it’s okay to experiment sexually and it will be okay if it’s not perfect? Lost And So Sad You’re going to have to call your husband’s bluff, LASS, and power through the predictable meltdown. That means raising—again—your unhappiness with your sex life, explaining your

need for some pre-PIV intimacy and play, informing him this is no longer a desperate request but a non-negotiable demand, and then refusing to shift into caregiver mode when his depressive episode starts. I’m not suggesting your husband’s anxiety and depression are an act, LASS, or that being made aware of your unhappiness isn’t a trigger. But if depressive episodes get your husband out of conversations he’d rather avoid—and if they allow him to dictate the terms of your sex life and treat your pussy like a Fleshlight—then his subconscious could be weaponizing those depressive episodes. And if you shift to caregiver mode every single time—so long as you’re willing to spend hours reassuring him that he’s not a bad person—then your grievances will never be addressed, much less resolved. So even if it means spending an extremely unpleasant evening, weekend, or few weeks with him, you’re going to have to raise the issue and refuse to reassure your husband. Line up whatever support you think he might need before you make your stand—you could also make your stand during a couples counseling session—and give him maybe one “You’re not a bad person, really!” and then refuse to back down. And when he shuts down, LASS, it will be his therapist’s job to pry him back open, not yours. And the sex you’re currently having? The sex you dread and don’t enjoy? The sooner you stop having it, LASS, the sooner your husband will come to understand that he’s going to have to give a little (so very little!) if he wants to have sex at all. If and when he does, then you can borrow a page from the varsity-level kinkster handbook: Take baby steps. In the same way people who are turned on by, say, more intense bondage scenes (suspension, immobilization, etc.) start with lighter bond-

38 | NOVEMBER 26, 2019 | PITTSBURGH CURRENT

age scenes (hands behind the back, spread-eagled on the bed, etc.), you can start with something small and easy for him to get right, like 20 minutes of cuddling in bed together on a Sunday morning before progressing to PIV sex. I’m a bisexual trans woman living in Europe. A couple of months ago, I began an amazing relationship with a woman who works as an escort. For a while, everything was as good as it gets, until I said something inconsiderate about her job and she took offense. We were having a conversation about “what we were” (girlfriends? lovers? partners?) and any rules we’d like the other to observe, and I said I’d rather not see her after she’d been with a client, I’d rather wait until the next day. She took this as me thinking her job was “dirty,” which was absolutely not my intention. I explained that I’d spent 10 years in open relationships and it was just a habit I was used to. (If you sleep with someone else, go home, take a shower, sleep off the emotions, see you tomorrow.) She said that her clients were not lovers, it’s completely different, and it would make seeing her complicated, as we work different hours. I immediately realized how she was right and said so. She was aloof for a few days afterward, and she eventually told me that she didn’t feel like she could be with someone who understood so little about her job. I pleaded with her to give me a second chance and told her that I’d never even met a sex worker before, so there was a learning curve for me, and she agreed that we could carry on seeing each other. But she remained distant, canceling plans and not replying, until she eventually told me that she was just too scared of getting hurt, because it’s happened so many times before. I was absolutely shattered. I spent the next few days drinking in bed and licking my wounds. I was falling in love with this woman, and I ruined it with my big mouth. After a couple of days, I started going about my life again. And soon enough, she started texting me, asking me how my day was, casual stuff, and it’s just really painful. I don’t know how to reply to her. If she has changed her mind, then I’ll date her again in a heartbeat, given how freaking amazing she is.

But if she’s just (kind of inconsiderately) making conversation, then I can see myself getting my heart broken all over again. I’m torn between asking her to stop texting me and carrying on with the casual texting to see if anything comes of it. Any advice? Tearful Escort’s Ex Getting Really Lonely If you two couldn’t handle a simple misunderstanding, TEEGRL, how are you going to resolve a serious conflict? Or forgive a profound betrayal? You know, the kind of shit people in LTRs do? Actually, I’m being unfair: You seem perfectly capable of handling this misunderstanding, TEEGRL, it was your ex-whatever-she-was (girlfriend? lover? partner?) who wasn’t able to handle it. But in fairness to her—I need to be fair to everybody—sex workers are often shamed by romantic partners who pretended, at the outset of the relationship, to be fine with their jobs. Your comment about not wanting to see her after she was with a client could reasonably be interpreted as whorephobic. But your explanation—it was a rule in all your past open relationships—was reasonable, and your ex-whatever-shewas, if she were a reasonable person, should have been able to see that. And perhaps she is reasonable, TEEGRL. Maybe she started texting you about casual stuff because she feels bad about pulling away and sees now that she overreacted. To determine whether that’s the case—and to determine whether she’s still open to dating you— you’ll have to risk asking the dreaded direct question: “Hey, it’s great to hear from you! I’d love to pick up where we left off, if you’re still interested. Are you? Please let me know!” On the Lovecast, shy lady doms rise up! With Midori: savagelovecast.com. mail@savagelove.net @fakedansavage on Twitter ITMFA.org


Current Comics Rob Jones

18 | OCT. 23, 2018 | PITTSBURGH CURRENT


ANDREA SHOCKLING

SYNONYM RAISIN

by Andrew Schubert

PITTSBURGH CURRENT | OCT. 23, 2018 | 19


By Barry Linck © Barry Linck phinmagic.net

Phineus, Teen Wizard

PITTSBURGH CURRENT | OCT. 23, 2018 | 21


Heroineburgh By H-Burgh and Zeus

Sucks to Be an Animal

By Sienna Cittadino

CARTOONISTS CARTOONISTS WANTED WANTED pittsburgh current is looking for local artists who would like to have their comics featured on our twice-monthly funny pages.

20 | OCT. 23, 2018 | PITTSBURGH CURRENTemail: charlie@pittsburghcurrent.com


PITTSBURGH CURRENT

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 ©©   PITTSBURGH CURRENT | NOVEMBER 26, 2019 | 39


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Profile for pittsburghcurrent

Pittsburgh Current, Volume 2, Issue XIV  

Read the Pittsburgh Current's Holiday Gift Guide; Read about the weaponization of Pittsburgh Building Codes and all of the latest news, arts...

Pittsburgh Current, Volume 2, Issue XIV  

Read the Pittsburgh Current's Holiday Gift Guide; Read about the weaponization of Pittsburgh Building Codes and all of the latest news, arts...