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CONTENTS Vol. II Iss. III Feb. 5, 2019
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K AC L E E B TH AR IN .” E R LE RE HE P U “T PEO FUT
STEPPING UP OLIVIA BENSON’S STATEWIDE CANDIDACY IS CHALLENGING DEMOCRATS’ COMMITMENT TO DIVERSITY BY ARYANNA BERRINGER - PITTSBURGH CURRENT POLITICAL COLUMNIST ARYANNA@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM “I would like to acknowledge again, that I am a black woman, a proud black woman. And there are black people in the future.” That isn’t a quote from me, although I wish it were. Those are the words of Olivia Benson as she addressed Democratic committee members at the recent nominating convention for the now-vacated 37th state Senate district. Why did Ms. Benson feel the need to make a point about her race and gender? Because it was a point made to her and about her over and over again while campaigning. I wish I could say that it’s hard to believe that in this day and age, in the Democratic Party no less, while Ms. Benson was making the rounds to be considered the party’s standard bearer, that both openly and in behind-the-back whispers, people 6 | FEB. 5, 2019 | PITTSBURGH CURRENT
were questioning her viability with the electorate based solely upon her race and gender. Nevermind the news reports that emerged following multiple candidate forums that were held around the district, that Ms. Benson was quite arguably the only candidate who demonstrated a depth of knowledge of the issues facing the commonwealth, along with well thought out and forwarding thinking solutions. Nevermind her degrees from Carnegie Mellon, an MBA from Point Park University, and another Master’s from one of the Ivy League’s most prestigious institutions, the University of Pennsylvania. Those qualifications apparently didn’t matter. Despite decision-makers in the Democratic Party completely overlooking her extensive
credentials--coupled with steady composure and wisdom beyond her years--she shocked those in attendance by taking her game to a higher level; she shocked them when she took the decision of whether she was worthy of their nomination out of their hands. She rose above that myopic repudiation when she withdrew her name from consideration and announced her candidacy to become the next Auditor General of Pennsylvania in the 2020 election cycle. In years past, when singlelabeling a candidate occurred in the way that it happened to Benson, some candidates would’ve found it too prohibitive to keep running. But instead of turning tail, Benson double-downed and raised the stakes. Benson has set out to become the first black person in Pennsylvania history to be elected to a statewide office. Yes, in a state that gave birth to our nation’s democracy a person of color has never held the office of U.S. Senator, Governor, Lt. Governor, state Auditor General, Attorney General or Treasurer. Following Olivia Benson’s announcement to run for Auditor General, state Democratic Party chairwoman, Nancy Patton Mills, quipped that she was announcing
her candidacy for President. Many called for Patton Mills’ resignation. I am quite certain Patton Mills regrets her minimizing choice of words. In fact, she and the entire Pennsylvania Democratic Party should use this as an opportunity to do something historic. At the top of the Democratic Party ticket for statewide office holders in 2020, you will have incumbents Attorney General Josh Shapiro and state Treasurer Joe Torsella. Our current Auditor General, Democrat Eugene DePasquale is term-limited, leaving his office wide open. So the real question here is what kind of political party do the Democrats want to be? A party that talks about diversity but then once again pushes through another white male for statewide office? Or a party that embraces, fights for and proves their commitment to minority communities through action and not just token acknowledgment. Black people, especially black women, are in the future. But will they be in the future of Pennsylvania Democratic Party leadership? Many eyes will be watching in 2020. Olivia Benson will be making sure of that.
HEALTHY DISCUSSION SEXUAL HEALTH EDUCATOR SAYS THERE ARE HEALTHY AND UNHEALTHY WAYS TO APPROACH SEXUALITY BY DAVID BRUNNER - SPECIAL TO THE PITTSBURGH CURRENT INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM Columnist’s note: When I learned this issue would be focused on sex, I wanted to make sure that LGBTQ folx were represented regardless of who participated in the online survey. So I opted to turn my column over to my friend, David Brunner, a sexual health educator and former sexual health advice columnist who promotes the ideas of safe and responsible approaches to sex and sexuality, while eliminating the stigma. David is the former Director of the Prevention Department at the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force (now known as Allies for Health + Wellbeing) ~ Sue Kerr
ex is something that has existed well before humans were humans. Our understanding of the human mind and body, however, has changed drastically over the millennia of human existence. As a species, we learn more each day as the world becomes increasingly interconnected and open to discussion about our realities as sexual beings within this shared universe.
Every person in existence is the combined total of their biological make up, their development in the womb and their experiences from birth to present. No two people are identical. Even identical twins, will have different developmental and experiential paths which make them psychologically and physiologically different as well. Human sexuality is a product of this unique individual physiology and psychology. Just as the mind
and body of the individual is unique, so too is the sexuality of the individual. Because of this, there is not one, but many ways to experience one’s own sexuality. One person may be attracted to the curve of the hips, while another could be aroused by a certain fragrance that a particular person gives off, while some else could even be completely unstimulated by things of a sexual nature as is the case with actual asexuality. Individual sexuality isn’t necessarily static either… it can vary over time, as one allows oneself to discover more about their own body and mind. Someone may discover that they may like something such as nipple stimulation where previously it wasn’t even thought of. Or, someone may think they enjoy something, and it is much less enjoyable then first thought. What all of this means is that there is no right or wrong way to approach one’s sexuality, as every person is different regardless of gender or orientation. There are however, healthy and unhealthy ways to approach it. What someone has as their preference(s) is not important, but understanding how to make one’s sexual experiences safe and healthy for oneself and one’s partner(s) is very important. Before engaging in or exploring sex, make sure to study up on the various Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), how they are spread, how they are prevented and how and where to get tested for them. Drug resistant gonorrhea, for instance, has been spreading throughout the country, and there are currently around 800,000 new cases of gonorrhea per year. While there is a vaccine for the Human Papillomavirus (HPV), there are several other STIs which have no vaccine like syphilis and HIV. Luckily, most (but not all) STIs are very easy to prevent by using condoms correctly each and every time. So if you are not thoroughly educated about STIs, it is time to do some research so you can further explore and enjoy
your sexuality without the fear and doubt of potentially life altering complications. The Centers for Disease Control has great resources online about STIs, and there are a number of local health clinics which can direct you to some good information as well. Health is not just limited to the physical, but also includes mental and interpersonal health. Making sure that your sexual relationships are positive for both you and your partner(s) is very important. Manipulation and abuse are not healthy and should not be part of a relationship, especially an intimate relationship. Consent to sex is always mandatory, and no means no. Honest and open communication as well as having a judgment free and open minded attitude toward sex are crucial to having a mentally healthy sexual relationship while also maximizing enjoyment for those involved. Not everyone will enjoy everything that their partner(s) like every time. This is to be expected as each person is unique afterall. But finding common interests and turnons can be a very fun and exciting path of exploration that can build more intimacy with one’s partner(s). Whether taking the time to explore each others erogenous zones, to learning some new techniques together at a local kink event, there are lots of ways to make your sexual relationship(s) healthy and fulfilling. There are many facets that make up a human being and one of those is human sexuality. It is nothing to be afraid of, but it is something important to understand and treat responsibly. It doesn’t matter how one enjoys themselves sexually whether that includes a warm intimate bath with self massage to candle light, or being suspended from the ceiling while whips tease the body, it doesn’t matter, as long as it is all consensual adults playing safely. Explore, be safe and have fun!
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Pastor Janet Edwards performs a marriage ceremony (Photo: Michael Beigay)
FINDING BALANCE FOR LGBTQ PEOPLE OF FAITH, MIXING SEX/SEXUALITY WITH RELIGION CAN LEAD TO TOUGH CHOICES BY NICK EUSTIS - PITTSBURGH CURRENT CONTRIBUTING WRITER INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
f Pittsburgh’s many buildings, some of its most beautiful and influential are churches and synagogues. From East Liberty Presbyterian, to Heinz Chapel in Oakland, to Temple Sinai in Squirrel Hill, places of worship shape both the architectural and cultural landscapes of Pittsburgh. But that influence is waning with time. A study by the Pew Research Center found that from 2007 to 2014, the number of adults who described themselves as religiously affiliated dropped by six percent, and the number of those religiously unaffiliated increased by seven percent. 8 | FEB. 5, 2019 | PITTSBURGH CURRENT
The difference is even more pronounced among the LGBTQ community. The Pew study also found that LGBTQ Americans were nearly twice as likely to be non-religious, at 41 percent of respondents, compared to 22.8 percent for straight Americans. This is not necessarily surprising as scripture, particularly that of the Abrahamic religions, has been used for decades to justify discrimination against LGBTQ people. This can be seen even today in the modern battle over “religious liberty” laws, which would allow business owners to discriminate against LGBTQ people if it conflicts with their religious
views. Every LGBTQ person in America in some way, miniscule or monumental, reckons with the effects of these battles, as do allies who publicly support the LGBTQ community. But while they affect so many of us, the effect they have is far from uniform. In high school, Chas Cheatham was your stereotypical girly girl. “I was ultra-feminine,” Cheatham said. “Always had long hair and nails. I wore skirts to school every day.” Born in Beaver County, Cheatham was raised there as a member of the Church Of God In
Christ, or COGIC, a predominantly African-American branch of Pentacostal Christianity. “There’s a way of attending church, a way of praying, a way of carrying yourself, a way of thinking about yourself, but it’s still Christianity,” Cheatham said. “It’s like mainstream Christianity but on caffeine, so to speak.” Cheatham never experienced the urge to sneak away with a boy from school, as many of her friends had done, but attributed it to her faith guiding her to be righteous. Nor had Cheatham been exposed to members of the LGBTQ community, especially lesbians. “I never saw two women and understood that those two women had a special bond, so I never knew I was gay in that way,” Cheatham said. After graduating high school, Cheatham began attending a bible college, studying theology. Her freshman year, she had her first ever sexual experience with another woman, a fellow Christian. Everything clicked in place, according to Cheatham. It was that moment that she realized she was gay. She would not fully explore her sexuality until her late twenties, however, primarily because she was so entrenched in Christian culture. “It took me years before I would get involved with [another] woman... because I was still a Christian, I was in bible college, I was offered a full scholarship to go to Oral Roberts University,” Cheatham said. “So I already had my path set.” Ultimately, Cheatham would drop out of Oral Roberts after one year due to an administrative scandal leaving her with no financial aid. It was then that Cheatham sought to find her authentic self. She began shedding her ultra-feminine presentation little by little. Always a tomboy at heart, Cheatham felt she no longer needed to look how she was “supposed” to look, according to her faith community. She also moved back to Western Pennsylvania to pursue performance
Judy Meiksin and her fiancée.
art and music. But she also found, living as her authentic self, she had to cut ties with many people from her past. “I realized that, living my truth, I wasn’t going to find any love from even the people who loved me my whole life, who watched me grow up, who knew me in church and called me a ‘little sister’ or ‘like a daughter,’’ Cheatham said. “I knew the moment these people got wind that I was gay, they were going to switch it up on me, and that’s exactly what happened.” Today, Cheatham lives in Pittsburgh, and her relationship with her immediate family has improved. She works at an organization called Project Silk, which works to reduce HIV and STI infection rates in black and Hispanic LGBTQ people, as well as support members of the community in need. Many of her clients face similar negativity from people of faith in their own communities and families. The 1980s were a difficult time for the gay community. Still very much a cultural transition period, LGBTQ people were just coming to be somewhat accepted by mainstream society, and the culture
was largely based around nightlife. As a result, religious minorities, like Jewish peoples, among the LGBTQ community had few people like them they could turn to regarding their faith. Judy Meiksin and her peers wanted to create a solution. “A few friends approached me in the 1980s about starting an LGBTQ congregation, because we shared a kind of isolation within the LGBTQ community where we felt invisible,” Meiksin said. Meeting in the Israeli nationality room of the Cathedral of Learning, they called their congregation “Bet Tikvah,” meaning “House of Hope.” Meiksin and the other early congregants wanted to ensure that Bet Tikvah would be an open and welcoming community, and tailored services to eschew material that would not contribute to that environment. “We acknowledged those of us with very traditional beliefs and those more secular, so we focused on prayers that would accommodate everyone,” Meiksin said. “We also cared that the prayers would be nonsexist, so women would really feel included.” Bet Tikvah became increasingly important to Pittsburgh’s Jewish
LGBTQ community as the HIV/AIDS crisis gripped America in the 1980s. “Many in the gay community were mourning friends and loved ones dying from AIDS,” Meiksin said. “It was very important to be able to come together and mourn this loss in a Jewish congregation. We were fulfilling a very important emotional need.” Today, Bet Tikvah continues in the tradition of openness that it was founded on over three decades ago, according to Deb Polk, a leader in the congregation. “We are not affiliated with any one branch of Judaism, our members come from all branches of Judaism,” Polk said. “We’re also not exclusively LGBTQIA, we have a lot of straight members who come to Bet Tikvah because they like Bet Tikvah.” Bet Tikvah hosts a monthly Shabbat service on the first Friday of each month. They are run 100 percent by volunteers, and each service is lay-led, meaning a different member of the congregation leads service every month. Bet Tikvah also works to organize Passover seders, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services, as well as other external social gatherings. “We’re small, but it’s nice because you really get to know everybody,” Polk said. “Different people volunteer to lead the Friday service, and you get to know them in a different way through that.” In 2005, Rev. Janet Edwards was an ordained minister with the Presbyterian Church of America, or PCUSA. Through her work on a task force about LGBTQ issues, Edwards met Brenda, a Buddhist whose fiance, Nancy, wanted a Presbyterian wedding. “Nancy was a lifelong Presbyterian, she still attended her church in her hometown in West Virginia,” Edwards said. “So Nancy wanted a Presbyterian minister to preside at their wedding, and Brenda had met me.” The couple also insisted on having a marriage announcement
in the newspaper, like a straight couple would be afforded. Since the officiant of the ceremony would be listed, Edwards knew accepting would be risky. The couple gave Edwards several months to think over whether or not she would commit to officiate. “We knew that I would be in jeopardy in the Presbyterian Church USA,” Edwards said. “That there would probably be conservatives that would take me to church court, accuse me of violating scripture and the constitution of the PCUSA in presiding at their wedding.” Edwards ultimately agreed to officiate, and she and the couple set up a team to help them manage messaging and press coverage. “Nancy and Brenda agreed that we would try to use this as a platform to widen the discussion about marriage of two men and two women beyond the church and into the community,” Edwards said. “We would try and get our message out and provoke conversation both within the church and in Western Pennsylvania.” Once word of the wedding got out, reaction was swift. Edwards would be accused by a total of fifteen different people and subjected to two church trials to determine whether or not she should be stripped of her ordination. Ultimately, the court acquitted Edwards twice. Six years later in 2012, PCUSA changed its constitution to allow LGBTQ ministers to be ordained. Three years after that, they changed the constitution again to allow ministers to conduct same-sex marriages. It is Edward’s hope that her fight in 2005 lit the fuse for these future victories. “The conversation was definitely furthered in the Presbyterian church and in culture, and I hope contributed to the legal decisions that came in the next few years,” Edwards said.
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DEAD BEDROOMS TEN THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT YOUR WANING SEX LIFE BY HALEY FREDERICK - PITTSBURGH CURRENT STAFF WRITER HALEY@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
n a 2014 survey by the Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture, it was found that 12 percent of married people hadn’t had sex for at least three months. Six and a half percent of married women and almost five percent of married men reported that they hadn’t had sex with their spouse in over a year. A lack of sex in marriage or otherwise committed long-term relationships is something that’s
joked about all of the time. In general, though, married couples do have more sex than people who are single or dating. However, for the not insignificant minority of committed couples who have lost the sexual side of their relationship, it is anything but funny. It is important to note that regular sex is not an imperative part of life or of some relationships. If you’re both happy with anniversary sex, or never
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sex, then we’re happy for you. For those of you that aren’t happy, for those of you who feel stuck, confused, resentful, guilty or scared, we talked to two experts— Amy Bucciere, a certified sex and relationship therapist practicing in Pittsburgh, and Dr. Erika EvansWeaver, the director of the Center for Human Sexuality Studies’ Sex Therapy Clinic at Widener University—to find out what you
should know. 1. Rule out physiological causes. Both experts agree that it’s important to first rule out medical conditions that could be causing changes in your libido or bodily function. “Diseases or conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure or cancer—any of those conditions can impact your sex drive,” said Evans-
Weaver. 2. Don’t assume that you know how your partner feels. Simply put, the only way to find the cause of the problem is to look for the cause of the problem. We all have a tendency to assume that the way our partners are acting is directly related to how they feel about us. In many cases, this isn’t the truth. Bucciere says that’s why it’s important to stay curious about what’s causing the sexual problems in your relationship, instead of coming to a conclusion on your own. “[Ask yourself ] is this actually true or is this something that I’m assuming? What is genuinely going on here? And it can be a lot of work to get an accurate answer to that question,” Bucciere said. 3. Remember that things are always in flux. As your life circumstances change, so will the circumstances of your relationship. One of the hardest times is what Evans-Weaver refers to as the “sandwich generation,” which is when a couple is caring for both their young children and their aging parents. “You’re exhausted, so you might want to be sexual, but at the same time you might say ‘I’d like to just cuddle up and take a nap,’” she explained. “And that’s real and fair.” You may think that the root of your problem is that your partner has a different sex drive than you, and you could be right. But, that’s a reality in most relationships and it, too, can change over time. “What are the chances that two people are going to be 95 percent in the same place when it comes to desire and arousal and availability to be intimate?” Bucciere said. “So it’s kind of a given that somebody is going to be higher and somebody is going to be lower, and you may go through different seasons...It’s not a stable position.” 4. Be mindful of the story you tell yourself.
“The most important thing is that if my goal is to assign blame and to alleviate myself of doing the hard things then what happens is nothing changes,” Bucciere said. Believing that you are right and your partner is wrong is easy and convenient, and it doesn’t get you any closer to a solution. “It’s in our ability to make a conscious, painful decision to say, ‘I wonder what’s really happening here because if the story I’m telling myself is somehow a reductionist story about my goodness and your badness’ or something like that, then that’s the story I’m going to end up with,” Bucciere continued. 5. Talk to your partner, not everybody else. To get more familiar with this issue, I dove into some online forums for people in sexless relationships. What I found was a lot of people commissorating about their problems, while encouraging a lot of vitriolic behavior. “Everybody wants to let off some steam, but you’ve got to let it off with the person that’s driving you batty, not everybody else,” said EvansWeaver. “The folks that you are commiserating with validate you, so you feel right, and by the time you get ready to actually have the interaction with your partner, it’s still [the same] issue but not necessarily one that you have the same motivations to confront because you already felt this validation,” she continued. So whether they’re your friends, or strangers on the internet, it’s often best to avoid airing out your grievances with people who aren’t your partner. Consider going to your partner first. 6. Don’t lose sight of the ‘us’ in your relationship. A lot of people end up sitting with and dissecting this problem for a while, and in that time the frustration, desperation and resentment have been piling up. It’s easy to lose sight of the point of it all.
“What happens is you end up neglecting what I have come to refer to as the ‘physics of the relationship’ and you’ve become solely focused on ‘me’ and ‘you,’ and I’m neglecting the ‘us’ that exists between us and it’s in that misfocus that we end up trekking down a long and painful road,” Bucciere cautioned.
feeling connected and the space between us feels safe and warm and open and loving, from there we’ll be able to figure it out,” she said.
7. It’s not all about intercourse. Evans-Weaver said that sometimes the problem can be due to boredom because the societallydriven focus on penetrative sex isn’t satisfying to one or both partners. “[People] get stuck in these really basic sexual scripts that are no longer pleasurable for them, but they don’t know how to communicate about creating something different that is fun and invigorating to them,” she said. “We have to expand our perspective on what it means to be sexual with our partners because it can be anything from a sensual massage to mutual masturbation. Or it can be oral sex. It could be just touching. And it could be penetrative intercourse, but doesn’t have to be.” And it isn’t all about orgasm, either. Making sex too goalorientated can kill sex drive. According to Evans-Weaver, the focus should be pleasure and fun. 8. Affection and connection. Sometimes you need to create the space for sex in your relationship though affection and re-establishing a connection. “I remember working with folks and saying, ‘alright, what’s going on here is that one of you just wants more expression of affection and one of you actually wants to be more sexual with one another. Two different things, but the more that you express affection it’s going to also titillate your partner which might increase their desire to be sexual,’” Evans-Weaver said. Bucciere emphasizes that feeling truly connected to your partner can change your whole approach to the issue for the better. “It’s this idea that if we’re really
9. Relationships take work. And they can work, if you do. Start from a place of understanding that lasting relationships don’t happen because there’s no conflict or messiness, they last because both partners have decided that they’re going to work through the bumps. “If people are genuinely looking to one another to say ‘I want this to get better,’ the implications of that are life-giving and tremendously healing and just a shit ton of work,” Bucciere said. If you can develop a healthy method that you use to handle problems in your relationship, that’s a tool you’ll be able to come back to again and again. “I genuinely, 100 percent believe that when two people are truly committed to making a process work, that it will,” Bucciere said. “If we can have our process down about how we work on this stuff, then we’re ultimately going to be able to handle whatever comes down the pike.” 10. Get help if you need it. This is a complicated problem. There are professionals out there, like Bucciere and Evans-Weaver, who can help. Whether you need a mediator, an idea-generator or a fresh set of eyes to look at your situation, therapists are trained to assist you. “My approach is: listen, nobody has all the answers, right? I don’t have all the answers to fixing the problems in my own life. So my role is not to tell you, ‘well, you’ve been doing this wrong all your life,’” Evans-Weaver said. “It’s really just to ask insightful questions that provide you with an unbiased opportunity to examine what it is that you want to do and how do you want to get there.”
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THE MOST IMPORTANT MOVE IN ANY SEX ACT IS GETTING PERMISSION BY CHARLIE DEITCH - PITTSBURGH CURRENT EDITOR CHARLIE@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
s you read through our Sex Issue, I hope you find something to pique your interest. Attitudes and opinions about sex have changed over the years and I think the wide array of content that we’re bringing you in this issue will show that. Sex is probably the most fun and most serious activity that we engage in. So, we knew we had to find a balance of coverage. Hopefully you’ve already read our stories on the importance of sexual
health, the pressure that LGBTQ individuals feel when dealing with sex and sexuality alongside religion and our piece on 10 things you should know about your waning sexual desires and how to deal with them. In the coming pages, we’re bringing you the wilder/fun side of sex. A series of sex-positive stories that demonstrate how the stigmas around sex have changed and where there is still room for improvement. We will tell you the story of Michele James, a local woman
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making a career as an adult film star. You’ll meet a group of people who call the world of kink and BDSM their home. We’ll fill you in on the best Pittsburgh aphrodisiacs and I’ve filed a report from my afternoon spent at an adult toy store. But it’s irresponsible to talk about sex in any format without also addressing the importance of active consent in any sexual or potentially sexual situation. As we continue to move further away from the start of the #metoo movement, consent is still very much a discussion that needs to be had. Because regression can’t be an option. Remember how we got here in the first place. “I think that what has gone on has made the survivors of this type abuse and harassment more empowered to talk about what they went through,” says Alison Hall, executive director of Pittsburgh Action Against Rape. “It’s also made more men, certainly not all men, stop and think about their actions and what they’re saying and how they are treating the women they interact with.” Hall says she believes parents are talking to their children more about consent and there have been efforts to teach young men, especially, about consent. But she says no one should struggle with how to teach consent. “It’s kind of crazy to me,” Hall says. “You simply ask permission. ‘Can I kiss you?’ ‘Is this comfortable for you?’ Some kids are having sex in high school and they need to be aware of this. And we don’t just need to be teaching our young men and boys, we need to make sure our girls understand that if they don’t give consent than the other person must stop.” David Brunner, a sexual health educator, adds that consent also isn’t a one time ask. As things move on to the next stages, consent should be sought along the way. That’s active consent. Prior to this issue, the Current conducted a sex survey on a wide variety of sex-related topics. One of those questions asked whether the respondents understood
and practiced active consent. An overwhelming 98.8 percent of people said they did. And while that number is huge, it still makes you worry that 1.2 percent of respondents didn’t know. But the only way to make sure that the number hits 100 percent is through education. And sometimes the best education comes from places you never expected. As you read the stories on the next few pages, you may have preconceived notions about pornographic film performers or those who liked to be ensconced in latex and bound by ropes. But what you probably don’t know is that the people involved in these activities probably have the clearest understanding of consent. “Consent is the cornerstone of activities in places like the BDSM community,” Hall says. Mistress Kye, who you’ll meet later in this issue says, “Safety in our community is everything. Without feeling safe, there is no trust. The three main tenants of BDSM are communication, trust, consent. In that order. We communicate, we trust each other, we give our consent.” James says it’s also vital in her role as an adult performer. “Every time I go to set, it’s the first thing I discuss when I get there. I walk in, ‘Hi, I’m Michele, I’m going to be working with you today.’ Once everyone leaves and it’s just me and [the other performer], I say, ‘what are your complete boundaries, what are your hard no’s,’ what don’t you want me to do to you? And he tells me that. And then I tell him, this is what I don’t want you to do to me. “I’ve never had problems with my consent being violated, because I make it clear up front.” So as you continue through our sex issue, read the thoughts, opinions and stories from the wide-range of personalities we’ve collected. We may all like different things, but deep down, the goal is to be safe and have fun. Bethany Ruhe contributed to this report.
Michele James (Current Photos by Jake Mysliwczyk)
MICHELE JAMES WORKS IN THE ADULT FILM INDUSTRY, SOCIETAL STIGMAS BE DAMNED BY BETHANY RUHE - PITTSBURGH CURRENT ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER BETHANY@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
magine you are a self-made, successful entrepreneur. You started from nothing. You worked hard to make something of yourself. You spent countless hours on your marketing and branding plan. You did your research and you educated yourself on trends in the business. You built your social media platforms from nothing to tens-of-thousands of followers. You have people paying good money for your product. You put in 16-hour
days. You are your own CEO, you are successful by any measure. You are Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos. But you do all of this naked, sometimes with a dick in your mouth, because you are an adult film star. The people that make the porn that a lot of us watch are sick of you pretending that you’re better than them. Michele James especially is sick of it.
“We are cast out into the shadows,” James said during during an interview with Pittsburgh Current. “People misunderstand our work. I say this all the time, if I could bring a person who didn’t do sex work on set for a day, for them to see what we actually go through, they would realize it’s a job too and we deserve respect, the same as CEOs, and everybody else who goes to work 9-5.” James is a Pittsburgh-area local,
a star on the rise. She sees part of her responsibility to the industry she loves is helping to destigmatize the performers who make it. James knew from a young age what her destiny was to be. Porn star, adult film actress, or her preferred term, sex worker. “Growing up I always had a DDD chest, so I was sexualized from a young age,” James said. “I decided once I was old enough and able to take charge of it by myself, I was
PITTSBURGH CURRENT | FEB. 5, 2019 | 13
going to monetize my sexuality. I might as well get paid for doing it. Why not start making money off things people are already going to say or do about me anyway?” Seems like harsh words from such a gorgeous mouth, but that’s what you quickly discover about James. She embraces the roughness and the beauty of her work. She is very confident with her chosen profession; she is passionate about her industry; and she gives exactly zero fucks what you think about that. James started out as an amatuer, making videos for a site called ManyVids. ManyVids is one of the industry’s leading platforms that allows performers to produce, film, load and monetize their own content. The site has among the
industry’s highest payouts for performers from 60 to 80 percent. It also allows performers to link to their social sites, giving them the ability to build an audience across all platforms. Audience is the single most important thing to taking the next step as a sex worker. James was able to build a big enough body of work and enough followers, nearly 50,000 on Twitter (@michelejamesmv), to attract the attention of an agent from Florida. From there she started filming “mainstream” films in the two areas where it’s legal: Los Angeles County in California and Miami. To date, according to her verified account on pornhub.com, her videos have been viewed 4.8 million times. “You have to be real careful of where you are,” James cautions. One foot over a line the wrong way, and you’re breaking the law. And thankfully, when she started, she wasn’t alone. “When you get in the industry, it’s about you meeting the other women, learning from their experiences, having them help you. When I first started, I didn’t know how to do half the stuff I know how to do now when it comes to preparing for these scenes until I met
Michele James (Current Photos by Jake Mysliwczyk)
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these other women that helped me. “There is a ton of preparation that goes into these scenes that I would have had no idea about had I not met these other women. They are very nurturing, they will help you any way they can. It’s a very tightknit community, because we know that we’re outcasts. The only support system we have is each other.” When asked who is the one performer she would love to work with, her answer comes without hesitation, “Adriana Chechik. She’s such an amazing performer and I’m so envious of her. She is, in my opinion, top of the top. She goes and she gives her all, and you can see it in the scenes. By the end there’s no makeup left, her hair is all crazy, I mean, she literally leaves her heart on that set, every scene she does. “You know that she loves her job, and that’s what I love. There are a lot of girls that come into this industry to just take what they need from it, their social media fame, whatever else, but then there are actually performers who love going out there, who love having sex, putting out a good product and I aspire to be like that.” The idea of hard work being
noble seems to have passed by most people when they think about porn. Which is strange, because you would be hard-pressed to come across harder workers. “We get up and get to work at 6-7 am, pack our bags, we are on set 8,10,12, sometimes 14 hours a day, working. It’s not just all fucking and fun and games. There are times where you’re halfway through the day and you’re like, okay, can we leave now? I’m tired, I’m hungry, I’m sweaty, I want to shower, I’m just irritated. It’s a lot of work. That’s the biggest thing I wish we could get over as a society, is including sex workers as actual people. We are normal people, we have to pay our bills, too.” People that go into sex work might start off because they love sex, but they don’t stay in it anymore than Jeff Bezos stayed at Amazon because he loves shopping. It becomes bigger than that. James stays in because she’s passionate about making a difference in the industry. “I’ll always love this industry,” James said. “My main goal when I started was to make this a better industry than when I started. I believe that when I go to set and I follow the proper protocol and I’m making sure that I am respecting people’s boundaries, if I can educate people and get everyone else to do the same, that’s my part of making the industry better, and hopefully it will radiate. I can’t do this myself, I can’t weed all the bad apples out, but if i can start the process to make it a better place and get performers to understand what it means to be safe on set, that’s all I want.” When asked what she might do if she wasn’t doing this, or what she might do after this, she answers as quickly and as surely as the Adriana Chechik question: an airline pilot. “I love aviation. If I wasn’t doing porn, I would, and I still might, pursue that. As of right now, I’m staying with the industry, but if it changed tomorrow, I would go into aviation.” It’s not like she’s planning on going anywhere anytime soon. “This industry has given me so much
power I feel like I can do anything right now. I put myself out there, I’ve dealt with the criticism, I’ve dealt with the judgement, no one can fucking stop me now. There is nothing you can say to me to hurt my feelings. It’s so fucking empowering.” It’s important to remember, especially at judgement-passing time, that James wouldn’t be doing this work if you weren’t watching, and she knows it. So while she thinks it’s unfair that she and her colleagues are marginalized, she doesn’t let that stop her. And she’s paid a price for her work. She’s lost people in her life. “Losing people goes along with the stigma. I think a lot of it has to do with people’s religious views. I don’t think I’m doing anything wrong by doing this. There are always going to be people who don’t approve of what you’re doing,” she explained. “If they want to walk away because of what I do, that’s their loss. Because I’m still the same person. The sad thing about all of this is that I’ve had people who I’ve known forever, and I was doing mainstream porn for about six months before it ‘broke’ and people found out. I had people say I can’t be your friend. “You were friends with me six
months ago when I was doing it but you didn’t know, and I’m the same person. I haven’t changed. It’s tough, but I knew in the beginning that it was going to happen, so I had already accepted I was going to lose friends and family.” But what the industry can take away, it can also deliver back in a different form. “This industry has given me a lot more people than I’ve lost,” she said. “They’re doing the same job as you. They know how hard it is. They’ve lost people too. So you are really making true friendships and really meeting family in this job. We’ve all lost people. We all know what it’s like to be outsiders.” James isn’t content to just be a performer. She wants to be an agent of change. She wants to shine a light on the hard work and dedication that people like herself put out there every day. She is smart. She is proud. And one way or another, Michele James is going to fly.
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BY HALEY FREDERICK - PITTSBURGH CURRENT STAFF WRITER HALEY@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM It’s long been debated whether food can have a real impact on sex drive. The ancient Romans believed in the power of aphrodisiacs, and so does traditional Chinese medicine. Some people argue that because the brain is the center of arousal and also where your body processes tastes and textures when you’re eating, the connection is obvious. Others claim it’s bunk science. The term “aphrodisiac” comes from Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, sex and beauty. There seem to be two major kinds of aphrodisiacs. The first kind are things like ginseng that are believed to have a chemical effect on your body. The second kind are things that resemble certain parts of the human body in either appearance or texture. Avocado trees, for example, were called “testicle trees” by the Aztecs because of the way they hang in pairs—one a bit lower than the other. Whether you believe aphrodisiacs are real or not, you can’t tell me that you’ve never had an experience with some velvet pasta or a rich chocolate cake that felt a little bit sexual. Here are some aphrodisiac-filled dishes you can try in Pittsburgh and find out for yourself: This Dark Chocolate Strawberry Cake from 350° Bakery is a spin on the Valentine’s Day classic, chocolate covered strawberries. It’s no wonder that this pairing is associated with a romantic holiday. Dark chocolate contains tryptophan and phenylethylamine, which are both linked to good feelings. Chocolate is also thought to be so enjoyable because it’s melting point is just under body temperature, creating that luscious mouthfeel. Strawberries supply vitamin C which is said to promote blood flow, and they’re that blood-red color that invokes passion. These oyster shooters from Merchant Oyster Co. have two major things going for them. First, there’s the oyster, which is one the most iconic aphrodisiacs, going all the way back to ancient Romans claiming they made women who ate them act immorally. Oysters do contain omega-3 fatty acids which some claim boosts libido. The gin in the shooter is also a plus. In moderation, alcohol is believed to increase sex drive—though too much will have the opposite effect. 16 | FEB. 5, 2019 | PITTSBURGH CURRENT
Photo via @350bakerypgh on Instagram
There are many places to get tofu in Pittsburgh, but none of them with as wonderfully suggestive of a name as Thai Me Up Tofu from Thai Me Up in South Side. Soy products like tofu are often said to effect libido by supplementing estrogen levels. And it’s suggested that the isoflavones help keep things lubricated in women. And the peanut sauce on this dish may help men keep things running because of an amino acid called L-arginine. When people talk about ice cream Photo via @romanovamarisa on Instagram as an aphrodisiac, it’s all about the texture. Ice cream has that gorgeous, silky mouthfeel because it’s an emulsion, which basically means that the fats are suspended in liquids. Real dairy milk is the best way to achieve this, which is why it’s so hard for dairy-free ‘ice creams’ to mimic the texture. But, about 60 percent of the population experiences some level of lactose intolerance, and digestive distress isn’t sexy. That’s where Leona’s ice cream sandwiches come in. They’re made with real milk to be Photo via @leonasllc on Instagram perfectly creamy, but without the lactose that upsets stomachs. You can even find flavors with classic aphrodisiacs like ginger, honey, chocolate, cherry and strawberry. This red wine braised lamb neck from Or, the Whale sits atop a bed of asparagus and risotto. Red wine is a classic aphrodisiac, though again, moderation is key with alcohol. It’s said to increase blood flow, and perhaps even raise testosterone levels in men. Of course, we weren’t going to get out of this article without something being considered phallic. But asparagus has more than that going for it—vitamin B6, vitamin E and folate all supposedly boost libido. Photo via @orthewhalepgh on Instagram
Photo via @merchantpgh on Instagram
Current Photos by Jake Mysliwczyk
PITTSBURGH’S BDSM COMMUNITY HAS A PLACE FOR EVERYONE BY BETHANY RUHE - PITTSBURGH CURRENT ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER BETHANY@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
here was an artic chill in the air as I turned into the parking lot of the club, the snow crunching beneath my tires. A figure emerged from the front door, smiling widely, gesturing for me to hurry in from the cold. Gelsomino, the club owner, greeted me with a hug. “Sorry it’s a bit chilly. We keep the heat down when we aren’t open,” he said. It
made sense. The place was huge, caveneverous even, with hallways going every which way, lined with rooms along each side. That’s not where we were headed though. “Don’t worry,” he said, as we hustled down to a door at the end. “The heat is on in here.” And with that, he flung open the door to the sex dungeon. I was greeted by four kinksters, or people who participate in the BDSM
lifestyle. They came together, with very short notice, on this very cold night to talk to a complete stranger about their very personal business. Which, as I got to know them more, and others in and around the community, I discovered is par for the course. They want to talk about it. They want people to know about it. They are people you know; people you love; maybe even the person
sitting next to you right now. And they are incredibly happy to talk about a lifestyle and a community that brings them so much joy. BDSM itself means bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism, but it’s understood to cover a lot of different kinks and fetishes. Jay, a board member at Pittsburgh Bridge, an organization that holds events and educational classes for the local BDSM community, ticks off some of the kinks they see around. “Role-play, hypnosis, grappling and tickling come to mind,” Jay said. “Polyamory, while not a kink but more of a relationship style, is also well-represented. BDSM is a broad term though, and it encompasses much more than most people realize. Any form of consensual power exchange falls under the BDSM umbrella.” If your only exposure to BDSM has been 50 Shades of Grey, well, let’s just say you’ve had a partial view, at best. If you mention 50 Shades of Grey to folks in the community, they tend to roll their eyes. To the purists, it wasn’t a good or accurate representation at all. But, as Mistress Kye, a Pro Domme, points out, it did push BDSM into the mainstream. “People in the community bitch, but I think it’s a good thing,” she said. “It put it out there that this isn’t some disgusting thing.” If the popularity of the 50 Shades franchise, both books and movies, are any indication, people were most definitely not disgusted. “In reality, almost everyone in some shape way or form has some sort of kink or fetish or deviant thought,” Gelsomino said. “I think the movie allowed people to feel more open about it. There wasn’t a mad rush of people because of it, but I think in general, it opened people’s eyes to the fact that we’re all kind of the same.” The Body Shop is a private, members-only lifestyle club that caters to consenting adults of all backgrounds, shape, sizes, kinks, desires, you name it. The only thing you have to be is accepting. And yes, sex does happen there. A lot. PITTSBURGH CURRENT | FEB. 5, 2019 | 17
That’s a common refrain throughout the community, though, one of wanting acceptance. When asked what’s one misconception they would like to lay to rest about BDSM it’s that people stop thinking of them as ‘other’ or weird. As Gelsomino said, most people feel something deviant. “It’s okay to feel the way you’re feeling,” Mistress Kye said. “There are places you can go, and our community is so welcoming. I always suggest people attend a munch to learn more.” Munches are informal gatherings of local kinksters, usually at a bar or coffee shop, and chances are you’ve walked past them many, many times and didn’t even realize it. Munches are focused on chatting, getting to know people and learning in a relaxed environment. If Munch got you intrigued to learn more, happy hours and Sloshes follow. Both are more party-like, usually involve booze at a bar or club, can get a bit more wild, but you’re still in public, so it’s a tad more restrained than say, Freaky Friday at The Body Shop. Russ, one of the four kinksters I met at The Body Shop, runs Freaky Friday (their once-a-month kink and fetish night, held in the aforementioned sex dungeon,) and Phoenix, organizer of Pittsburgh’s Bondage Ball, runs the DJ booth. R, a petite brunette in a latex catsuit, and an older gentleman named Pete completed the group that evening. Each were effusive in their stories of the BDSM community, none more so than Pete. Looking more like a 60-someyear-old humanities professor than a kinkster, Pete started his tale. “I came into the community about two years ago,” Pete said. “I’m 18 | FEB. 5, 2019 | PITTSBURGH CURRENT
Newer to the scene, R. demonstrates a rope suspension (Current Photos by Jake Mysliwczyk)
Current Photos by Jake Mysliwczyk
HAVE YOU EVER WATCHED PORN? YES: 96.4% NO: 3.6%
HOW MANY TIMES A WEEK DO YOU WATCH PORN? NEVER: 21.4% ONCE: 20.2% TWICE: 12.9% THRICE: 14.9%
WHERE HAVE YOU WATCHED PORN OTHER THAN YOUR OWN HOME? WORK XMAS PARTY LIBRARY THE U.S. EMBASSY IN KABUL, AFGHANISTAN GARDEN THEATER
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a little weathered, compared to most. Rope is my main thing, it’s been in my soul my whole life, I just didn’t know it. I still watch a lot. To watch people enjoy their whole selves is absolutely remarkable. They’re reaching out, they’re reaching inside. It’s changed my life.” Gelsomino is quick to point out that the dungeon is also available for event rentals. “I would love to host a wedding,” he said wistfully. “I can imagine a bondage wedding, officiated by a dominatrix…” He is so passionate about this, that The Body Shop is actually giving away a wedding to one lucky couple. You just have to convince them that you are worthy of the kink wedding of your dreams. (visit thekinkspace. com or kinkweddings.com for details.) The internet has also done a lot to connect, and in some way, destigmatize, the kink and fetish community. It has its own social networking site, FetLife. Launched in 2007 it has since racked up over seven million members, from all around the world (including six people in Antarctica, which is either bullshit or an incredibly hopping research station.) It’s free to use. You just set up your profile, upload your picture, pick your interests and you are off and running. It’s like Facebook for kinksters, but without those annoying Friendaversary montages. It was through FetLife that I met CheekyBad, AKA LaLa. She is one of the lead organizers of, Pittsburgh Kinksters of Color (PKOC.) When asked if the scene is as inclusive as I’d been led to believe, she doesn’t hesitate. “No. There are
Saint Andrew’s Cross (Current Photos by Jake Mysliwczyk)
microaggressions, tokenism, being fetishized, frequent enough that we had to create this space.” And it’s not like she hasn’t tried to talk about it with others in the community. “Often, it’s not even like talking to a brick wall. It’s like having a brick wall talk back to you.” Coming into BDSM as a person of color carries its own set of unique issues. “It is incredibly more difficult to come in from a black perspective, to accept that violence and pain is something that can be accepted and good is so foreign, to think of it as something positive..” her voice trails off. “If we keep trying to convince ourselves we are so inclusive, we will never become inclusive. “I want to get people to open their hearts and listen to what people are saying. Not be a circle jerk
20 | FEB. 5, 2019 | PITTSBURGH CURRENT
of help, but listen. Because you can’t listen and not feel.” Despite all of the differences that run through the community, one thing is universal: their dedication to safety. Mistress Kye sums it up in three words, “Communication, trust, consent. Safety in our community is always our top priority.” And when you’re dealing with hanging from ropes, being flogged, tied up, tied down, and any other number of potentially dangerous activities, safety doesn’t just mean consent, it means training. R, who is about to get suspended by Russ for our photo shoot, is fine with just being suspended for now, but might want to branch out in the future. She’ll wait, though. Until she knows she’s ready. “It’s daunting to know that you have that level
of responsibility and that level of control over someone else’s body,” R said. “If you don’t do something exactly correctly, they can end up with nerve damage for the rest of their lives.” This is why education is so important, because despite what you might have heard, BDSM isn’t all about pain. “I hear people say, I’m not into pain, but pain is a very, very small part of what I do, probably five to ten percent of this lifestyle,” Mistress Kye said. “This lifestyle is about pleasure.” There is also a lot of looking out for each other. Any reputable dungeon party will have monitors, and as Jay from Pittsburgh Bridge points out, “We act as a system of references for each other. Obviously,
meeting random people from the internet carries a certain amount of risk; meeting someone and playing at one of our parties provides a safer option. If someone is unsafe or problematic, word gets around, and that person won’t last long in this community.” Another good entry point to the lifestyle is Bondage Ball, now in its fifth year. Phoenix, the event organizer, designs the event to appeal to both the utter novice and the absolute pros. For many people, it’s their first experience with kink and fetish. It was R’s first taste of it. “I went eyes wide open,” R said. “You don’t know where to look and you’re so excited and you want to tell everybody, but you don’t know who you can talk to about it. And that’s why the community is so awesome. You have friends who are excited with you and want to tell you more about their things.” And if you put down the leather, the chains, the St. Andrew’s Cross (Google it,) the true foundation of the community is acceptance, love, belonging and okayness. You are okay, you are seen, and you are loved. As I was getting ready to leave the Body Shop, Pete, the gray haired professor-type, pulled me aside. “I want to tell you something,” he said. “My very first BDSM class I went to, there was a woman there. She had very obvious OCD issues, she had to be so far apart from the garbage cans, she was touching the wall so many times… and she was embraced. She wasn’t any different in the eyes of the people there. And I thought to myself, this is what church is supposed to be like. This. And I feel like that every time I’m around my community. This is my church. Here, we all belong.” It’s not perfect. It’s a scene and lifestyle made up of humans, and we are notorious for fucking things up. But we’re also pretty good at not quitting. And LaLa is hopeful that the issues that divide them, that divide all of us, really, aren’t insurmountable. “In the end we are all in this journey together,” LaLa said. PITTSBURGH CURRENT | FEB. 5, 2019 | 21
LOCAL MUSICIANS AND ‘CURRENT’ WRITERS PICK THE SEXIEST OF ALL SEX SONGS COMPILED BY MARGARET WELSH - PITTSBURGH CURRENT MUSIC EDITOR MARGARET@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM THERE’S PLENTY OF MUSIC ABOUT SEX OUT THERE. MOST ALL OF IT, IN FACT. BUT JUST IN CASE THIS ISSUE INSPIRES YOU TO PUT TOGETHER A NEW BANGIN’ PLAYLIST, WE ASKED A FEW MUSICIANS AND MUSIC WRITERS TO SHARE THEIR FAVORITE SEXY SONGS.
Jackson O’Connell-Barlow, Chantillion “Win” – David Bowie “Though it’s from Bowie’s self-proclaimed “Plastic Soul” album (Young Americans), this track is as spiritually vibrant as any he’s delivered. To look at the masterfully vague lyrics, it appears to address some kind of interpersonal power struggle, but the words are bathed in divine melodic sensuality. Not a word of sex is uttered, but this song delivers elegant potency before, during and after your richest erotic encounters.”
Doro simply sounds so hot. She always does, but never so much as when she’s singing about a ‘strange desire’ that comes over her at night.”
Stephanie Tsong, DJ, Jellyfish “Baby Let Me Kiss You” – Fern Kinney “It’s the perfect BPM (Baby-Producing Music? Bump & Pound Music?) for a sensuous striptease. Not to mention, Fern Kinney’s voice is lace and vegan leather incarnate.”
Meg Fair, Current contributor “Two Weeks” – FKA Twigs “This song came out four years ago, but it still gives me goosebumps. Twigs’ breathy voice, the centering of one’s own pleasure, orgasmic crescendo? A recipe for spicy sexy time with your lover.”
Charlie Deitch, Current editor “One Night of Sin” – Smiley Lewis “This song normally engenders memories of ‘One Night with You’ by Elvis Presley. Presley’s version is about sex, but it’s about sweet, pining sex with someone you hope to spend your life with. Presley loved the song, and he sang the shit out of it, but he changed the lyrics and the meaning to get it approved by the record label. But Lewis, a rhythm-and-blues man out of Louisiana, isn’t singing about starry-eyed love making. He growls into the mic: “One night of sin. Is what I’m now paying for. The things I did and I saw. Would make the earth stand still.” It’s about a forbidden, incredible, life-changing, immediately-regretted night of fucking that changed his life forever.”
ChaRon Don, hip-hop artist “Pour It Up” - Rihanna “Key line: “Strippers goin’ up and down that pole/I still got my money/Four o’clock and we ain’t goin’ home/Cause I still got my money.”
Marie Mashyna, Sad Girls Aquatics Club “Erotic City” – Prince “I don’t think an unsexy Prince song exists? But I love how this song is somehow forward and coy at the same time. He captures initial infatuation with someone so well. The bass line gets me every time.”
Mike Shanley, Current contributor The Stooges – “We Will Fall” “This one slinks along for 10 minutes, built on one droning chord seasoned with a wah-wah guitar. As the band — presuming it’s them — begins a slow, hypnotic chant like Tibetan throat singers, Iggy Pop sketches the outline of a secret rendezvous. “Don’t forget to come/ Room 1-2-1.” Maybe it’s a romantic meeting. Maybe he’s meeting his connection. Or maybe when he talks about going to sleep, he means death. Regardless, the one can fog up the windows if the mood is right.”
Dutch Pearce, Current contributor “Kiss of Death” – Warlock “Because Danzig’s “She Rides” leaves a greasy residue that’s hard to get off, I gotta go with this deep-cut banger from Warlock’s fourth album. The reason is simple: When she’s belting ‘By the li-IGHT of the moon’ during the hook, 22 | FEB. 5, 2019 | PITTSBURGH CURRENT
Ana Armengod, De Rodillas “How Many Licks” – Lil’ Kim “I mean, is there much to say once you hear the song? Lil’ Kim was always empowering, she was outspoken about how SHE liked to have sex, not about how the dude she was having sex with was liking it.”
Margaret Welsh, Current music editor Leonard Cohen – “I’m Your Man” “Willingness to transform into anything for the object of desire is, um, unhealthy, but Cohen’s exploration of that impulse is dignified and superbly pervy. Would a therapist support the style of courtship at play here? Unlikely, but that’s what makes it hot.”
Manager Dee Conrad and employee Jazzman (Current photo by Jake Mysliwczyk)
STORES LIKE ADULTMART OFFER A JUDGEMENT-FREE ZONE TO HELP YOU SPICE UP YOUR SEX LIFE BY CHARLIE DEITCH - PITTSBURGH CURRENT EDITOR CHARLIE@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM EDITOR’S NOTE: THIS STORY CONTAINS ADULT LANGUAGE AND DISCUSSIONS ABOUT SEX
“Can I help you today,” Dee Conrad asks the middle-aged couple who walked hand-in-hand into her store on a recent Saturday afternoon. The couple responded quickly, “Oh, we’re just looking around,” the woman told her. “We’ve driven by many times, but we’ve never stopped.” Conrad, the manager of Adultmart on Mcknight Road, flashed a big smile, replying, “Oh,
we’ve got a couple of virgins here!” Conrad chuckles and the couple laugh as she continues to help them make their first trip to the adult toy store a fun and memorable one. This is not the sex shop of old, far from it. When some people think about the old “adult bookstores,” like the ones that were chased off of Liberty Avenue and other locales downtown more than a decade ago, they think of unsavory, faintly lit
dens of iniquity where strange guys in trench coats walk in with hats pulled over their eyes looking for god knows what. But today’s adult toy stores are nothing like that, and even those from the old days weren’t as bad as most people (many of whom never even stepped foot inside) believed. Adultmart is a womanowned business headquartered in Cleveland. Rondee Kamins bought
the company nearly 20 years ago from her father and has been in the adult industry for more than 35 years. This store and the and the chain’s 37 other stores across the midwest are welcoming retail stores with a wide-array of products and an extremely knowledgeable staff. It’s a welcoming space that more people are visiting because, quite frankly, attitudes toward sex have changed
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drastically. “We do tend to get a bad rap,” Conrad told the Current. “But I feel like people aren’t as shy about sex and about expressing what they want sexually as they used to be. And we’re here to help them with that.” If help is what you need, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone more knowledgeable than Conrad. She manages the McKnight store now, but she’s a second-generation Adultmart employee. Her mother worked at a downtown location 20 years ago and alerted her daughter about a job opening at the Condom Nation next door; she’s been here ever since. Her breadth of knowledge about new products and trends in the industry make her an invaluable guide through this world. When the aforementioned couple has a question about flavored lube, Conrad is right there to help. “Does this tend to be really sticky?” the woman asks. Conrad explains that
because it’s a sugar-based product it’s bound to be a little “tacky.” But just like Costco or Sam’s Club on a Saturday, you can easily get a free sample. As the woman tastes the cherry-flavored lubricant, Conrad tells her, “I think you’ll enjoy this. Don’t let a little stickiness deter you from throwing back a good time!” The couple laughs and a short time later they leave with the lube and a couple of adult DVDs (yes some people still buy their porn in DVD form). “People don’t want to buy everything online,” Conrad said. “Some of these items can be pricey. You should come in, get a feel for what you’re looking for. There are so many different options for everything and there’s a right toy out there for everyone. My job is to talk to them and help them figure out what it is.” The store carries toys for every purpose: vibrators for women, new
devices that use suction known as Pussy Pumps (in vibrating and nonvibrating varieties) to stimulate the clitoris and the vagina, masturbators for men, bondage gear, butt plugs, strap-ons for women to use on women and strap-ons for women to use on men, also known as pegging. “People are more adventurous these days, especially when it comes to anal. There are a lot of different products out there that do different things and we help people find the right product for them. And then we have our regular customers who’ve come in and have bought the same butt plug for the past 20 years. They don’t want to change and we don’t want them to,” Conrad said pointing to a package labeled “classic butt plug,” with a red, white and blue packaging. Adultmart also carries its own line of toys known as Explorotica, which can take care of every sexual desire someone might have.
And no desire or fantasy is off limits for conversation in the store. “I love my job, this is a judgement-free zone,” Conrad says. “I love that people are into all kinds of different things. You should never yuck someone’s yums.” But regardless of what you’re into, Conrad says there is one piece of advice that she gives everyone: “Listen to me, everyone likes to think there’s always a gusher down there, but I tell everyone, no matter what you’re into, lube is your best friend!”
WHAT ARE SOME OF THOSE NAMES? HOW MANY TIMES A WEEK DO YOU PRACTICE SELF LOVE? THREE TIMES: 16.9% TWICE: 15.3% ONCE: 14.9% FIVE TIMES: 12.9% ZERO: 7.7%
DO YOU USE SEX TOYS OR OTHER DEVICES? YES: 55.5% NO: 44.5%
DO YOU HAVE NAMES FOR YOUR NAUGHTY BITS?: NO: 86.3% YES: 13.7
Current photos by Jake Mysliwczyk
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KITTEN DON DRYSDALE THE GIRLS “I ACTUALLY SAY ‘NAUGHTY BITS.’ ALWAYS LIKED THAT. HAVE ADDED HONEY POT.” CHO-CHA TOWER OF POWER BIG RED FLOWER DR. THUNDER VIRGINIA L’IL VIGGO THE PALACE LITTLE BIPPER (BOYFRIEND’S PENIS) PEABODY MONROE
GET MORE SURVEY RESULTS ALL WEEK ON OUR WEBSITE: WWW.PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM AND ON TWITTER, INSTAGRAM AND FACEBOOK: @PGHCURRENT
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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.
email: email@example.comPITTSBURGH CURRENT | OCT. 23, 2018 | 19
Sucks to Be an Animal
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By Sienna Cittadino
by Andrew Schubert
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.
PITTSBURGH CURRENT | OCT. 23, 2018 | 21
Hatfield’s Ferry coal-fired power plant on the west bank of the Monongahela River near Masontown in Greene County, Pennsylvania. The plant was deactivated in late 2013 by FirstEnergy Corporation, citing the cost of compliance with federal regulations on the emissions of lead, mercury, arsenic and other fine particles. 2015
NEW BOOK EXAMINES SHALE’S TOLL THROUGH PHOTOS AND PROSE BY FRED SHAW - PITTSBURGH CURRENT CONTRIBUTING WRITER INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
hen my nephew was a child, he was entranced by all manner of heavy machinery, once spending hours chatting-up a road-repair crew at the end of his street when he was eight. So, it was no surprise he jumped at doing grunt work in the oil fields of Forest County just out of high school. Now, in his earlythirties, with a wife, two kids and a prominent oil derrick tattoo on his left arm, I’m proud of what he’s made of himself. However, as an environmentalist, it’s hard for me to reconcile my anger with the lasting
impacts the industry is making to our land, water and air, especially in rural PA. While both drillers and activists use statistics and experts to back up their arguments, sometimes it’s the personal that lends the most powerful perspectives. Shale Play: Poems and Photographs from the Fracking Fields (Penn State University Press,) a glossy-paged new release by Penn State professors Julia Spicher Kasdorf and Steven Rubin, does just that, juxtaposing Kasdorf’s “documentary” poems with Rubin’s well-composed photos. The effect,
as the talented essayist Barbara Hurd asserts in the book’s foreword, is that “By overlapping the voices of third-generation farmers tired of poverty, gas industry workers, anglers and health officials, Kasdorf and Rubin remind us that we all live, consciously or not, within the larger contexts of other people with other stories…mak[ing] survival more possible because we just might learn to stop dismissing those whose story is not consistent with our own.” Shale Play keeps this aesthetic squarely in mind as narratives get elevated when pictures and words come together.
The founding of documentary poetry is difficult to attribute to any one author, though Muriel Rukeyser’s 1938 The Book of the Dead is often lauded as a breakthrough, covering the Hawk’s Nest Tunnel disaster in West Virginia that left hundreds of mostly AfricanAmerican workers dead from silica exposure. In one passage she writes of, “These carrying light for safety on their foreheads/descended deeper for richer faults of ore,/drilling their death…Carry abroad the urgent need, the scene,/ to photograph and to extend the voice,/ to speak this meaning.// Voices to speak to us directly./As we move. As we enrich, growing in larger motion,/ this word, this power.” Rukeyser’s work here is a call to recognize and act in the face of tragedy that mostly had gone unnoticed. It also highlights a lineage that Kasdorf and Rubin recognize well, in the vein of James Agee and Walker Evan’s classic, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. As Kasdorf well-explains in an essay for the Center for Mennonite Writing that “Documentary poetry applies the values of contemporary verse—voice, concision, visual imagery, emotional urgency, inventive form—to topics we expect to encounter in the news, such as issues of social justice or environmental crisis. Documentary poets derive their authority not so much from experience and feeling as lyric poets do, as from evidence and empathy. Their methods include deep listening, archival research, quotation of found texts (oral or written). Sometimes writers manipulate or otherwise work with existing documents; other times they actively record the language of others. Often this work seeks to amplify voices or highlight events that might otherwise go unnoticed, or to cast history in a different light.” In a state where fracking mostly receives a free pass for questionable environmental practices and plaintiffs who take them to court are silenced by settlements, maybe these types of narratives can lend agency to the aggrieved and affected.
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While Rubin’s photographs pop with color and perspective, it’s the humanizing nature, warts and all, of Kasdorf’s verse that makes the collection feel complicated, conflicted and real. There’s a multitude of voices spread over 23 longer poems. In one, “Happy Holds Forth at Fry Brothers Turkey Ranch on Route 15,” the speaker, who hauls fracking fluid, says, “…everyone deserves a fair trial. But look; what we’re doing/ out here is not good. I sit forever in the cab and pray,/ Take me now! Are you a Christian? I’m sorry,/ it’s just that I’m so tired. The poison that comes up,// they pump back into wells. It might seem OK now,/ but what’s to say it will stay put for two years/ or ten, or how about when our grandchildren grow up?” In the face of climate change and governmental unwillingness to pivot towards renewables, it’s fascinating to hear an insider conflicted by his work. Coming on the heels of Eliza Griswold’s well-received nonfiction book Amity and Prosperity that focused on the Haney family of Washington County, and with the news that State Attorney General Josh Shapiro is conducting a criminal investigation into similar complaints of fracking related health-issues, Shale Play adds a thoughtfully-complex dimension to an issue that’s far from being resolved to anyone’s liking.
READ FRED SHAW’S FULL STORY ON SHALE PLAY AT PITTSBURGH CURRENT.COM
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For passes and Information go to AACC-AWC.org
Run the Rabbit Path at PICT Theatre
ROUGH ROAD WORLD PREMIERE OF ‘RUN THE RABBIT PATH’ SHOWCASES A PLAY IN NEED OF SOME WORK BY TED HOOVER - PITTSBURGH CURRENT THEATER CRITIC INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
aking a break from its usual schedule of offering up more, shall we say, road-tested shows, PICT Classic Theatre dips their artistic toe in the pond of new play development, with the world premiere of Run the Rabbit Path by Pittsburgh playwright Ray Werner. The story is set in the kitchen of a working-class family in one of Western PA’s many industrial towns. The father has just died and his
grown children Patty, Charlie and Tommy, come together to close out the past and try to navigate what’s ahead. Charlie is the troubled son, unable to settle at anything and seemingly adrift in the world. Tommy’s the golden boy, owner of a convenience store chain in the tristate region and doesn’t have time for the messy emotions of family life. Patty, as the oldest and the
female, became the matriarchlike head of the family when their mother died several years ago. She moved next door to her father to keep an eye on him and it’s through her grit that the family will get through the funeral, the burial, the wake and whatever comes next. There’s one little problem however; Pops isn’t gone. He’s dead, yes, but his “soul” is still in the kitchen and as his children interact he’s unseen on the sidelines offering advice. The play takes place in real time over 90 minutes as the family works through some issues. I now have a confession to make. Long ago (this is so painful to say) I used to … write plays. The shame! And I was only able to leave that sick lifestyle behind me and join the human race after I went through “explaywright” conversion therapy. (What, exactly, does that therapy entail? You’re tied up and made to watch Ray Cooney plays. You’re forced to sit and listen as visionary directors ramble on about a “new” dynamic in theater. Every three hours an actor comes up to you and tells you what’s wrong with your play. And, for really advanced cases, they make you meet for drinks with a theater critic. Two weeks and I was cured!) So I’ve been on the same twisted road Werner is currently walking and I’d like to say that it never gives me pleasure having to be anything less than wildly enthusiastic about a new script … but Werner’s got some big challenges ahead as he continues down this play’s rewriting path. If it’s any comfort to him his biggest challenge is, perhaps, the most common with new-ish playwrights; the script is almost entirely devoid of present action. Much of the 90 minutes are the siblings sitting around saying: “Remember when we –?” “How about that time when – ?” “Don’t forget when Dad said –” “I remember when Mom would –.” What makes it even more of a theatrical nonstarter is that they all have the same memories so it’s people telling other people events they’ve either lived
through or already know about. Even the play’s big emotion climax is a monologue about a horrible incident that happened decades ago. Unfortunately it doesn’t get any more urgent when Werner adds a new theatrical gambit; Pops was something of a poet who’d leave short poems around the house for his wife to find. Patty drags out a box housing those old slips of paper and from then on much of the play is the three of them reading pieces of doggerel written by a dead man … who happens to be standing there footnoting the poems and telling his kids how they could be signposts to a happier life … which might be helpful if the kids could hear him. It’s never clear what the siblings want and what’s stopping them from getting it. The obstacles need to be much stronger, the stakes much higher and the work the characters do to achieve their objectives should be the action of the play, not these repetitive trips down memory culde-sacs. There’s more; lack of legitimate interpersonal conflict and, particularly, the easy, tidy endings which feel unsupported, but that’s for later. In his next draft Werner’s immediate goal should be creating some present action on stage. Alan Stanford provides deft direction and a cast featuring Karen Baum, James FitzGerald, Reed Allen Worth and Tony Bingham prove that they are a resource any playwright would consider an enormous gift. George S. Kaufman used to say that he planned to spend his retirement at opening nights of new shows. And, at the end, as he walked up the aisle past the miserablelooking playwright he’d just smile brightly and say: “It needs work.” It needs work.
RUN THE RABBIT PATH continues
through February 16. WQED Studios, Oakland. 412/561-6000. picttheatre. org
PITTSBURGH CURRENT | FEB. 5, 2019 | 31
My Year of Rest and Relaxation (Penguin Press, 2018)
Ottessa Moshfegh (Photo by: Krystal Griffiths)
“OTTESSA MOSHFEGH GETS INSIDE OF THE INEFFABLE BEAUTY TROPE AND THEN SMASHES IT WITH A LITERARY BALL PEEN HAMMER.”
ery often in literature and film, beautiful women are objects to be desired or enchanted by, but never really understood. In her novel My Year of Rest and Relaxation, (Penguin Press, 2018) Ottessa Moshfegh gets inside of the ineffable beauty trope and then smashes it before your eyes with a literary ball peen hammer. In so doing, she turns a one-dimensional character into an authentic, interesting and not necessarily nice person. It is glorious. “So much of a woman’s currency is how cool she is, how irreverent she is,” Moshfegh told The Current in a recent interview. “And being beautiful allows you to be irreverent
BY JODY DIPERNA - PITTSBURGH CURRENT CONTRIBUTING WRITER JODY@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM without being gross. I think that’s one thing that this character is good at being -- totally irreverent.” Moshfegh’s protagonist (the character remains unnamed throughout) is a bit lost; something is wrong that she cannot name. She lands on the idea that she needs to hit the reset button by sleeping away a year of her life. It will cure what ails her. She will emerge from her cocoon of sleep transformed. Moshfegh herself laughed about the guilty pleasure of falling asleep with something familiar on the television. She is no stranger to damaged, difficult protagonists. Her first novel, Eileen, (Penguin Press, 2016) revolved around a young woman’s dark interior life and spiritless work
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and home life. It was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and won the PEN/Hemingway Award for debut fiction. A frequent contributor to the Paris Review, Moshfegh has become known for her mordant, observational humor, but her take is deeper than a mere well-timed acerbic burn. Disappointment, callow beauty culture, the malaise of the leisure class, the hubris of wealth, the merits of analog TV viewing and Whoopi Goldberg’s entire oeuvre all get a thorough examination under Moshfegh’s skillful pen. As well as a sickening sense of loss. Early on, she writes: “I wanted to hold on to the house the way you’d hold on to a love letter.
It was proof that I had not always been completely alone in the world. But I think I was also holding on to the loss, to the emptiness of the house itself, as though to affirm that it was better to be alone than to be stuck with people who were supposed to love you, yet couldn’t.” This unnamed character interacts with a few key characters who expand her world beyond her sleeping sofa. Her friend Reva, with her constant doubts about being pretty enough or trendy enough of thin enough provides a perfect counterbalance to her effortless cool. Then there is Ping Xi, whose stock in trade is shock art and who she met while working as a Chelsea gallery girl, “[a] job tangential to do
7:30 p.m. Mon., Feb. 18. Carnegie Music Hall, Oakland
FEB. 20, 2019 | 1 P.M. FEB. 21, 2019 | 8 P.M.
This one woman show presents the stor y of 19 th Centur y abolitionist H arriet Tubman reimagined as a young woman growing up in H arlem .
something she once was passionate about, but also represented the disappointment of the art industry as having very little to do with the impetus to really make art.” The only other person she has any real contact with is Dr. Tuttle, the idiosyncratic psychiatrist through whom she obtains sleep meds. Some of the medicines are quite real, like ambien, but as the book takes life, they become fantastical. Moshfegh knew she had to tread a tight path in this regard and the scenes where the protagonist visits Dr. Tuttle are the most trenchant and hilarious in the book. “Dr. Tuttle is sort of the apotheosis of everything that is ridiculous about psychiatry for me,” Moshfegh said. “The premise of the book is so heavy in this certain way. And medication abuse is so scary. I knew Dr. Tuttle was going to be funny. She kind of came to me as a whole entity.” Though My Year of Rest and Relaxation is often discussed as a 9/11 book (the time period the story takes place in), it is perfect for the period in which we live now, when it wouldn’t be unreasonable to want to crawl into bed and just wait it all out. “The more the story developed, or seemed too true that this was a different period of American history and culture and that the whole conceit of sleeping away a year was much more peculiar if you set it in 2001,” Moshfegh said, well-aware of the unique circumstances of 2019 America. “Whereas if you set it now, it’s sort of predictable. It’s a common complaint that the world sucks right now. We’re in this period where everything sucks and we can’t wait for it to be over. That’s not how it felt in the year 2000. At least not to my knowledge.”
IN PARTNERSHIP WITH
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John Maus (Photo by: Shawn Brackbill)
EXPERIMENTAL SYNTH-POP ARTIST JOHN MAUS PONDERS THE FUNCTION OF LIVE PERFORMANCE BY MARGARET WELSH - PITTSBURGH CURRENT MUSIC EDITOR MARGARET@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
ohn Maus doesn’t know if he’ll ever tour again. And, glad as he is to be touring now, he doesn’t seem totally certain that he should be. “I’m not sure anyone’s going to come,” he said in a tone of matterof-factness that only a Minnesota accent can achieve. For one thing, there’s no new record to promote. While this tour (sort of ) functions as an additional leg of a run Maus did in 2018, “I get worried,” he said. “I get worried,
because when I first went out early last year, I hadn’t been out for, like, five or six years. So a lot of people turned out [because of that.] Now I feel like I’ve worn out that welcome.” Circumstances were different last year. The culty avant-synth-pop performer had recently released Addendum, a companion record to 2017’s Screen Memories, his first record in six years. And rather than performing alone, as he had in the past, he was playing with a full band. Then, in July, while in Latvia, his
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brother and bandmate Joseph Maus passed away. The rest of the tour was canceled. Since then, he’s spent a good chunk of time in the solitude of his Austin, Minnesota home, and is looking forward to a change of pace. Though he’s been fine-tuning the technical aspects of performance and reflecting on the function of performance itself. “A lot of this [tour] was put into play when the situation with the live show was different,” Maus said. “And - to not beat around the bush - when my brother was playing with me, when there was a whole band there; I think some things were put into place in those days that were just kind of left on the table after the fact.” So, if there’s any kind of hook for this current run, it’s probably this: “It will very likely be the last time, certainly for years, certainly for a year or something,” he said. “Then I’ll be older than what the cutoff date [for this career] was in my head. But when does it become like an oldman-in–assless chaps sort of thing? I’m right on that edge right now.” I have to take Maus at his word here. His approach to the music business has always seemed a little counter-intuitive. After his critically-beloved third record, We Must Become Pitiless Censors of Ourselves, for example, he dropped out of the public eye to finish his PhD in political philosophy. Like any philosophically minded academic who spends a lot of time alone, he’s probably prone to other-thinking. Regardless, he holds a valuable place in the musical landscape. There’s an underlying sense of apocalypse and doom at the center of much of Maus’ work, but he uses deadpan language and massculture signifiers to cut the dread into palatable little bites. He’s intellectual, but unpretentious (TV is his favorite vice, and he claims to watch all of it.) Lyrically, he’s often absurdist, and sometimes genuinely subversive. All with a beat you can dance to. Maus studied experimental music
composition from CalArts in Los Angeles in the early 2000’s; there, he started working with his thenroommate and fellow harbinger of the hypnagogic pop movement, Ariel Rosenberg, aka Ariel Pink. (On this tour Maus is bringing along former Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti member Gary War as his sound/ production guy.) From there, using vintage synthesizers, Maus developed his sound. Drawing from Gregorian chant and medieval modal scales, his records evoke gothic cathedrals as much as the chilly neon of an 80s action movie soundtrack. There’s a thread of the sacred running throughout his work, even (or especially) in a song like “Pets,” which reminds us that death comes for all Fidos and Fluffies. “I think this goes as deep as music in the west, in general,” Maus said. “I mean, it could be a cynical answer, [but] for instance I remember seeing a paper years ago about affect in cinema: There are certain modes that John Williams will unleash for ‘The Dream’ and things like this. And for something sacred it would always be these sorts of harmonies that I’m working with in my music. And it’s intentional in as much as that was the space musically and harmonically that I always felt drawn to dig at, that held the most promise.” There are few sub-genres more prone to nostalgia and schlock than retro-synth and sacred music. But Maus’ sense of subtlety may be his strongest asset. These are not fraught reminiscences; it’s not devotional, he’s not working through personal religious residue. “It wasn’t there in my youth,” he said. “I mean, from a musical standpoint, the lip-service that my middle-class family here in the midwest paid to the middle-class duty of religion on Sundays …it was after the second Vatican council so it was all this lukewarm pop, people with guitars and stuff singing really bad; really, really, really famously terrible songs: famously uninspired, that would do the very opposite
of raising anybody’s heart to the mystery.” In passing, Maus describes the experience of a live concert as feeling somehow liturgical, though not necessarily in a religious sense. That leads to broader questions. What is the live concert about? Why is the audience there, and what should be expected of a performer? “I’ll go see a friend of mine, and he’ll just start giving the audience the finger and calling them all losers, and they all cheer when he does it,” Maus said, laughing. “Or the person who can just walk off if it’s not going well. I could never pull it off, is I guess the way I would say it. “In other words, this most important thing is doing it correctly. And I guess that means that if walking off is the right thing, then that’s the thing. That’s the thing to do, if the true thing is to give everybody the finger and walk off. There’s no formula.” If dropping out of touring for a few more years ends up being the true thing for Maus, he figures he’ll work on his own projects, or he’ll get work writing incidental music for TV, or something like that. “Because, unless you can still cause problems with what you’re doing …” he trailed off. In the meantime, he’s happy for whatever illumination his music can offer. “If I can bear witness to the light, I will not have died [in vain], because what else are we supposed to do?” he laughed. “Please, tell me if you have a better idea than that I’d love to hear it. “I have to think about it, you know, especially when I’m playing,” he added. “Cause that’s what I’m looking at out there, I mean, I’m too much of a coward to look into anybody’s eyes, so I’m looking up at the light.”
JOHN MAUS WITH NICK NICELY.
8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 8. Spirit, 242 51st St., Lawrenceville. $20. www. spiritpgh.com
FEB.17 2019 8 P.M. PURCHASE TICKETS AT
PITTSBURGH CURRENT | FEB. 5, 2019 | 35
WOAH, NELLIE! BY MIKE SHANLEY - PITTSBURGH CURRENT CONTRIBUTING WRITER INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
ost of the songs on Sister Orchid, Nellie McKay’s most recent album, are considered classics straight out of the American Songbook. “Willow Weep for Me,” “My Romance” and “The Nearness of You,” to name just a few, had been performed umpteen times before she went into the studio alone to sing them, accompanying herself on piano and, on one song, her beloved ukulele. To make sure she left her own stamp on songs that she calls
“beautiful and irresistible,” McKay utilized a unique approach. “You don’t want to get in the way of the music,” she explained. “So it’s as if you’re saying to the song the whole time, ‘Pretend I’m not here.’” That fanciful perspective, a little serious but also a bit zany, has been part of McKay’s persona since she debuted in 2004 with Get Away from Me. She has gone on to release six more albums, four of which were all her own material, two of them double-disc sets. Prior to Sister
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Orchid, she tipped her hat to Doris Day with Normal As Blueberry Pie and tackled ’60s music on My Weekly Reader. And while her passions aren’t necessarily obvious in her music, McKay has never been one to shy away from issues in which she believes. Like Day, she is an animal rights activist. She also campaigned for Vermont senator Bernie Sanders and even wrote a song about the theme of his candidacy. The cover of Normal As Blueberry
Pie features quotes about animal rights attributed to everyone from Day herself to Abraham Lincoln. My Weekly Reader included charged covers like “Hungry Freaks Daddy” a slab of heavy social commentary that launched Frank Zappa’s recording career. “Murder In My Heart for the Judge,” by unsung rockers Moby Grape, also had far-flung appeal. While campaigning for Sanders in 2016, she met a woman who was fond of the latter. “She’s extremely respectable and
proper and that was her favorite song on the album,” McKay said by phone. “So I was quite chuffed at that. A lot of people have an antiauthoritarian streak even as they go about their day looking like docile members of society. Anarchy is lurking underneath.” But McKay doesn’t use the stage as her personal pulpit. “Oh I don’t talk much,” she laughed, understating her onstage banter. “We have trouble getting through all the songs we want to do. There is a little talk but we try to keep it entertaining. As years go by, you just have more music. You really need a four-hour set just to give a sampling.” Her output has included several musical biographies of famous women including Rachel Carson. On her last visit to Pittsburgh, she performed A Girl Named Bill, her show about Billy Tipton, a woman who passed as a male bandleader in the 1940s. McKay is currently working on The Big Molinsky, a song series inspired by comedian Joan Rivers. “That is something we’re doing on the West Coast and that’s taking a lot of energy because she was a maniac,” she laughed. “In a good way.” When she performs solo in the Warhol theater, McKay welcomes requests, just don’t send them via the internet because she’s not on it. “It’s like living in front of a mirror all the time,” she said. ”How are you supposed to know your own mind if you’re constantly getting feedback? I suppose some people can handle it, but I can’t. If people have requests, please write a note or call something out. Or send a note backstage. That’s probably the best.”
T H E WA L L O F S O U N D S E R I E S F E AT U R E S
THE NEW, FRESH SOUNDS FOR THE INTERESTED EAR… People who love music and want to hear the artists telling compelling stories through song will be devotees to the Wall of Sound Series.
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Helen Wildy. Current Photos by Haley Frederick
THIS TASTES FUNNY: DINNER WITH HELEN WILDY AT PIPER’S PUB
BY HALEY FREDERICK - PITTSBURGH CURRENT STAFF WRITER HALEY@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
’m meeting comedian Helen Wildy at Piper’s Pub in the South Side for dinner. I decided to invite Wildy there because I wanted an expert opinion. For 20 years, Piper’s Pub has been the place for people who insist that soccer is called football, want a full English breakfast, or a pint alongside their Guinness stew for dinner. As someone who’s never been to the U.K., I don’t really have the authority
to say whether Piper’s offers up an authentic interpretation of classic dishes from across the pond. But, Wildy does. At the age of seven, she moved to the U.S. from Belfast, Northern Ireland with her parents and three older brothers, and still returns to Ireland almost every year. Wildy is chatty and smiley—her mood is seemingly unaffected by the looming polar vortex that’s got
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everybody else in a mood. She orders General Braddock’s IPA from Brew Gentleman, and I get an Old Fashioned. “IPAs and sours are my go-to,” she says. “We love alcohol in my family.” “Isn’t that kind of an Irish stereotype?” I ask. “Yeah, well, that one’s got some legs,” she replies. Wildy has been to Piper’s once before, several years ago for a family party, but that was before she became a vegetarian. Piper’s has all of the meaty meals you’d expect--bangers and mash, shepherd’s pie, a bacon butty, scotch eggs—but they also have a surprisingly wide variety of vegetarian and vegan meals. They fry up their house-made seitan (a wheat-based meat replacement) and toss it in wing sauces, or use it in a banh mi. They have vindaloo curry and vegan stew. WIldy is immediately excited by something she spots on the menu. “Curry chips are like my favorite thing. When I go back to Ireland, my brothers and I load up on curry chips,” she says. “It’s not the healthiest country.” If you saw Wildy performing stand up and she didn’t mention it, you probably wouldn’t know she was Irish. She doesn’t have an accent anymore, but some of the vocab has stuck around. She’s way more comfortable calling the fries “chips” than I am. She mentions her brother attending “university,” and talks about moving to “the States.” “Everyone is like ‘why don’t you have an accent?’ and I’m like, ‘you know who doesn’t like Irish accents? American children,’” she says. “So I would go to school and speak like this and speak normally at home.” Even though our countries speak essentially the same language, Wildy says there was some adjusting to do when she and her family arrived in the North Hills. And their differences definitely didn’t go unnoticed by their classmates. “I remember I was having french fries in the cafeteria on my first day with a knife and fork...and this guy
turned around and he was like ‘hey, new girl, you eat fries with a knife and fork?’” Wildy recalled. “And I didn’t know what fries were, so I was like ‘no!’ as I was still doing it.” When the curry chips arrive, Wildy and I debate whether to pour the curry on top, or to dunk the fries in the curry sauce. I, being a true American, choose to dunk. “That takes me home,” Wildy says after her first chip. We chose a medium heat level for our curry, and it’s just right. And, luckily, we both agree that chips need vinegar. Wildy tells me she started doing stand up two and a half years ago. Though, technically, her first open mic was in 2012. “But I did it once and I got so scared, I would go back every six months,” she says. “It’s such a scary thing to do. Eventually the fear of not doing it was scarier than the fear of doing it. And here we were.” Where Wildy is in her comedy career is a pretty exciting place. In October, she was chosen to open for Cameron Esposito—a standup, actor and podcaster wellknown in the LGBTQ community and beyond—on the Pittsburgh stop of her national “Person of Consequence” tour. “My parents are so sweet. They don’t know that much about comedy. They were having dinner across the street [before the show], and they were texting me like ‘Helen, people are lining up outside the door!’” “I was like, ‘A. it’s not for me, and B. she’s really famous.’” The first night opening for Esposito at the Rex Theater was the biggest room Wildy had ever played. It must have gone well, because Esposito asked her back for the next night in Harrisburg, and then for another show since then. “She is probably the nicest person I’ve ever met,” Wildy says. “I was just in Buffalo on Tuesday and did a guest set for her there. She’s really been very kind to me.” Our entrees arrive, so I surrender most of the curry chips to Wildy
because she’s gone for a much lighter second course of a house salad with balsamic. I get a spin on fish and chips that subs battered salmon for the usual cod. It comes with mushy peas, dijon caper tartar sauce and of course, more chips. It’s all good. I really like the mushy peas. We need to try mashing things other than potatoes in this country. In talking to Wildy, I can tell that she likes to see the humor in things. She says her comedy is all about her life and experiences. “I talk a lot about being an immigrant, about being a lesbian, about being an aunt...about my family.” She can put a comedic spin on any of it. She even makes me laugh about a ten-car pile-up she was in
just last week. “We got hit by a semi into another semi—everyone’s fine, but is was crazy and we got picked up by the tow truck driver, and they were so disappointed in the level of destruction at the site,” she says. “This guy answers the phone and he’s like ‘yeah, man they said it was going to be a 30 car pile up, and there were only 10 cars...there’s no carnage. Bummer.”
You can see Wildy at the Stand Up Showcase at Brillobox on Feb. 12 at 8 p.m. or follow her @howthehelen.
Current Photos by Haley Frederick PITTSBURGH CURRENT | FEB. 5, 2019 | 39
PROJECT LAST CALL: PREVENTING SEXUAL HARASSMENT IN THE SERVICE INDUSTRY BY HALEY FREDERICK - PITTSBURGH CURRENT STAFF WRITER HALEY@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
he restaurant industry has a problem. Whether you’ve worked at a diner, a bar, a fast-food chain or an upscale eatery, the odds are pretty high that you witnessed or experienced an instance of sexual harassment in your workplace. According to data gathered from the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, between 1995 and 2016, more than 170,000 claims of sexual harassment were filed by employees (83 percent were women) in restaurants and bars— more than any other industry. A 2014 report from Restaurant Opportunities Center United found that 70 percent of men and 90 percent of women working in the restaurant industry experienced some form of sexual harassment. And while these numbers are colossal, they can’t tell the full story. Surely, many issues are resolved
internally or never reported to management, let alone to outside institutions. But, the numbers do indicate that a culture exists across the food-service industry. “We’ve known that sexual harassment is a problem in many workplaces and there are often some increased vulnerabilities in the service industry,” Julie Evans, director of prevention at Pittsburgh Action Against Rape (PAAR) said. Nicole Battle, president of the Pittsburgh chapter of the United States Bartenders Guild (USBG) said some of these vulnerabilities are things like the frequent hiring of new employees, the wide range of ages in workers and the feeling of not having a place to go with concerns and complaints. “That’s been an ongoing problem in the industry for so long, that people don’t feel comfortable talking to their managers about this
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because there is no human resources department,” Battle said. That’s why PAAR and the Pittsburgh chapter of the USBG are teaming up for a new program, Project Last Call. PAAR had been trying to conceptualize a training program to take into restaurants and bars that could help to start a dialogue around sexual harassment in the workplace and create preventative practices. Cory Hart, a wine sales consultant who volunteers with PAAR, brought them to a USBG Pittsburgh meeting last year. “PAAR has a the resources and the knowledge, and they’re just really good people,” Hart said. PAAR has the resources, but they needed access to the industry. “They talked to the entire chapter about what they were trying to accomplish and we decided that it would be better for them to partner up with the USBG so that they could send familiar faces into bars and restaurants to try to get this training accomplished,” Battle said. PAAR also talked to the USBG about what would be realistic to accomplish in restaurants and bars, where there isn’t usually time or money for days spent on lengthy trainings. “They really wanted to tailor it to the needs of what the industry could handle and so [the solution was] shortening the trainings and breaking them up into three different sit-downs, all 20 minutes long, so that they weren’t interrupting the flow of setting up for the service that night,” Battle said. The initial trainings are given to key staff like managers and supervisors, who can then take what they’ve learned and lead discussions and bystander intervention training with their colleagues and employees. They plan to stay flexible and take it on a case-by-case basis, so that as many restaurants and bars can participate as possible. The Project Last Call kick-off event took place on Jan. 28. Evans said that there’s a lot of interest in the program, but it’s up to each
restaurant and bar to reach out to PAAR to get started. “I think there’s still a need though to greatly spread the word so that more people know that this is out there, and certainly it would depend upon if [businesses] are interested in making sure they have a safe environment for their employees,” Evans said. Battle thinks there is hesitation for some businesses to attach their name to a subject they feel is taboo. They might think that participating in the program would be admitting some kind of fault. But it isn’t about that at all. “We’re not placing blame on anyone and we’re not trying to say that what’s happening in your restaurant is unacceptable,” Battle said. “We just want the people that work in these restaurants to have the tools they need to handle this kind of behavior properly.” By participating in Project Last Call, managers and owners can let their employees know that if they were to have a problem, it would be taken seriously. It can also help people identify what sexual harassment really is—from telling inappropriate stories, to commenting on colleagues’ appearances—so that they can be sure they aren’t crossing the line. At first, the businesses that are proactive about participating will probably be those that already have a relatively good culture and no tolerance for sexual harassment in the workplace. But the more people that participate, the more normal trainings to prevent harassment in the industry will become, and hopefully they can change the culture. “The more people we get involved with it, the better,” Hart said. “It lets people know that we take these problems seriously and we’re willing to take the steps to address them and move forward to a mutual respect and culture that benefits everybody.” To find out more about Project Last Call, email PLC@paar.net.
KEEPING UP WITH PITTSBURGH’S CRAFT BEER SCENE BY DAY BRACEY - PITTSBURGH CURRENT CRAFT BEER WRITER INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM Jan. 12, 1 p.m.: I’m at Butler Brew Works with Rob Soltis, owner of Craft Pittsburgh. You’ve likely read his paper at your favorite brewery or lawyer’s office. If you haven’t, he’s online too. Do your Googles. We met up here so I could knock off two birds: write about BBW and his paper in the same column. If you read my last one, you know that plan went to shit. While his family enjoys the front of the house, we’re interviewing** with brewers in the back. Real business-like stuff. Do not disturb. Officially official adult work in progress. Jan. 12, 3:26 p.m.: It starts to get late and we haven’t had a chance to rap one-on-one yet. His family’s patience has limits, and no one ever wants to piss off the DD. So, we head to the bar to wrap things up with a quick interview about his publication. At least, that’s how I drew it up in my head. Me: It’s crazy, because we’ve already had this conversation on Drinking Partners. RS: So, is that what you want to do? You want to just interview me and what we’re doing, or do you want to do something special? Special, huh? Well how about … Rules for Bringing Your Kid to a Brewery 1. No kids at the bar (maybe a kid at the bar). Me: I feel like the bar is a watering
hole and there’s a lot of movement, drunken movement. I don’t want to worry about your kid’s head. RS: The only way I ever sit at the bar is if we’re the only ones at the bar. I never take a seat from a paying customer. 2. Breweries are an adult environment. RS: If you’re bringing your kids, you’re bringing them to an adult environment, and you should not expect that environment to adapt to your child. Me: The impetus for shelter or censorship is on the parent. It’s not a family friendly environment. RS: No. It’s an adult environment that’s cool enough to bring your kid to. So, you can’t get mad if a drunk dude falls over, or you don’t like the language, or the music being played. People are out. It’s their Friday night too. They shouldn’t have to tone it down because you decided to bring your kid. Taptender: Would you guys like another beer? RS: I’ll have another Bless The Rains. Me: Kolsch please. I’m trying to come down. 3. Don’t censor. Educate. RS: My wife and I have never filtered our language. We don’t use the term “bad” to describe words. We call them “at home” words. So, if there’s a rowdy table next to us saying “fuck,” it wouldn’t phase her.
Me: Children need to become acquainted with the internet at an early age to survive in the future. The tricky thing about the internet is it’s vast and nearly impossible to censor. Also, kids are better at it than us. So, why try?
the kid. Come prepared. Bring the snacks, quality reading material. Make sure the batteries are charged. But we all know you can do everything right and if they aren’t feeling it, chalk it up. Didn’t work today. Better luck next time.
5. Don’t let your kid ruin someone’s evening. RS: You don’t know who you’re sitting next to. It could be their first night out. Me: It could be a Tinder date! Taten Soltis (Ron’s wife): They could have swiped right, and now you’re making their night go left.
7. This should go without saying, but don’t get loaded and drive your fucking kid home. RS: Maybe we should probably say that. Me: Yes, we should definitely say that.
6. Set yourself up for success. Me: You have to know you’re in an adult environment with a kid, and it’s on you to keep everyone happy, because it’s a very selfish thing you’re doing right now. If a kid decides to be a kid, you can be disappointed, but you can’t be mad. RS: And don’t take it out on
8. Decide who the designated driver is before you leave the house. RS: Don’t get there and try to figure that shit out, because at the very least, your wife is going to hate you. **Yellowing up our organs with barley juice
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A classic view of stacked houses known as the South Side Slopes. (Current photo by Jake Mysliwczyk)
ew Orleans has Bourbon Street. Memphis has Beale Street. Chicago has Rush and Division. Austin has 6th Street. And Pittsburgh has East Carson Street. If you don’t already know, I bet you can guess what each of these has in common. They are all iconic streets in major cities, known primarily for being hedonistic pleasure spots. Booze, music, vomit in the streets—anything can and does go on these storied stretches of pavement. While East Carson Street
BY BETHANY RUHE - PITTSBURGH CURRENT ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER BETHANY@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM might not have the national name recognition of some of its more highflying friends, locals know that on any given weekend it can rival all of them. There is a long-running movement to change that perception, as well as the reality, that helped build up East Carson Street’s image as a party palace. As long as there has been a circus-like atmosphere to the South Side, there has been those who loathe it and the impact it’s had on South Side as a
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residential neighborhood. Settled (as so many Pittsburgh neighborhoods were) by German and Eastern European immigrants who came here to work in steel and other heavy industries, South Side has its roots firmly in the working class. The influx of younger professionals and college students added to the inpouring of visitors to frequent the bars and restaurants of South Sides, and clashes are bound to occur. In order to address those
issues, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and Pittsburgh City Councilman Bruce Kraus, who represents the South Side, launched a comprehensive study to research and make suggestions on some of the neighborhood’s most pressing problems. The result is the East Carson Street Business District Strategy. According to the Executive Summary of the report, it “was guided by a project team, which consisted of representatives from the South Side Community
Council, South Side Chamber of Commerce, South Side Development Review Committee, South Side Neighborhood Plan Committee, the URA, the Department of City Planning, the Mayor’s Office, the Nighttime Economy Office, and Councilman Kraus’ office.” The results of the project showed a few dominant themes throughout: South Siders are proud of their walkability and their eclectic business district, they would like to see more specialty-type stores (butchers, wine stores, etc), parking sucks, East Carson Street is dirty, and they’re sick of being thought of as the Jersey Shore of Pittsburgh. Tackling any of these is a tall order, much less addressing all of them, but a few have already shown improvement. Take crime, for instance. Not that long ago the South Side was one of the worst neighborhoods when it came to crime rates, which can often come with being a harddrinking destination. They have very quickly been able to get those numbers down, thanks in large part to an increase in walking police patrols, and the installation of street cameras, installed by District Attorney Zappala’s office. Amy Schrempf, who is running for City Council District 3, which encompasses the South Side, thinks they’ve been a huge help in driving down crime. “Zappala’s cameras are on East Carson Street, and they are watching all the time. People know that and act accordingly. It’s been an easy solution for us to take back our streets.” The DA’s office has heard good things. According to Mike Manko, spokesperson for Zappala, “Our office has received significant positive feedback from the business owners and District Attorney Zappala remains encouraged by the impact of the cameras, not only proactively to reduce crime, but also their bearing on the solve rate of criminal activity in one of the city’s most vibrant areas and their effectiveness in aiding investigations and prosecutions.”
Another reported outcome of the East Carson Street Business District Strategy was the desire for enhanced fitness and wellness options in the community, a box that many can say has now been ticked. Of course there is the giant L.A. Fitness at South Side Works, but tucked back on Mary Street, there is a community of health-oriented businesses popping up. Anchored by Ascend, an indoor rock-climbing gym, and flanked by CrossFit Athletics and Iron City Circus Arts, this little triangle of businesses consider themselves the health epicenter of the South Side. Iron City Circus Arts was drawn to the history and eclectic beat of the city when they decided to move their shop from Brentwood to the Brew House in June of 2017. Built in 1899, the Brew House started off life as the Duquesne Brewing Company. It operated as a brewery until 1972, and then sat empty until the late 80’s, when it became a home and work space for local artists. They officially organized a few years later, becoming the Brew House Association, and eventually purchased the building. Co-owner of Iron Works, Kelsey Keller credits the space itself for some of the creative vibes her students feel. “The space is absolutely perfect. We’ve had so many people say that there is a magic about this space. I think its the history, that so many artists have lived in this space and created in this space.” Iron City Circus Arts teaches people how to do, well, circus arts. Offering classes like aerial silks, acrobatics and trapeze to people of all ages and skill sets, Kelsey and Jenly (Deiter, co-owner) work to impart their love of the arts to their students. “I wanted to pursue dancing, but my mom said no, you need to get a real job. So I went to school and then I went to grad school, and I was working in a lab and dancing with a company at night, and through them I found aerial arts. And it was like, ‘oh! This is what I’m meant to do.’ So, when I graduated with my PhD
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in biophysics, I ran away with the circus,” Keller says. It’s that wide-ranging background and story that make them such a perfect fit for the South Side. And as for how they feel about their neighborhood? “We love the South Side. We are a little tiny Mecca of people who love to get physical. We are so glad to be close to the city, and the people that live in this community are so anxious to try something new, and not every community is like that. That’s why we’ve been able to thrive, because of where we are.” The next circus brewing in the South Side might very well be the primary race for City Council District 3. The seat is currently held by Council President Bruce Kraus, who has served the District since 2008. While he is facing some challengers, he stands by his record serving the citizens of the South Side. One of the biggest issues that remains unsolved in the area is parking, though Kraus said progress has been made. “Our focus has been on mobility and efficiently moving people in a city that operates 24/7/365. That has a number of different components from encouraging rideshare programs, providing parking for residents and visitors, and increasing public transportation. We’ve made progress in increasing the mobility of the city and I’m excited to see it continue.” One of his competitors in the race, Amy Schrempf, agrees to disagree. “Parking is always going to be
an issue, but there are so many potential solutions that aren’t even being looked at. Converting vacant lots, expanding permits to vacant lots—you have to be willing to think outside of the box to solve this issue.” Ken Wolfe, the former Chief of Staff for Kraus, is also running, ensuring that the primary, which is usually a pretty staid affair, could well become, well, a circus. Or at the very least a carnival. The odds of every bar leaving East Carson Street en masse are slim to none. But the residents don’t want that. South Side is a place to go to drink, yes. But you can also go there to eat, to shop, to work out, to enjoy green spaces, and yes, to live. South Side is standing up, loud and proud, and shouting that they will not be defined by their reputation, or by preconceived notions. They are proud to be eclectic, and while they work to solve some of their community issues, Pittsburgh hopes that their core never changes.
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East Carson Street on a cold Winter morning (Current photo by Jake Mysliwczyk)
Students in class at Iron City Circus (Current photo by Jake Mysliwczyk)
I’ve been tattooing since 1998. What’s the strangest thing someone has asked you to tattoo on them? I had an older woman ask for a penis shaped rockets ship to be tattooed on her thigh I know you’ve tattooed the late Mac Miller. Have you done work on any other celebrities? I tattooed the big shark on Wiz Khalifa’s back as well.
Tattoo artist Roberto Maxwell at 10th Street Tattoo, Roberto Maxwell (Current photo by Jake Mysliwczyk)
ROBERTO MAXWELL, TATTOO ARTIST, 10TH STREET TATTOO, HOUSE FOUNDER OF THE HOUSE AKCROS, PITTSBURGH’S VAMPIRE HOUSE, LONG-TIME SOUTH SIDE RESIDENT.
Who are some artists that you look up to? There are a couple who come to mind, Steve Soto and Victor Portugal are a couple. Now. About House Akcros.. I had always embraced the Vampire culture—I researched Vampire houses in other cities and how they structured themselves as a family. There were a few friends I
talked to about creating a Pittsburgh Vampire house and, to my surprise, people were into the idea. From that, House Akcros was born. You mentioned your goal was to protect the others. How do you see yourself and House Akcros as doing this? By “others,” we mean people outside the norm or mainstream. We want to be welcoming and provide a safe space for everyone: women, people of color, LGBTQIA, young/ old or anyone who might feel they don’t belong, hence the term, the “others.” What’s your favorite part of living in the South Side? There is always something happening!
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BY BETHANY RUHE - PITTSBURGH CURRENT ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER BETHANY@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM Roberto Maxwell is as colorful as the South Side itself. Not only has he tattooed locals and celebrities alike, he has also started what we believe is Pittsburgh’s first and only Vampire House. If you see him in the shop,
say hi to Roberto. But, if you see him in House of Akcros, you can call him Armond. How long have you been a tattoo artist?
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THE CAN’T MISS BY PITTSBURGH CURRENT STAFF INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM FEATURED EVENTS IN AND AROUND THE PITTSBURGH REGION
Georgia Hunter, author of We Were the Lucky Ones, is here in Pittsburgh to tell her story and do a book signing at Carnegie Lecture Hall. Hunter’s bestselling novel tells the journey of discovering her own family’s Holocaust survival story. The event is presented by the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh and will feature a discussion by Hunter and presentation of photos gathered throughout the writing process. Free tickets are available for Holocaust survivors and students with a valid ID. 7 p.m. 4400 Forbes Ave., Oakland. $18-$20. www.hcofpgh.org
Valentine’s day isn’t only to be celebrated by couples. In honor of the approaching holiday, The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh hosts Sweetheart Partner Yoga. There are two 20 minute classes. The all ages yoga classes will emphasize partner poses, so bring your children, bring a friend or meet someone new. This is a drop in program and yoga mats are provided. 10:30 a.m. 10 Children’s Way, Allegheny Center. Free. www. pittsburghkids.org
If you’re looking for an experience to lift your spirits in this dreadful cold winter, The Afro Yaqui Music Collective will do just that. Tonight they will bring their joyful jazz music to the City of Asylum at Alphabet City. The group aims to make liberation music without boundaries and brings together rhythms of Africa, Asia and the Yaqui people. You’re guaranteed to leave feeling inspired.
6 p.m. 40 W. North Ave., North Side. Free, RSVP required. www.alphabetcity.org You Can Call Me Al begins tonight at the New Hazlett Theater as part of its Community Supported Art performance series. You Can Call Me Al ponders questions like “How do we confront the things that scare us the most when our memories begin to fail us?” while exploring what it means to grow up, discover your sexuality, live with mental illness and uncover family secrets. “You Can Call Me Al” is written by and stars Ali Hoefnagel, a Pittsburgh-based queer artist and educator. 8 p.m. Also Feb. 8. $25. 6 Allegheny Square East, Allegheny Center. 412-320-4610 or www.newhazletttheater.org Remember Sports performs tonight at the Mr. Roboto Project, presented by Don’t Let The Scene Go Down on Me! Collective. Formed in Gambier, Ohio, in 2012, Remember Sports is a punk/power pop quartet based in Philadelphia. Rolling Stone called their second album, “Full of Something,” (2015) “full of sharp, sweet insight and heart-tugging hooks.” Local bands Rue, an arts and craft punk band, and go home, Eddie, an indie rock trio, complete the bill. 7 p.m. $10. 5106 Penn Ave., Bloomfield. www.therobotoproject.com For years, saxophonist Ben Opie put on the Space Exchange series at the Thunderbird Café, which provided a regular platform for musicians to develop new projects in front of an audience. Audiences, in turn, had the chance to enjoy top-notch performances while staying on the cutting
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You Can Call Me Al (Photo by Renee Rosensteel) edge of the music scene. So it’s good news indeed that Opie is launching a new series – Live! at Kingfly – hosted by a new venue, Kingfly Spirits Distillery and Loft. The inaugural event, happening Thursday, Feb. 7, features acoustic jazz by one of the city’s most innovative forces, Opie’s own Thoth Trio. 7 p.m. 2613 Smallman St., Strip District. www.kingflyspirits.com
Raw and the first screening of a new independent horror film The Remedial. There will also be an additional event tonight kicking off Row House Cinema’s Set the Scene series, talking with film experts about the showing film. Feb. 8 12:30 p.m.-Feb. 14 11:30 p.m. 4115 Butler St., Lawrenceville. $8-$10. www.rowhousecinema.com
This month’s Brown Bag concert at the Pittsburgh Opera Headquarters is a celebration of Valentine’s Day. The concert features love songs and a preview of the Pittsburgh Opera’s next production Glory Denied. Bring a lunch to enjoy along with the show! 12 p.m. 2425 Liberty Ave., Strip District. Free. www.pittsburghopera.org
Scary movie junkies, we know you’re out there, so clear your schedules this week. Tonight begins the week long event of Women Direct Horror at the Row House Cinema. This includes seven days of scary movies directed by women, including A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, Blood & Donuts, Office Killer, Pet Sematary,
NEWS OF THE BY THE EDITORS AT ANDREWS MCMEEL SYNDICATION WEIRDNEWSTIPS@AMUNIVERSAL.COM WAIT, WHAT? Vaev, a Los Angeles-based internet startup, is offering consumers the “luxury to choose” when to become sick with a cold, gushes 34-year-old Oliver Niessen, the company’s founder. For $79.99, Vaev will send you a box containing a petri dish, which houses a facial tissue used by a sick person. Niessen explained to Time magazine that the recipient wipes their nose with the provided tissue and contracts a cold virus to get it out of the way before, say, leaving on a vacation. But Charles Gerba, professor of microbiology at the University of Arizona, debunked Niessen’s theory: “There are more than 200 types of rhinoviruses ... getting inoculated from one doesn’t protect you against all the others.” He adds that Vaev’s customers will never know what exactly is on the provided tissues, which Niessen says are produced by a “stable” of 10 go-to sneezers, some recruited on the internet. Still, Neissen claims to have sold about 1,000 used tissues, although the company’s website currently shows the product as sold out. “We’ve had some supplychain issues,” Niessen said, without offering details. GIFT WITH PURCHASE A shopper at a Primark store in Essex, England, was startled to discover a human bone in a sock on Dec. 10. Essex police reassured the public that the bone “did not appear to be a result of recent trauma,” and it did not have any skin attached to it, according to Sky News. A Primark spokesman said the company is checking with its supplier, and “No evidence of any kind exists to suggest that any incident has occurred in the factory, so it is highly probable that this object was placed in the sock by an individual for unknown reasons.” POLICE REPORT A motorist in New Canaan, Connecticut, called
police on Jan. 23 after spotting a woman stopped at an intersection in the driver’s seat of her car with her eyes closed. When officers arrived, they found Stefanie WarnerGrise, 50, “unable to answer basic questions,” according to the arrest report. They “detected an odor of vanilla coming from her breath (and) her speech was slurred. ... In addition, several bottles of pure vanilla extract were located inside the vehicle.” The Hour reported Warner-Grise failed field sobriety tests and she was charged with driving under the influence of vanilla extract. The Food and Drug Administration requires that pure vanilla extract must be at least 35 percent alcohol, which makes it 70 proof. IT’S GOOD TO HAVE GOALS Pavol Durdik added another Guinness world record to his collection Aug. 3 in Puchov, Slovakia by extinguishing 62 lighted matches with his tongue within one minute, according to United Press International. In a video posted by Guinness World Records on Jan. 25, Durdik had the matches laid out in front of him and lighted each one before putting it out on his tongue. He also holds the record for most socks put on one foot within 30 seconds. UH, NO On Jan. 29, the Chenoa (Illinois) Police Department put a call out for volunteers to help with a training session taking place that evening. “Officers are undergoing their annual Taser training tonight ... and are looking for members of the public who are willing to volunteer for the experience,” announced WEEK-TV. Volunteers were required to sign an “exposure waiver” in order to participate, but it was unclear whether the Tasers would be live.
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Universal Crossword Edited by David Steinberg February 5, 2019
ACROSS 1 Top choice, casually 5 “MobyDick” captain 9 Pre-business subj. 13 Israeli airline 14 Bakery smell 15 Trout of the Angels 16 Windows’ alternatives, on planes 18 Stripped down 19 German white wine 20 Bit of progress 22 Pink Floyd or Green Day 23 Sicken with sweetness 24 Architect whose “I” stands for Ieoh 27 Turncoats 31 Weep for 32 Otherwise 33 Texter’s “Seriously?!” 35 “Let me think about it” 39 NFL highlights, briefly 40 Punch ballot part 41 Headspinning paintings 42 “Su-u-ure” 45 Tennis ace Monica 2/5
46 Job for a sleuth 47 Yemeni gulf port 49 Timely Kesha song? 52 Skull-faced Mattel villain 56 Trendy berry 57 2018 Wes Anderson film 59 Jay of stand-up 60 Shaven, as wool 61 Runnin’ Rebels sch. 62 Avid 63 Embroiders 64 Marshmallow chick DOWN 1 Cause of white knuckles 2 Et ___ (and others) 3 Roses’ container 4 Pentagon Papers leaker 5 Philosopher Hannah 6 Romance novelist Tami 7 Invoice total: Abbr. 8 Mythical reptile 9 Early stage of development 10 Florentine farewell 11 Gumbo vegetable
“Three of a Kind”
12 Require 14 A ___ apple 17 Secretary of transportation since 2017 21 Reminder starter 23 College math, informally 24 Tag declaration 25 Like some leftovers 26 Sign of life 28 Duane ___ (drugstore chain) 29 Kind of flush 30 Gooey goody 34 Moxie 36 Faith Hill hit with the line “It’s perpetual bliss” 37 Yankees legend Ruth
38 Let one’s guard down 43 Movie genre, or director’s command 44 Ones accepting a wager 48 Cole of “black-ish” (anagram of “node”) 49 Chat 50 Slurpee competitor 51 Welles’ “Citizen ___” 52 Like a tortoise 53 Color quality 54 Leering look 55 Respond to an evite 58 Ewe’s pronoun
PREVIOUS PUZZLE ANSWER
© 2019 Andrews McMeel Universal www.upuzzles.com
by Christopher Adams
50 | FEB. 5, 2019 | PITTSBURGH CURRENT
Savage Love BY DAN SAVAGE MAIL@SAVAGELOVE.NET
Can I still be considered sexpositive if I personally do not have sex? I’ve never had sex or masturbated—all my life, any type of sexual stimulation has been very painful and I’ve been unable to experience orgasm. I simply get a migraine and feel mildly nauseated instead. I am not looking for a possible solution, as I long ago accepted my fate and consequently avoid sex, such as by maintaining only sexless relationships. My question is simply whether I can still be considered sex-positive if I do not enjoy or engage in sexual activity? Personally Loathes Unpleasant Sex I consider myself cunnilinguspositive, PLUS, despite the fact that I could not personally enjoy (and therefore have never engaged in) that particular sexual activity. While I don’t think it would cause me physical pain, I would not be able to experience orgasm myself (through simultaneous self-stimulation) while performing cunnilingus, and my cunnilingus partner would be highly unlikely to experience orgasm, (possibly due to my ineptness). If I can nevertheless consider myself cunnilingus-positive under the circumstances—if I can consider myself a cunnilingus advocate—you can consider yourself sex-positive. About twice a week, my wife gets up from the dinner table to have a shit. She won’t make the smallest effort to adjust the timing so we can finish our dinner conversation. She can’t even wait for a natural break in the conversation. She will stand up and leave the room when I am making a point. Am I rightfully upset or do I just have to get over it? When I say something, she tells me it’s unavoidable. Decidedly Upset Man Petitions
Savage “Let her have her poop,” said Zach Noe Towers, a comedian in Los Angeles who just walked into the cafe where I was writing this week’s column. “His Miss Pooper isn’t going to change her ways.” I would only add this: Absent some other evidence—aural or olfactory— you can’t know for sure that your wife actually left the room to take a shit. She could be in the bathroom scrolling through Twitter or checking her Instagram DMs. In other words: taking a break from your shit, DUMPS, not shitting herself. My boyfriend goes to pieces whenever I am the least bit critical. I’m not a scold, and small things don’t bother me. But when he does something thoughtless and I bring it to his attention, he starts beating up on himself and insists that I hate him and I’m going to leave him. He makes a scene that’s out of proportion to the topic at hand, and I wind up having to comfort and reassure him. I’m not sure how to handle this. Boyfriend Always Wailing Loudly Someone who leaps to YOU HATE ME! YOU HATE ME! when their partner wants to constructively process the tiniest conflict is being a manipulative shit, BAWL. Your boyfriend goes right to the selflacerating (and fake) meltdown so that you’ll hesitate to initiate a discussion about a conflict or—god forbid—really confront him about some selfish, shitty or inconsiderate thing he’s done. He’s having a tantrum, BAWL, because he doesn’t want to be held accountable for his actions. And as the parent of any toddler can tell you, tantrums continue so long as tantrums work. I’m a well-adjusted gay man in my early 40s, but I’ve never found a way to openly enjoy my fetish. I love
white socks and sneakers. The most erotic thing I’ve ever seen is a cute guy at a party asking if he could take his high-tops off to relax in his socks. I’ve been in a couple of long-term relationships, but I’ve never been honest about this fetish with anyone. I’ve thought a lot about why stocking feet turn me on so much, and I think it must have something to do with the fact that if you are close to someone and they want to spend time with you, they are more likely to take their shoes off to relax around you. I’m not sure what to do. Loves Socks And Sneaks I have to assume you’re out of the closet—you can’t be a “well-adjusted gay man” and a closet case—which means at some point in your life, LSAS, you sat your mom down and told her you put dicks in your mouth. Telling your next boyfriend you have a thing for socks and sneakers can’t be anywhere near as scary, can it? (There are tons of kinky guys all over Twitter and Instagram who are very open about their fetishes, LSAS. Create an anonymous, kink-specific account for yourself and follow a bunch of kinksters. You need some role/sole models!) Santorum, DTMFA, pegging, GGG, the Campsite Rule, monogamish—you’ve coined a lot of interesting and useful terms over the years, Dan, but it’s been a while since you rolled out a new one. You can consider this a challenge. Neo-Neologisms, Please! I’ve got two for you, NNP. Harnies (pronounced like “carnies”): Vanilla guys who attend big gay leather/rubber/fetish events like International Mr. Leather or Folsom Street Fair in harnesses. A harnie owns just one piece of fetish gear—his harness, usually purchased on the day of the event, often in a neon color, never to be worn during sex—and pairs his harness with booty shorts and sneakers. Kinky guys old enough to remember when vanilla guys wouldn’t be caught dead at fetish events prefer having harnies around to the kink-shaming that used to be rampant even in the gay community. And most kinky
guys are too polite to tell harnies that harnesses aren’t merely decorative. Someone should be able to hold on to your harness while they’re fucking you or add ropes if they want to tie you down. So if your harness is made out of stretchy fabric—like limegreen Lycra—then it’s not a harness, it’s a sports bra. Kinky guys are also too polite to tell harnies when they’re wearing their harnesses upside down or backward. With Extra Lobster: There are food carts in Iceland that sell delicious lobster stew, lobster rolls and lobster sandwiches. The menu at the cart my husband and I kept returning to when we visited Reykjavík included this item: “With Extra Lobster.” You could order your lobster with extra lobster! Lobster is a luxurious and decadent treat, and getting extra lobster with your lobster kicks the luxury and decadence up a big notch. “With extra lobster” struck me as the perfect dirty euphemism for something. It could be something very specific—say, someone sticks their tongue out and licks your balls while they’re deep-throating your cock. We could describe that as a blowjob with extra lobster. Or it could be a general expression meaning more of whatever hot thing gets you off. I’m open to your suggested definitions of “with extra lobster.” Send them to mail@ savagelove.net! On the Lovecast, Dr. Zhana on squirting: savagelovecast.com.
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The Sex Issue