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VOL. 2 ISSUE 14
July 9, 2019 - July 22, 2019 PGHCURRENT
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STAFF Publisher/Editor: Charlie Deitch Charlie@pittsburghcurrent.com Associate Publisher: Bethany Ruhe Bethany@pittsburghcurrent.com
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Elías Díaz (Photo: Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire)
WHY THE PIRATES HAVE BECOME ONE OF THE BEST-HITTING TEAMS IN BASEBALL
he Pittsburgh Lumber Company, Part Deux is putting on a show across National League ballparks this season. The Pittsburgh Pirates’ unexplained offensive explosion can only be explained in one of three ways: 1. Everybody on the team just happens to be having a career year. 2. Everybody on the team is taking performanceenhancing drugs in an age when it’s nearly impossible to do so. Or, 6 | JULY 9, 2019 | PITTSBURGH CURRENT
BY MIKE WYSOCKI - PITTSBURGH CURRENT BASEBALL WRITER INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM 3. New hitting coach Rick Eckstein has been worth every penny he’s being paid. In the month of June, the Pirates hit .288 as a team. It’s the best in the senior circuit and second only to the resurging World Champion Boston Red Sox. Even more impressive is that the team’s .271 team batting average for the first half of the season is also first in the National League and third in the entire league. July has also been off to a hot start. In seven games against the Cubs and Brewers, the team is hitting .343 with 56 runs and 87 hits including 13 homers and 20 doubles. All of those
stats are the best in the entire league. Little League coaches always spout of cliches like, “Just meet the ball,” “A walk is as good as a hit,” and “Everybody hits.” The first two might be crap, but the Bucs are taking the last one and running with it. The Pirates roster consists of twelve position players and right before the All-Star break, seven of those players are hitting .300 or better. Corey Dickerson, rookies Bryan Reynolds and Kevin Newman, back up catcher Jacob Stallings, journeyman Melky Cabrerra, pinch-hitting specialist (with three pinch dingers) Jose Osuna, and Major league RBI leader
and budding superstar Josh Bell rounds out the .300 Club. Even pitcher Steven Brault is hitting .316 and is a viable late-inning pinch hitter for Clint Hurdle. That means there are five losers on the team that aren’t members of this club. Starling Marte can be forgiven because he has 12 homers and 13 stolen bases and is a career .286 hitter. Despite a really slow start, Adam Frazier started off the recent Cubs series by going 9 for 10. Including walloping four doubles in a single game. The last time a Bucco pulled that off was when Paul Waner did it in 1932. Fraizer is now hitting
Second basemen Adam Frazier. (Current Photo by Jake Mysliwczyk)
.287 and hit .600 in July. Colin Moran has established himself as an everyday big leaguer. He’s hitting in the .280’s and could be in the 300 club after the break. Elias Diaz has replaced the foreverinjured Francisco Cervelli. He can be forgiven for missing the mark because not many catchers hit .300. Jason Kendall, Don Slaught, and Manny Sanguillen have done it, but it’s been awhile. All the players mentioned in this paragraph are all hitting .276 or better; incredible. The only players not hitting over .276 are on the injured list. Cervelli, Polanco, and Erik Gonzalez. The
only non-impressive active hitter is Jung Ho Kang. But in his defense, he missed an entire season and hasn’t had many at bats. Even he has slugged seven home runs in limited appearances. Making a hefty (by Pirates standards) $5 million salary is keeping him around. But his defensive versatility and power strikes make him somewhat valuable. Coming into the season everyone was excited about what should have been a very good Pirates rotation. Injuries to all of them has killed that early hope, but nobody saw this offense happening.
So that leads us to one question. Who is Rick Eckstein? Yeah, up until a couple of days ago, I didn’t know either. He is the brother of former big leaguer David Eckstein and was the hitting coach for the Washington Nationals up until 2013. He worked with Bryce Harper, Wilson Ramos, and Ryan Zimmerman. In 2014 he was the hitting coach for Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, and the California Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, or whatever they’re called this year. He did some scouting for a few years before getting back into the dugout this season. It turns out, he knows what he’s doing.
The Pirates have two legitimate Rookie of the Year Candidates, the breakout of All-Star Josh Bell (a potential MVP sleeper) and clutch pinch-hitting for the first time since anyone can remember. All of this success has to be attributed, at least partially, to the new guy.
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GAMING THE SYSTEM
BY CHARLIE DEITCH - PITTSBURGH CURRENT EDITOR CHARLIE@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
ince 2005, I’ve easily made more than a dozen trips to Las Vegas, probably more. Here’s a quick list of my five favorite memories. 5. Won $1,700 when I got a sixhigh diamond straight flush in a poker game. 4. Won $600 on a $6 horse-racing bet when the first-place horse was disqualified and my nag got lucky. 3. Gave $7 to a guy riding a scooter and dressed as Elvis for a picture and a 24-oz can of Pabst Blue Ribbon. 2. Saw Guns-n-Roses live at the Hard Rock Cafe at 3 a.m. with four friends. Duff McKagen showed up, the bourbon flowed like wine. 1. Saw Paulie Shore wearing a speedo in the lobby of The Venetian hotel casually chatting with a companion If you notice, my favorite moments have nothing to do with gambling. The two that do were odd happenings that made the wins an event to share with my friends. So, while I do like to play cards, shoot dice and place the occasional baseball parlay in the sports book, I 8 | JULY 9, 2019 | PITTSBURGH CURRENT
go to Las Vegas for the experience. So, whenever I write about the fact that expanded gambling to help fill state revenue shortfalls is shortsighted and wrongheaded, I do feel a bit hypocritical, because I do gamble from time to time. But what’s going on in Pennsylvania just isn’t a good idea. I’m not necessarily talking about brick-and-mortar casinos in this instance, but rather the expansion we’ve seen in recent years in online gambling. When I talk about online gambling, I’m referring to four distinct sectors: sports betting, online casino slots and table games, online poker and online lottery. I’ve written about gambling a lot in the past 20 years, but I am by no means an expert. But here is my above average layman’s opinion: We’re screwed. A legislature that once balked at offering expanded gambling, has now greenlit every gambling device possible to separate you from your money. Slots, table games, sports betting, online sports betting, iLottery, online poker and, now,
online casino gambling are all on the table in the commonwealth. On July 15, online casinos offering everything from slot machines to three-card poker, can start operations. I should start by saying that I don’t think the biggest concern here is online sports gambling and online poker. Why? These games require a certain level of knowledge to play. Also, many experts agree these two forms of wagering are partially skill-based and don’t completely rely on luck. The issue is with online casino gambling and, an even larger problem, iLottery. First, games like slot machines, roulette and so-called “carnival games” like four-card poker typically have some of the worst odds in a casino. But people play them, especially slots, because they’re easy to play and often laden with bright, cartoony graphics. While it’s easy enough to get to a casino that’s in your community, you still have to drive there, park and pull out cash from an ATM to gamble. You might not go if it’s rainy or snowy or you’re low on funds. But imagine if you can grab your laptop, put in a credit card number, grab a beer from the fridge and sit down on your couch and play your favorite slot. As of July 15, It will
take zero effort to lose your money on a game that is designed to make you lose more than you win. The same is true with iLottery which offers video-game style lottery games, essentially digital scratchoffs. You can bet any denomination you wish, but instead of going to the convenience store or the bar to play, you go to your computer or phone. Addiction to scratch-off tickets is very real. Why? Gavin Jenkins said it best in a 2015 story in Vice: “That’s when I realized lottery players run on hope … State lottery agencies have clearly learned this, marketing their games with corny slogans like New Jersey’s ‘Give your dream a chance.’ In Kentucky, it’s ‘Somebody’s gotta win, might as well be you;’ California’s ads ask people to ‘Imagine what a buck could do.’ They’re not just selling lottery tickets—they’re selling hope.” People are buying into the program, too. In an April Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story, it was reported that the Pennsylvania Lottery is on course for a record year and an estimated $4.5 billion in sales. So, obviously, just as it is with slot machines, online games like this give patrons the chance to chase that dream as frequently as their bank accounts will allow.
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BY JESS SEMLER - PITTSBURGH CURRENT COLUMNIST INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
ast week my partner got down on one knee, said amazingly romantic words, pulled out a beautiful oval sparkly ring and put it on my finger in front of his house where we first met. I was over the moon excited! During our first date it was apparent that we had a unique connection. We’ve since dubbed it “The Long Brunch.” Breakfast turned into more than eight hours of talking, laughing. It’s a conversation we haven’t stopped since. Over the past several months, we’ve had countless discussions about wanting to commit to each other and build a life together. Now that we are officially affianced, I can shout from the rooftops that I’m madly in love and I’m going to marry the heck out of this man. We announced our engagement and the response has been wonderful, yet I feel some trepidation that’s been swirling around because of my complicated feelings around marriage and its institutional history. The ubiquitous heteronormative scripts and gender roles, the power dynamics, and the prolonged erasure that happens when a queer ciswomen partners with a man. I’ve been mostly hush about my romantic life publicly because so often we see women’s identities through a lens of who we’re connected to romantically, rather than our professional accomplishments and actions. “Who I am is not who I’m with” has been a mantra of mine for awhile now in part because of the constant coming out I’ve had to do, and because I don’t want to be known for who I’m with, I want to be known for what I do. Someone asked recently why it matters if I make my queerness known when I’m partnered with a man. The answer is because visibility and representation matter, and I would have loved to see more examples of what queer looked
like when I was younger. Back to being betrothed. I’ve seen lots of my friends navigate the path to marriage, being authentic to themselves while entering into this institution that holds so much weight and symbolism in our culture. My views on marriage are shaped by my memories of marrying my Barbies thousands of times over as a kid, variations of “happily ever after” in Disney movies and rom-coms, and the teachings of the Catholic Church. Studying sociology, women’s history and philosophy in school taught me to see things through a specific lens. I’m now hyper aware that it’s my turn to tango with tradition. I remember the visceral reaction I had when I learned about the origin of wives taking their husband’s names. Back in the day, a single woman was a “fem sole.” In marriage a woman became “fem covert;” her rights and identity subsumed by her husband; she was no longer legally an individual person. This isn’t what happens now when women take their husbands’ names, but this is an example of how many of the marital traditions we engage in were based in sexist-ashell customs. There are utilitarian reasons for getting hitched, like legal protections and health insurance, but I do want more pomp and circumstance than just heading to the courthouse and signing some papers. I’m excited for Mike and I to declare our love for each other in front of family and friends. We are a culture that REALLY values weddings, but we’re writing the script for ours together; changing, adding and throwing out what doesn’t make sense to us. We will write our own vows so the ceremony is really ours. I can’t wait to verbalize what Mike means to me. I will wear a white dress because I want to rock a fierce bridal look, not because I’m innocent and pure
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(I’m 32, the jig is up, and virginity is a myth anyways). I’m devastated that my dad won’t be able to attend my wedding; he has advanced Alzheimer’s and is confined to a senior home. If he were to attend, there would be no “giving away of the bride” because I can’t not think about the history of dowries and fathers passing ownership of women to husbands. I don’t want to replicate that, even if it doesn’t include the same strings now. Our wedding, whatever it ends up looking like, will be a reflection of our relationship and who we are as people. The history and symbolism of engagement rings is problematic; a woman’s engagement ring is a symbol of ownership and signals to other men that she is taken and off the market. It’s also a symbol of status and financial prowess. This never had anything to do with love. It was a very successful marketing campaign by the jewelry industry. The diamond trade continues to wreak havoc on many communities. How can I negotiate this tradition in an ethical and feminist way that works for me? This isn’t the first time I’ve worn a ring on my left hand, or given lots of thought to wedding rings. When I was in college I worked in a jewelry department at the mall, and I noticed something interesting about young women who would drop by. Folks would try on different rings, admire them, and say something about how they couldn’t wait until they were engaged so they’d have one of these rings. I wrote about this more than ten years ago in my blog: “After witnessing this so many times, I began to wonder why we do this. Why do some women think they need to wait to be engaged or in love to wear something beautiful, as if a gorgeous diamond ring is something we must earn from someone else?... This notion led me to buying myself my own diamond ring. It wasn’t anything fancy; a simple ¼ ct white gold anniversary ring. I wore it on my “wedding” finger and when people asked, I explained that it was my anniversary ring to myself to
celebrate 19 years of me loving me.” I wore that ring for a long time, and it meant so much to me as a young woman on her own. I’m looking down at the current ring on my finger; it’s beautiful and reflects my values. A moissanite stone surrounded by conflict-free diamonds, on a band of recycled white gold, designed and created by a woman-owned business. When we got engaged to be engaged, Mike and I chose my ring together and each paid for half, taking an old tradition and making it work for us as a couple. There will be lots of weird and intricate decisions to make as we move forward with wedding planning, but I feel total ease when I look down at this sparkly ring on my finger. It symbolizes my agency and clear eyed decision to intertwine my life with my chosen person, as we forge a path forward bucking traditions and making them our own.
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PITTSBURGH CURRENT | JULY 9, 2019 | 11
Akasha L. Van Cartier gets a high-five from a young patron of Drag Queen Story Hour Saturday at the Andy Warhol Museum. (Photo: Sean Carroll)
BY SUE KERR - PITTSBURGH CURRENT COLUMNIST INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
’ve been trying to figure out why decisions by the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (CLP) and the Pittsburgh Children’s Museum to cancel their June Drag Queen Story Hour events were bothering me so much. After all, the Warhol Museum and White Whale bookstore did not cancel their event or suffer any fallout. I tuned in to KDKA radio to listen to Akasha L. VanCartier, the drag performer who launched DQSH in Pittsburgh, talk with host Lynne Hayes-Freeland about the situation. “It’s a program based around inclusivity. This isn’t a gay program. This isn’t a straight program. It’s an educational program. We dance, we play games, we do crafts; we learn letters, numbers and colors. We teach these children to love everyone around them. Everyone is different on the outside, but when we come down to it, we are all human beings.” Hayes-Freeland replied to the description: “It’s a Fred Rogers
message coming from a different messenger.” And that comment took me right back to a Saturday afternoon in May 2003. I along with another 150 or so fans of Mr. Rogers turned out to his public memorial service. We were there to honor Mr. Rogers, not by attending but by peacefully counterprotesting the Westboro Baptist Church. I had received an email earlier in the week from a local lesbian organizer, asking us to turn out with signs and songs to create a wall of love, protecting those attending the memorial from the truly vile content WBC was infamous for sharing. Our wall of love had to keep moving (like a trolley!) to avoid blocking the sidewalk. The thought was similar to ‘angels’ who responded to WBC protests at funerals. Our large signs with the familiar faces from the Neighborhood of Make Believe were a natural fit for this task. The counter-protesters vastly
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outnumbered the WBC protestors. The memorial took place without disruption. It seemed a very neighborly response. It is a shame the Carnegie Library and Children’s Museum didn’t give the LGBTQ community an opportunity to craft a similar response to the protests of DQSH events. If 150 people turned out to resist WBC in 2003, imagine the numbers who would create a wall of love to protect our children and the drag artists who donate their time to keep this event? Imagine a wall of love greeting families attending the DQSH with messages of hope, encouragement, and love. Imagine responding to hate speech with more speech. And yes imagine an increased presence of police woven into the fabric of this neighborhood tale. That would be a truly neighborly response to threats. The hateful messages won’t go away, especially after the “victory’’ of the canceled
events feeds the bloodlust of the protestors. The library and museums will continue to face these threats. If anything, the CLP made things worse for the safety of our families. The question remains as to why The Warhol Museum was able to create a solution that the library did not. If you’d expect anyone to resist more policing at a Stonewall celebration, it’s the museum. But they opted to take necessary steps to protect the event without backing off their support of the LGBTQ community. It is baffling to think that CLP and the Children’s Museum couldn’t take similar measures. It is almost as if they have a vocal antiLGBTQ constituency that can’t be found at the Warhol Museum. So now we wait until autumn to see if DQSH returns to the CLP. We wait to see if other allies are targeted by these types of threats. We wait to see how CLP undoes the harm their decision created for local LGBTQ folks. The CLP should go big by establishing an advisory group or listening sessions. They might consider that the LGBTQ neighbors could be the helpers Mr. Rogers advised us to seek out when we feel overwhelmed by frightening events. After all, we live with this every single day. We’ve been taking care of ourselves and children living in a chaotic culture for decades. Sometimes you run, sometimes you shout louder, and sometimes you make other choices. None of this is new to us and certainly not to the drag artists who gift us with the wonders of DQSH. Hopefully, the Carnegie Library sees the value in working with the LGBTQ community to craft solutions that are more Mr. Rogers than Mr. Yuk. “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” — Fred Rogers
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by Andrew Schubert
Phineus: Teen Wizard
By Barry Linck Â© Barry Linck phinmagic.net PITTSBURGH CURRENT | OCT. 23, 2018 | 19
Best in Show By Phil Juliano
Sucks to Be an Animal
By Sienna Cittadino
CARTOONISTS CARTOONISTS WANTED WANTED pittsburgh current is looking for local artists who would like to have their comics featured on our twice-monthly funny pages.
20 | OCT. 23, 2018 | PITTSBURGH CURRENTemail: firstname.lastname@example.org
PITTSBURGH CURRENT | OCT. 23, 2018 | 21
Courtesy of Heinz History Center
VIETNAM WAR EXHIBIT AT HEINZ HISTORY CENTER AIMS TO TELL A COMPLETE STORY
he Vietnam War is a topic that conjures up many images in the minds of Americans. Images of brave young men fighting in dense jungle, helicopters landing under heavy fire, and anti-war protestors at home. Above all, the War is generally associated with the decade of the 1960s. But the foundation for the events of Vietnam was laid far earlier, as the Heinz History Center’s latest special exhibition, “The Vietnam War: 1945-1975,” explores. A collaboration with the New York Historical Society, “The Vietnam War” looks at the long historical arc that laid the framework
BY NICK EUSTIS - PITTSBURGH CURRENT CONTRIBUTING WRITER INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM for the War, beginning immediately post-World War II, as well as the aftermath of the War in the early 1970s. “We want people to walk away recognizing that the Vietnam War is more complex than we commonly understand,” says Samuel Black, lead curator for the exhibition. “That’s why the exhibit is focused from 1945 to 1975.” Since opening on April 13, the exhibit has been positively received by veterans and civilians alike. The exhibition has seen major alterations since its debut in New York, with the Heinz History Center adding the stories of Western
Pennsylvania veterans, as well as several new artifacts, including an authentic UH-1H “Huey” helicopter. The exhibition begins immediately after the Second World War, exploring the political framework that was laid in the two decades preceding the beginning of the Vietnam War. “Most visitors, when they think of the Vietnam War, think of the ‘60s, but it started in the ’40s,” says Michael Dubios, design director for the exhibition. “It goes all the way back to [the start of ] the Cold War.” The opening galleries detail the French influence and control of the region at that time, which
contributed majorly to the instability in the region that would result in civil war. It also discusses the Truman and Eisenhower administrations, who would begin U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia. This investment in the affairs of other nations sparked conflict domestically, conflicts that grew more heated as military involvement in Vietnam escalated. As a result, one of the major focuses of the exhibition is on the “war at home” regarding American interference in foreign affairs, at the expense of soldier’s lives. “It expands the understanding of the anti-war movement as well PITTSBURGH CURRENT | JULY 9, 2019 | 15
critical time in history “His tour from August 1963 to August 1964 spanned the assassination of South Vietnamese President Diem, the assassination of President Kennedy, the Gulf of Tonkin incident that Johnson used to get approval from Congress to conduct the war as he saw fit, and the beginning of the increase of U.S. ground personnel in Vietnam,” Black says. The culmination of the impact Western PA had on the war in Vietnam, however, is seen in the exhibition’s final gallery, a memorial featuring the names of the more
than 700 Western Pennsylvanians who lost their lives. Modeled after the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C., it is a sobering reminder of the human cost of war, and a reminder of the power and impact just one small piece of the country can have.
“THE VIETNAM WAR: 1945 TO 1975” will be open to the public at the Heinz History Center until September 22. The exhibition contains images of war that may not be appropriate for young children.
Courtesy of Heinz History Center
as the understanding of people who served there,” Black says. One of the most impactful representations of this rebellion is a 14 foot banner protesting the war in the lead up to the 1968 presidential election, displayed during a sporting event at Three Rivers Stadium. The exhibition also tells the stories of protestors, some of whom found themselves caught in the midst of the conflict. “There were people in jail for protesting that realized they were drafted while in jail. They took them out of jail and sent them to Vietnam,” Dubois says. This naturally leads to discussion of the actual combat experienced by soldiers in Vietnam. This is best encapsulated by the exhibition’s largest gallery, a circular room dedicated to the Tet Offensive, a pivotal moment in the war, both for the combatants and those at home. “While it was a victory militarily for the U.S. forces, it was a defeat politically,” says Dubois. “That’s when [Walter] Cronkite say he’s not sure that we’re winning.” The Tet Offensive gallery features two of the largest artifacts in the exhibition, a combat Jeep and a UH1H “Huey” helicopter. The “Huey” was delivered to the museum in parts, and reconstructed by local Vietnam veterans. “They came in and built it, and they built it like it was yesterday. That
was powerful to see,” Dubois says. While some of the exhibition is focused on the combat in Southeast Asia, there is a considerable amount of content regarding the humanity of the troops, particularly their creative expression. Many of the troops used their cots as a canvas for messages while sailing to Vietnam. “Because some of those troops had no idea if they would return alive or not, they wrote messages on the cots,” Black says. This same phenomenon can be found in the bunks that accommodated the soldiers after landing in Asia, also on display. Most fascinating is a large collection of Zippo lighters, each featuring personalized etchings done by the soldiers themselves. Added to the original New York exhibition are a variety of artifacts from Western Pennsylvania veterans. Pennsylvania was home to the fifth most Vietnam War personnel of any state, with Western Pennsylvania providing a large share of those personnel. “Some of the local veterans were really gracious and generous with either donating or loaning to us their personal mementos from their service in Vietnam, both men and women,” Black says. Included in these artifacts are uniforms, medals, and the diary of George Kniss, a war photographer who toured Southeast Asia during a
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JOIN US AT THE LANDMARKS PRESERVATION RESOURCE CENTER FOR ONGOING PROGRAMMING ON ARCHITECTURE, HISTORY, DESIGN, URBAN PLANNING, AND OTHER TOPICS RELATED TO HOW CITIES FUNCTION AND HISTORIC PRESERVATION AS A TOOL OF COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT.
THURSDAY, JULY 18
6:00 P.M. TO 7:30 P.M.
FILM SCREENING: ALBERT FREY: THE ARCHITECTURAL ENVOY— PART 1 Albert Frey was an unpretentious Swiss-born mid-twentieth-century architect who developed an extraordinary design style by blending industrial techniques and a love of nature. Released in early 2018, the film (the first of a two-part series) explores Frey’s early life and work in Europe and America where he was the envoy of European modernism. His architectural endeavors in the 1930s included, in New York, the famed Aluminaire House and the Canvas Weekend House, and in Palm Springs, the Kocher Samson Building. The film outlines Frey’s collaborative efforts with well-known architects of the time, including A. Lawrence Kocher and Le Corbusier, among others. It contains never-before published archival imagery, as well as beautiful architectural footage. Albert Frey: The Architectural Envoy— Part 1, was produced by Design Onscreen, a private operating nonprofit foundation dedicated to producing, promoting, and preserving high-quality films on architecture and design. Learn more at www.designonscreen.org
THIS SCREENING IS FREE TO THE PUBLIC. RSVPS ARE APPRECIATED: MARYLU@PHLF.ORG OR 412-471-5808 EXT 527.
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PITTSBURGHER TURNS AIRBNB INTO LIVE-IN ART GALLERY
BY NICK EUSTIS - PITTSBURGH CURRENT CONTRIBUTING WRITER INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
ne of the defining features of the 2010s was the rise of the “sharing economy.” A series of small tech start-ups, like Uber, Lyft, Grubhub and others, rose to incredible prominence, redefining entire industries around the idea of people sharing their existing resources. One major player in this field is Airbnb, which has shaken the hospitality industry with its business model of users renting space in their own homes for travelers to stay at. Since its founding in 2008, Airbnb has quickly grown into a $2.6 billion company, and hosted millions of guests. Like many other cities, Pittsburgh has grown a considerable Airbnb
marketplace over the years. One of these Airbnbs is the brainchild of Marta Napoleone Mazzoni, host of the “Marta on the Move” podcast, who became an Airbnb host after her positive experiences with the service on her own travels. “My husband and I love Airbnb. That’s how I travel, [I] delve into people’s homes and get a sense of how they live their lives, how they decorate their space,” Mazzoni says. “You can really tell and pick up on who that person is by that, and it has a lot of character. We love that, rather than staying in a hotel room.” Wanting to recreate her own pleasant travel experiences with Pittsburgh visitors, Mazzoni and her husband made the decision to
renovate the bottom floor of their Crafton home into an Airbnb. “A couple years ago, we decided to renovate the whole thing and open the Airbnb, mainly not for profit, but to meet new people coming into our city from all over the world, and bring that travel aspect to our hometown while we’re here,” says Mazzoni. Having come to enjoy the work of being an Airbnb host, Mazzoni was struck with an idea. She wanted to feature the depth of artistic talent that can be found in Pittsburgh, and made the call to buy another property on the North Side to rent on Airbnb. Through her friends, some of whom are visual artists, she assembled a collection of paintings,
photographs and sculptures created by fellow Pittsburghers, and turned her new Airbnb into a live-in art gallery. “When we bought this other Airbnb, I had this inspiration to have travelers and locals alike become more immersed in Pittsburgh art and Pittsburgh talent,” Mazzoni says. “Rather than go to a museum and walk past it, they can really have a moment with it.” Mazzoni’s Airbnb art gallery features work by local artists including Joyce Werie Perry, Stephanie Strasburg, Jeff Swenson, Cara Livorno, Victoria Bradley, Rob Larson and Joe Groom. Each piece has its own placard made by Mazzoni and information about the artists is assembled in a reference booklet. Since opening its doors in March, the Airbnb art gallery has been booked nearly every week. “The people that have stayed have been really blown away,” Mazzoni says. “One mom brought her daughter, who was studying to be an art major. She was really inspired by the type of art that was in the house, and says she figured out what she wanted to focus on based on spending some time with it in the house, which was really cool!” Encouraged by the enthusiastic reception, Mazzoni has plans to take the art gallery concept further. Using her skills as a podcaster, she plans to add an audio accompaniment to the art, featuring more Pittsburgh talent in the process. “I’m recruiting some short flash fiction writers to create a story around each of the pieces,” says Mazzoni. “I’m going to record those and put music and sound effects behind it, so people can tune into their headphones and...hear all these interesting stories and also get to know Pittsburgh writers.” Mazzoni also has future plans to host a wider array of events in the space, including dinners and even yoga classes. Whatever the future holds, Mazzoni hopes her Airbnb can provide her guests with an enriching and thoughtful slice of Pittsburgh.
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MODERN MYSTERY COLUMBUS AUTHOR WRITES MYSTERY NOVELS IN AN AGE OF OPEN SECRETS
BY JODY DIPERNA - PITTSBURGH CURRENT LIT WRITER JODY@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
oxanne Weary drinks too much Crown Royal. She is sometimes reckless and headstrong. She carries complicated grief after her father’s death and fumbles through her difficult love life. She is doing some contract investigative work for a highend workout apparel company (a hilarious riff on the cult-like reverence of Lululemon devotees) while suffering through a particularly cold, snowy winter in central Ohio. And then she gets a frantic call in the middle of the night from her brother.
The Stories You Tell by Kristen Lepionka
This is where you meet the protagonist of Kristen Lepionka’s latest mystery, “The Stories You Tell,” just out this month from Minotaur Books, the third installment in her Roxanne Weary series. Roxanne is not a former cop, but as the daughter of a policeman, she’s not entirely unfamiliar with the inner-workings of the department. That said, it presents challenges for Lepionka to work through creatively precisely because Roxanne doesn’t have the power of the badge behind her. Nor is Roxanne a hacker. So she uses the channels available to all private citizens. “The types of information you can find online, public records -- it’s straight crazy, actually,” Lepionka told the Current via telephone from her home in Columbus. “When you drill down to the local level, the types of information that’s available … I put that together by doing searches -- starting with my own information and exploring from there. I hope that didn’t sound creepy.” But mystery writers should
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be a little creepy, right? While state, county and municipal records can provide a treasure trove of information to any private citizen from the comfort of their own homes, the availability of that information isn’t new to the digital era. Divorces, civil litigation, criminal records, tax liens, homeownership, real estate values and the like have always been there in paper form, easily searchable in the analog days. But we are living in a different era from dusty old deed book volumes and Raymond Chandler. Back then, the starting point for a detective mystery could simply be that somebody was not at home to receive a vital message. Now? That’s virtually impossible. Lepionka thoroughly embraces 21st century America to her advantage. Roxanne uses social media as she seeks to unravel the mystery her brother is tangled up in. Plus, Lepionka created a few other modern elements to fill in the story, most notably SpinSpo (the aforementioned Lululemon-like company) and a Columbus-specific dating and messaging app. “When you’re writing, you can make up whatever technology you want, but I’m not writing fantasy novels. I want it to be something that feels real,” she said. Roxanne ends up digging for other, deeper truths, though. In an era when we’ve all surrendered our privacy to Facebook and Twitter without even the merest fight, just
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what constitutes mystery? How does a writer build suspense? Lepionka views it as an opportunity to examine our interior lives. “It does require thinking about mysteries in a different way. It becomes about finding out what people don’t tell anyone,” she said. “Mysteries are always about a secret. Our secrets have just become different types of secrets. With social media, you may feel like you know someone because you read about them on Twitter or Facebook. Is that the same as knowing a person? It presents a lot of interesting opportunities to explore what it means about human nature -- the things we choose to put out there versus the things we keep secret.”
KRISTEN LEPIONKA will read on Sunday, July 14th at 11:00 as part of the Coffee & Crime series at Mystery Lovers Bookshop in Oakmont.
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5115 BUTLER ST PGH, PA 15201
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“Thin Blue Lie”
‘THIN BLUE LIE’
PITTSBURGH JOURNALIST’S NEW BOOK EXAMINES HIGH-TECH POLICING BY JODY DIPERNA - PITTSBURGH CURRENT LIT WRITER JODY@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM “It is a way to divert attention away from very real problems. And it is doing it with technology,” Matt Stroud tells me. We’re sitting at La Prima, a few blocks from his new Post/Industrial office, and we’ve met to talk about his new book, “Thin Blue Lie: The Failure of High-Tech Policing” (Metropolitan Books, 2019). At the moment, he’s telling me about an ABC Nightline segment he saw featuring the Chicago Police Department testing an actual thing
that is actually called a “Virtual Reality Empathy Machine.” “There are very complicated things that need to happen so that they interact in a better way with the communities they serve. Sticking a virtual reality headset on 10 officers’ heads is not going to fix that problem,” he says. Though virtual reality empathy sounds like something ripped from a dystopian novel or an Onion headline, it is a perfect example
of using technology as a salve for deeply and pointedly human questions. These kinds of issues are at the heart of his book. “Today, the fundamentals of policing have been co-opted by industry -- by a corporatized approach to law enforcement that increasingly relies on weapons, software and covert surveillance,” he writes in “Thin Blue Lie.” According to this school of reform, technological solutions are always preferable to others.” To understand high-tech policing, he meticulously takes the reader from August Vollmer, who shaped professional policing at the start of the 20th century, up through the Watts riots in LA, the Bernard Goetz subway shooting in NYC, all the way to the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014. Along the way, he chronicles all the steps that led to the data-driven policing tool most often referred to as Compstat or computeraided statistical analyses of crime employed by pretty much every large city police department in the nation. Or Moneyball for cops. He also scrutinizes the manufacture, marketing and use of the Taser. For some civilians, our first knowledge of Tasers was the YouTube video of the guy yelling, “Don’t tase me bro!” (a 2007 incident at the University of Florida). Tasers are marketed as a way to avoid a lethal confrontation but can cause cardiac arrhythmia, even in healthy people. According to a Reuters story in February, at least 49 people died after being shocked by police with Tasers in 2018. And that similar numbers died in 2017 and 2016. Stroud gets deep into explaining problems with voltage (dangerously high) and shoddy construction (defective items arrive in police departments more often than you want to imagine). In addition to that, a number of police officers claim to have been injured when shocked by the device in training sessions. It should all be enough to make us question Taser use as a safe police
tool. He recognizes that technology has a role to play, but as with every other aspect of American life, there is a rush to fix things with tech rather than digging for harder to come by solutions. And, of course, if technology is applied improperly it can make a bad situation even worse. “Pennsylvania has passed rules that basically make it impossible to get body camera footage. North Carolina. Even Missouri, where Ferguson is,” Stroud tells me. The only way that the body cameras are an effective use of technology is if the footage is available to the citizenry. That transparency would lead to more accountability, which would, in turn, lead to better, more humane policing. A body camera without that transparency is simply hand-waving away a real problem. “So they’ve become—where I think that body cameras could have been a solution in those states and increasingly in other states—they have become just an evidentiary tool that pushes back against the point,” he says. What the book wants us to think about is what are the actual problems we are facing? What are the problems that police departments can and should be fixing? And then to ask, are those problems being addressed? And who benefits from expensive, high-tech solutions? The people? The police bureaucracy? A private company? “If there is one main idea that I try to get across in the book, it’s that viewers, journalists, police, government leaders, need to look more skeptically at those kinds of decisions. Spending that is involved with technology, technology rollouts without spending -- why are we doing this and what is the actual problem we want to solve?” Stroud says. “If you are making decisions because you’ve found technology, as opposed to making decisions because you have a problem, that is a problem.”
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Sierra Sellers (Current Photo by Jake Mysliwczyk)
PITTSBURGH R&B SINGER SIERRA SELLERS IS STARTING TO FIND HER GROOVE
BY CHARLIE DEITCH - PITTSBURGH CURRENT EDITOR CHARLIE@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
ierra Sellers claims there was a time when she wasn’t as strong and self-assured as she is today. Seeing her, talking with her, hearing her sing, it’s a hard line to buy. The 24-year old soul and R&B singer/songwriter has a mature, confident voice with lyrics to back it up. She sings on one of her latest singles, “Smooth,” “Hey sista, who you messin’ with? Is he a real brotha, or was he just a mess? Is he really down, do he come correct? And since you stuck around, do you get your respect? You ain’t playin’ no fool, no wonder he talks smooth.” Writing songs with lyrics of empowerment is nothing new for Sellers who says, “I started writing
lyric books in the third grade.” She took her cues from artists like Destiny’s Child, Jill Scott and India. Arie to name a few. But it would take her a minute for her public mindset to catch up with the little girl drawing strength and power off of every word of songs like “Say My Name.” “I knew I wanted to be a singer at an early age,” Sellers tells the Current. “I mean, I was obsessed with Destiny’s Child when I was in preschool. “And then when I started writing songs at an early age, I was writing about the same things I write about now, being a strong, independent, empowered woman. That’s how I saw myself even back then.” And despite some obstacles she
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had to overcome, that’s clearly who Sierra Sellers is today. She’s been performing live on an increasingly frequent basis since the release of her self-titled EP in 2017. This weekend she will perform twice at the Deutschtown Music Festival. At 10 p.m. Friday, July 12, she and her band will play the Pittsburgh Current Stage at Hip at the Flashlight Factory for the paper’s “Best Year Ever” first birthday party. The next day, she plays the Hughshows Main Stage at 8 p.m. (see map and schedule elsewhere in this issue). Talking to Sellers, you don’t get a hint of insecurity or pain. But getting to that level of confidence, the place that made her into the songwriter and performer she is now and is trying to become, took some time and some pain. Sellers grew up in the Sewickley area and attended Quaker Valley High School. It’s Allegheny County’s last school district on state route 65 before you hit Beaver County. For the first several years of her life she lived on the North Side before moving to Leetsdale and Quaker Valley. In third grade, her family moved to “the heart of Sewickley,” where she’d stay until graduation. She often felt out of place. Her mother was white, her father was black and the whole family was what she describes as poor. But the move to Sewickley was to give Sellers and her siblings a safe place to grow up, something she is grateful for today. But things were rough. First, because she was poor and in later years because she was still poor and also black. “I was the token poor black kid in an affluent area,” she says. “I can’t say I was ever afraid to be myself, but I was very reserved. I never asserted my character.” Early on she felt socio-economic discrimination and later, in high school, she started to feel the racial discrimination. “All of the other kids bought their clothes at Abercrombie and Fitch; we shopped at Kmart. I tried not to put much stock in it because in my mind we were perfectly equal.” In high school, the differences
between she and her classmates, began taking on racial overtones. “One time I had a date to a school dance,” she says. “A week before, my date, who was white, said he couldn’t go with me because his grandparents were coming over that weekend and because I was black, he couldn’t take me to the house. “Then I would hear comments like, ‘Sierra, you would be so pretty if you weren’t half black or you’re only as pretty as you are because you’re half white. Another time, I was shopping with a girl and she dropped a $100 dollar bill. I picked it up to give it to her and she snatched it out of my hand, telling me it was hers. I told her I didn’t need her money because I’ve been working since I was 15 and made my own.” Sellers says she never felt like or played the part of a victim, but says she found her adolescence, “claustrophobic” and she was unable to fully be herself. She wanted to go to college and begin her life in a new place with new people. Since her family couldn’t afford to send her to school and her grades wouldn’t get her an academic scholarship, she relied on basketball to get her there. With her talent, she had offers from larger schools to play ball. However, as high school was winding down, so was her desire to play basketball. So instead of accepting an athletic scholarship at a larger school (that money is dependent on playing the sport for four years), she chose Division III St. Vincent’s. At that level, there are no athletic scholarships. However, if a player is good enough, the financial help has a way of showing up. But, unlike an athletic scholarship, it couldn’t be revoked if she decided that basketball wasn’t for her. She played for a few weeks before quitting and graduated four years later with a degree in early-childhood education. Without basketball, she began focusing more on music in her spare time. She taught herself guitar and had a mic and a recorder in her dorm room to work on music. She’d even charge other students to come in and cut their own recordings.
Sierra Sellers (Current Photo by Jake Mysliwczyk)
While she says the situation wasn’t always perfect, her experience at St. VIncent’s was more than she could have hoped for. “The people there were great, and so nice,” she says. “I was somebody who was always afraid to be myself but St. Vincent’s was the place that I became unapologetically Sierra Sellers. I became myself there, someone who is comfortable in their own skin and soul.” That confidence was evident during a photo shoot for the cover of this week’s issue. Sellers moved with confidence, sang “Smooth” as the camera flashed and made her own technical suggestions for the shoot. It’s hard to imagine that Sierra Sellers was ever anyone different than the fearless, self-assured woman performing on more and more stages across the city. In fact, at one time she considered just being a songwriter because of crippling stage fright. But like everything else, Sellers got through this obstacle with power and grace.
“I would get to the point that I was shaking and sweating and I would just have to push through,” she says. “I would have these talks with myself, saying, ‘you have to sing, just do it! Just do it!. “Then, in September 2018, I sang at an Aretha Franklin tribute concert. I just went out there and just performed. It was a huge adrenaline rush. At that moment, maybe it was the daydreaming Pieces in me, I decided I want to be a star.”
CHECK OUT SIERRA SELLERS
July 12 and 13 for two nights at the Deutschtown Music Festival. On July 22 at Club Cafe Sellers and Pittsburgh’s Clara Kent open for Chicago’s Oh Mys. And on Aug. 10 at Mr. Smalls, she appears on Pittsburgh’s Very Own 2, a show featuring only African American women R&B singers.
IT’S WHATEVER FLOATS YOUR BOAT.
EVENT SCHEDULE NOW AVAILABLE www.YouGottaRegatta.org PITTSBURGH CURRENT | JULY 9, 2019 | 25
Deutschtown Music Festival (Current Photo by Jake Mysliwczyk)
BIGGER AND BETTER
DEUTSCHTOWN MUSIC FESTIVAL GROWS TO MORE THAN 400 BANDS
lmost a decade ago, Cody Walters and Ben Soltesz saw a transformation on the horizon in Pittsburgh and they wanted to make sure their North Side neighborhoods were in on the boom. “I go to see a lot of live music,” says Soltesz, of Spring Hill. “I just started asking bands I liked – ‘We’ve never done this before. We’ve got no money. Do you want to do this?’ And I was surprised by the response.” In 2013, the Deutschtown Music Festival was born, featuring 50 bands at a half-dozen North Side haunts. This year, the now-fabled event – Pittsburgh’s largest music festival, which kicks off Friday, July 12 – will
BY JUSTIN VELLUCCI - PITTSBURGH CURRENT CONTRIBUTING WRITER INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM showcase nearly 400 bands on more than 30 stages. Admission? Still free. “For me, personally, the festival was originally more about highlighting the neighborhood,” says Walters, of Deutschtown, who serves as director for the North Side Leadership Conference’s Main Streets program, the festival’s financial sponsor. “I looked at it as an opportunity to highlight what we had in Deutschtown – live music. In the last few years, though, it’s really been more of a focus on the bands.” “We were, like, ‘We want to show everybody how great we are and help out the local businesses, too,’” Soltesz says. “Here we are, seven years later. Everybody seems to enjoy it and I
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think it’s a really positive thing for the community.” The festival this year has everything – from a 21+ outdoor beer tent and shuttle bus access for the adults, to face-painting and a bounce house for the kids. There even will be a busker’s stage and an artists’ marketplace, for which some 130 vendors already have signed up. And, yes, of course, there is lots and lots of Pittsburgh-based music. Singer-songwriter Brad Yoder will play at 2 p.m. Saturday at Annex PGH. His 45-minute acoustic set, which might feature a few surprise guest spots, marks his second appearance at the summer festival. “I’ll be playing as I almost always
do – all songs I wrote, with an emphasis on the newer ones,” says Yoder, of North Point Breeze. “It is pretty cool, with people coming and going, checking out different things. It’s really a chance to hear a lot of local music in not a lot of time. It’s a nice kind of Pittsburgh happening that has a fun D.I.Y. vibe.” The festival’s roster is nothing if not thorough. Members of Rusted Root will play, separately but in succession, in The Jenn Wertz Band, Borstal Boys and Drowning Clowns. Those sets start at 6 p.m. Friday on the main stage. Punk band Fake Accent plays live Friday at 10 p.m. at Max’s Allegheny Tavern. Red Beans and Rice Combo’s jazzy, all-ages set
Deutschtown Music Festival (Current Photo by Jake Mysliwczyk)
starts at 7 p.m. Saturday at Bier’s Pub. Prefer hip hop? Local provocateurs BBGuns will perform tracks from the new LP, “Help Yourself,” at 9 p.m. Saturday on Skyline Stage on Cedar Avenue. Raelyn Nelson – Willie Nelson’s granddaughter; yes, THAT Willie Nelson – is set to perform at 8:30 p.m. Saturday on the Highmark/ AHN Park Stage on Union Avenue. And Vocal Confluence, a 25-member barbershop-style a cappella group, will perform 1 p.m. Saturday at the North Side’s new fountain, a replica designed to look as the original did in the early 1900s. “I thought what was appropriate for the fountain was a barbershop group,” Walters says. “Absolutely, positively, that had to have happened there 100 years ago.” And then there are the acts that blur genre lines. Go Go Gidget, which interjects Riot Grrl attitude with surf-rock anthems, will make its Deutschtown debut at 7 p.m. Friday at Penn Brewery in Troy Hill. “We’re looking forward to playing to a mix of familiar and new faces in the crowd,” says Lauren Stein, of Franklin Park, who plays bass in the quartet. “I personally am excited to check out some new bands—I haven’t seen most of the bands that play on our stage.” Pittsburgh Current will celebrate what has become its finest (and also first) year this weekend with the hottest party of the summer – a 21+ event at The Flashlight Factory, starting at 7:30 p.m. Friday. The
event will feature free food from Salt, free beer and wine from local vendors, a photo booth from Some Good Print, and free “pedicab” rides to and from other festival venues. Indie rock outfit, Identity X, hip-hop artist, Moemaw Naedon and R&B/ soul songstress, Sierra Sellers (read all about her elsewhere in this issue) all are set to perform at the party. The event is free with registration: bit.ly/2XsEsme. “A year ago, the Current made its first public appearance at this very festival,” says Charlie Deitch, the paper’s editor and publisher. “Given that and our commitment to promoting local music through our stories and our online Pittsburgh Current Concert Series, we thought this was the best place to celebrate our ‘Best Year Ever.’ This festival is a really important event to us and the entire city.” The festival will cap off Sunday with a gospel brunch from 9 a.m. to noon, courtesy of the Allegheny Center Alliance Church. There, in addition to four food stations – BBQ, classic, Pittsburgh-centric, and breakfast – people can take in a little worship and some great music, Walters says. “If [the gospel brunch] is successful, I think it’d be an interesting thing to expand elsewhere,” Walters says. “It’s like everything we try to do with the festival: we try to do it small and we try to improve upon it each year.” For the full line-up and more information, go to deutschtownmusicfestival.com/
WEIRD PAUL, APPEARING AT THE DEUTSCHTOWN MUSIC FESTIVAL, CELEBRATES HIS 32ND RECORD
BY MIKE SHANLEY - PITTSBURGH CURRENT MUSIC WRITER INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
he act of releasing an album has changed over time, but not for Weird Paul Petroskey. “Whenever I try to come up with the next album, I say, ‘What can I do to make the presentation of this better than the last one? How am I going to make people look at it and want it, just by seeing it,’” he says. This from a guy who has released 32 albums. For his new one, he asked his girlfriend, artist Niffer Desmond, to render his image with Lite-Brite, the classic toy that uses plastic pegs to create images on a back-lit board. Even he was surprised by the results. “My thought was, she’d do this very minimalistic drawing and you could tell it was me because of my hair, and whatever,” he says. “Here, she does my whole head! My entire head is all Lite-Brite. I was blown away.” When it came time to choose an album title, Weird Paul maintained another standard. “I like to incorporate something very old with something very new, two things that don’t really go together in a chronology. That makes me happy,” he says. Thus he settled on Lit AF, which references both the cover image and the modern, polite abbreviation of “as fuck,” which is popular with the kids these days. It’s not too far of a stretch to see Lit AF as a statement about how literate his lyrics can be. Even
when he goofs around, there’s some depth on the album. “Dopamine Drop” not only explains how the brain’s neurotransmitter works, this rap song goes on to show how social media interactions impact it positively. The topic of “Stupid Coupon” might seem flimsy, but in the hands of Weird Paul the line, “Buy three boxes of crackers and get a free jar of honey,” never sounded so catchy. At least not since he recorded “Pot of Macaroni” ten years ago. Musically, the album — recorded solo, rather than with the Weird Paul Rock Band — changes styles with virtually every song. Heavy metal power chords lead to country twang, which precedes “Tell Me What You Think,” a track that Paul himself compares to Katy Perry and Pink. Weird Paul plans to take his firstever 10-day tour of the Midwest this fall. “I was actually surprised to find that there is a demand at this point to see me,” he says. “But I asked, ‘Where would you like to see me,’ and there was a huge response.” Wait until they hear the album.
THE WEIRD PAUL ROCK BAND plays
Deutschtow Music Festivalat 9 p.m. on Saturday at Blacksmith Studio, Middle Street.
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hard-driving single from this year’s Out of the Ether LP is as far from high-concept as rock music can get, as the pair seek to bury Provenzano’s spat-out vocals in sweaty, swaggering grooves. It’s music to walk off your job to, but only after trashing the place. The two advertise their sound as “loud and sloppy space rock,” taking cues from prog-rock titans like Hawkwind and Yes. As a duo, the epic sweep of the prog sound is refracted. It reflects as something darker, but just as big. Filling the small rooms that Writhing Squares tend to play, the sound connotes
threat and menace. In the open, its aggressive minimalism would read as quixotic. “That’s kind of part of it too, just showing how much you can do with just two people. You can fill up a lot of space if you’re smart about it,” Provenzano says.
WRITHING SQUARES WITH PURLING HISS.
Friday, July 19. Bloomcraft, 460 Melwood Ave., Oakland. Email email@example.com for more information.
HIP TO BE SQUARES
“YOU CAN FILL UP A LOT OF SPACE IF YOU’RE SMART ABOUT IT.”
BY IAN THOMAS - PITTSBURGH CURRENT CONTRIBUTING WRITER INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
an Provenzano and Kevin Nickles have released music as Writhing Squares since 2013, but their musical collaboration began nearly a decade earlier in Slatington, a smallish town in the Lehigh Valley region of Pennsylvania. “Kevin and I grew up a mile down the road from each other. We went to high school together and started playing rock and roll together in our friend’s basement,” Provenzano says in a phone interview with the duo. As rock and roll origin stories go, it’s pretty unremarkable, but that doesn’t account for their definition of rock and roll. After moving to Philadelphia, their current base of operations, Provenzano played a stint in Purling Hiss, Nickles in Taiwan Housing Project. But they sought a vehicle that would allow them to explore their shared sensibilities and showcase Provenzano’s bass and Nickles’s saxophone. Thus, Writhing Squares was born. Provenzano and Nickles began experimenting, building a big sound from those minimal elements, guided more by instinct
than ethos. Over the course of a handful of singles, splits, and two LP’s, they’ve tweaked the equation, adding a spray of synth here and an increasingly frequent drum machine there, but never straying too far from their core of minimalism. The real through-line of the Writhing Squares, though, is the interplay between Provenzano and Nickles. The instrumentation is incidental. “The whole idea of the band is ‘What can Kevin and I do together?’ If I played piano and Kevin played the tambourine, well, it would be a piano and tambourine band,” Provenzano says. “Kevin plays sax and I play bass.” It’s that simple. In Writhing Squares, Provenzano and Nickles are doing exactly what they want. They allow that what they want might change and that’s exactly the point of Writhing Squares. “There’s not too much of a high concept,” Nickles says. “We have friends who are drummers. Maybe one day we’ll play with a drummer. Or maybe one day we’ll have a guitar player play. But right now, [those are] our strengths and we’re just putting our strengths into this band.” “Steely Eyed Missile Man,” the
JOIN US AT THE LANDMARKS PRESERVATION RESOURCE CENTER FOR ONGOING PROGRAMMING ON ARCHITECTURE, HISTORY, DESIGN, URBAN PLANNING, AND OTHER TOPICS RELATED TO HOW CITIES FUNCTION AND HISTORIC PRESERVATION AS A TOOL OF COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT.
THURSDAY, JULY 25
6:00 P.M. TO 7:30 P.M.
LECTURE: THE PITTSBURGH STORY AND REMAKING POST-INDUSTRIAL CITIES PRESENTER: DONALD K. CARTER This lecture highlights historic sites, communities, and events in the Monongahela River valley to help explain the resilience of the region in the context of industrial loss. We consider how various cultural resources and tools of historic preservation have been or could be used to spark economic rejuvenation in Mon Valley communities. About the presenter: William (Will) Prince is the Main Street Manager of the Washington Business District Authority of Washington County. A graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, Will completed a two-year stint of national service through AmeriCorps and the Student Conservation Association. He also managed and helped expand the nation’s first Trail Town Program at The Progress Fund connecting outdoor recreation and small-town revitalization.
THIS LECTURE IS FREE TO THE PUBLIC. RSVPS ARE APPRECIATED: MARYLU@PHLF.ORG OR 412-471-5808 EXT, 527.
744 REBECCA AVENUE - WILKINSBURG, PA 15221 412-471-5808 PITTSBURGH CURRENT | JULY 9, 2019 | 31
Jersey cows pasturing at Rivendale Farms in Washington County. (Photos by Jake Mysliwczyk)
FARM TO FREEZER
RIVENDALE FARMS TAKES NATURAL, MODERN APPROACH TO LOCALLY MADE ICE CREAM
hen you think “natural farming” you think grazing animals, lush pastures, ripe manure and plaid-clad farmers. Rivendale Farms has all of those things, but they also have robotics, automation, full-time executive chefs and a spot on the Steelers practice jerseys. Established in 2015 on 175 acres in Washington County, Rivendale Farms is owned by Thomas Tull,
BY HALEY FREDERICK - PITTSBURGH CURRENT MANAGING EDITOR HALEY@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM Legendary Entertainment CEO and Steelers minority-owner. Inspired by the renowned Stone Barns farm in Pocantico, NY, Rivendale is based on two principles: “natural farming” and “modern techniques.” Unlike Stone Barns, Rivendale doesn’t have its own restaurant. Their produce does make its way to the tables of several well-regarded Pittsburgh-area restaurants like Dinette, Station, Legume, Eleven and
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Whitfield, but Rivendale as a brand is all about the dairy. Their award-winning Jersey cows’ milk is utilized by The Milkshake Factory, served up as soft-serve in PNC Park and made into its chocolate milk that’s become a Steelers recovery drink. Now their dairy product line is expanding and is more widely available than ever before. In June, Rivendale launched a new hard-pack
ice cream line-up of eight flavors in six Giant Eagle Market District stores and a few other local markets. The Current went to Rivendale Farms to follow the ice cream all the way from doe-eyed calves to packed pints on store shelves. First, the big, white barn that’s visible from the road in front of the farm is the Elite Barn. In it resides the prize Jersey cows that compete in shows and whose embryos are sold
Rivendale Ice Cream launched in stores in June.
Cows enter at will into the Lely Astronaut to be milked.
to breeders as far away as Japan and New Zealand. When you imagine a cow, you’re not picturing a Jersey cow. Jersey cows are smaller than the classic Holstein, and their coat is a warm russet brown. When it comes to cows’ milk, they’re producing the cream of the crop. “Jersey cow milk is higher in protein and fat and calcium—it’s about 20 percent higher in all of
those, which is why it’s more sought after and it’s not as common because Jersey cows are smaller so they provide less milk,” says Christine Grady, general manager of the farm. “So for most dairy farmers who are interested in volume you see the big black and white Holstein cows,” she continues. “We have Jersey cows specifically because we want that rich, creamy, high-quality milk for our products.”
The Elite Barn cows receive a bit more personalized attention, and they’re pastured for a few hours a day in the fenced field right at the farm’s entrance, welcoming visitors to the property. The next barn we visit, the Calf Barn, is at the top of the hill where Rivendale rests. Long rows of small stalls house calves that are days or months old. The calves’ quarters are kept very clean because the young
animals have vulnerable immune systems. With their light brown color and slight stature, the Jersey calves look almost like deer. They’re curious and friendly, too. Once they graduate out of the Calf Barn, they’ll head to the Heifer Barn where they’ll stay until they’re about two years old and can start producing milk and having calves of their own. PITTSBURGH CURRENT | JULY 9, 2019 | 33
sure each flavor and color came from the actual ingredient. For example, other than the milk, sugar and stabilizers, the only other ingredient in their hazelnut ice cream is hazelnut paste that’s imported from Italy (Brenci’s home country). The other flavors are pistachio, honey lavender, strawberry, chocolate, vanilla, peanut butter chocolate and apricot chocolate— each with the same promise of a focus on the ingredients. Rivendale ice creams also don’t contain any eggs. “We just want to stay away from allergens and highlight the creaminess of the milk and the richness of the milk with the quality of the ingredients,” Brenci says. There’s also a special Pirates Treasure flavored with vanilla ice cream (made Pirates yellow through the use of turmeric and annatto) and chocolate crispy pieces available at The Sweet Spot in PNC Park and in Giant Eagle Market Districts along with all of the other pints.
The Elite Barn houses show cows at Rivendale Farms.
The Milking Barn is where Rivendale’s “modern techniques” really come into play. The robotic systems used in this barn are made by a Dutch company called Lely. The first automated machine is the Vector, which feeds the cows every hour, mixing up five different kinds of feed based upon pre-programmed recipes and measuring what the cows have eaten using lasers. “It can put different types of feed at different locations depending on what they need, like if the cows are in heat or if they’re dry and they need to be eating something different,” Grady says. The other Lely system they use is the Astronaut, a milking machine. The cows walk in when they want to be milked, which they’re motivated to do because they get uncomfortable when it’s been too long and because the machine rewards them with vanilla-flavored
pellets. “In a traditional parlor system cows get milked twice a day, and with this self-service system they get milked about four times in a 24 hour period and you get about 15 percent more milk than you would in a twice a day milking,” Grady says. The machine milks them and cleans them, while also collecting data like the cow’s weight and temperature, the amount of milk each teat yields and the temperature of the milk. According to Grady, the benefits of automation are the obvious labor savings—without it they’d need at least four more employees in the Milking Barn alone—and also the wealth of data the machines collect. “Normally, in a traditional way, a farmer might not know for an extended period if there’s been an impact on the quality of the milk or the quantity of the milk,” Grady says.
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“For us, it’s an instant [thing].” The milk gets taken to Johnstown in Rivendale’s 5,000-gallon truck where it’s processed and made into their chocolate milk and ice creams. Beyond the cows, Rivendale has a quarter-acre greenhouse (also automated), seven acres of crop production, 600 Rhode Island Red chickens, 300,000 bees and a Chef’s Test Garden where Executive Chefs Daniele Brenci and Cory Helm get to test out new and interesting crops. Right now it contains white strawberries, purple kohlrabi, pink celery, yarrow and more. “That really gives us the opportunity as chefs to innovate, not only in the kitchen but in the field, and that helps us to have new ideas come up for the ice cream,” Brenci says. Rivendale’s all-natural philosophy is true in their farming and in their ice creams. Brenci made
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The Lely Vector is an automated feeding system.
Rivendale Executive Chef Daniele Brenci in the greenhouse.
A calf born a few days earlier rests in the Calf Barn.
Strawberry Rivendale Ice Cream.
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KEEPING UP WITH PITTSBURGH’S CRAFT BEER SCENE BY DAY BRACEY - PITTSBURGH CURRENT CRAFT BEER WRITER INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM June 20, 9 a.m.: Guinness Open Gate Brewery and Barrelhouse, Baltimore. It’s a large campus with multiple buildings for brewing, drinking, and admiring history. I drove down last night because Guinness is sponsoring Fresh Fest and wants me to meet some people? Seriously, don’t know what’s going on, but they paid for the hotel and I’ll take any excuse to eat fresh crab cakes. I’m going to ramble for the next 600 or so words about beer and other inconsequential BS, but I want everyone reading this to know this one thing about Baltimore. The city owns all of the parking. So, you will likely have to pay to park in your hotel. My bill was $30/day. Lifehack: You can easily avoid this charge by valeting your car for $40/day. You’re welcome. Shannon Harris, The Brew Brotha, a gypsy brewer out of Texas, is also in town. We shared a few heavy stouts at a popular bar last night, so our hangover is well
earned. I learned that Firestone is a respected brewery, and “Parabola” means, “Hope you got nothing to do tomorrow,” in Hebrew. Or should I say Shebrew, as we meet up with brewmaster Hollie Stephenson. She used to brew at some hole in the wall place called Stone, before making a name for herself here. She informs us that they’re brewing a lemongrass IPA for the festival. I’m giddy with excitement. June 20, 9:30 a.m.: Beard nets, hairnets, crossing guard jackets, and steel-toed boots. We’re ready to brew beer, or build a new addition to this campus. Not really qualified for either. The first room we go into is the microbrewery. Everything is clean and has a proper place. They have all kinds of shit that does shit. Shannon and Hollie are geeking it up with the brewer lingo, and I can’t help but think how amazing a brewery can be with near limitless funds. June 20, 10 a.m.: So, typically when I’m invited to brew beer, they really mean just pour carefully measured ingredients into a tank for photo ops before getting shithoused. This was no exception. When you try the IPA at the festival, know that I was the guy that poured the white powder in that bitch. Pretty sure it was significant. June 20, 10:30 a.m.: We’re in the barrelhouse. Did you know Guinness has a barrel-aging program? I’m not even 100% sure I’m allowed to tell you that. Good thing no one reads this column. They pop a few of the barrels full of barley wine for a little preview of the remix. Not going to lie, I expected to come down here and drink 13 versions of stout. I was not expecting what’s in my mouth right now.
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June 20, 11 a.m.: We’re in the canning facility and it smells sickeningly sweet. Like that perfume lotion that the girls used to wear back in the day from Bath and Body Works? White Chinese Cherry Blossom Lotus? You know the one. The “dorm room loving” lotion? Anywho, there is no loving going on in this facility. Just Smirnoff products being infused with fragrant corn syrups, likely on their way to dorm rooms for some cherry lotus libating. June 20, 12:30 p.m.: We’re on a lunch break and Hollie suggested this place with great food and drinks. “Get the Orange Crush,” she said. “It’s a Baltimore favorite.” It’s Sprite with Tang and maybe some vodka? I guess every brewer has a guilty pleasure. The crab cakes smack though. June 20, 2 p.m.: We meet back up with Ryan Wagner, Chief Guy That Knows A Lot of History About Guinness. Apparently, this site used to be a distillery back in the
day. They made Seagram’s amongst other things. They kept as much of the original place as possible and shipped over some pretty significant pieces of history from the original Guinness in Dublin. He shows us old barrels, elevator shafts, fermenters, and other items of interest. My favorite was the beer. I’ve never had the Foreign Extra Stout before. It’s much more buttery, richer, and heavier at 7%. Apparently, this is what they drink in the Caribbean. They also have 14 more styles on tap. Some brewed in Dublin, most brewed in house, most not available elsewhere: IPAs, porters, pilsners. I’m mightily impressed by the lineup and the food. Not something I thought I’d ever say about a macro brewery. Good thing this isn’t that. June 21, 9 a.m.: I head to the hotel dining hall for some complimentary continental breakfast. They inform me that it is a $23 complimentary breakfast. Did you know McDonald’s has the same dollar menu in Baltimore? You’re welcome…
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THE CAN’T MISS BY EMERSON ANDREWS - PITTSBURGH CURRENT INTERN INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM FEATURED EVENTS IN AND AROUND THE PITTSBURGH REGION
Casa San José hosts a Lights for Liberty Vigil: Shut Down the Berks Detention Center at Schenley Plaza. Berks is entering its fifth year as an immigrant family detention center, and Casa San José along with other activist groups are calling on Governor Tom Wolf to shut it down. 7:30 p.m. 4100 Forbes Ave. Free. casasanjose.org
The Woodlands hold their 20th anniversary Notes from the Heart Young Adult & Adult Music Camp concert at the August Wilson Cultural Center. The camp is a weeklong program for children and adults with disability and chronic illness and allows them to experience the joy of musical self-expression. The performance is free with reservation. 7 p.m. 980 Liberty Ave. Free. 724-9356533 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The Fiberarts Guild of Pittsburgh Yarn Bombers hosts a yarn bombing workshop at Contemporary Craft. Learn crochet techniques and make a colorful creation to either be placed outside Contemporary Craft’s front entrance or taken home. Participants must be twenty-one or older and will receive two complimentary drinks with the price of admission. Admission price also includes the cost of materials. 6 p.m. 2100 Smallman St. $35. 412-261-7003 or email@example.com
The Fort Pitt Museum presents the works of Robert Griffing, who specializes in depictions of the mid-
18th century and Eastern Woodland American Indians. Griffing will hold a conversation about his paintings and will be joined by Michael Galban, Mono Lake Paiute/Washoe American Indian, who will present on the history shown in the artwork. 5:30 p.m. 601 Commonwealth Pl. $25. heinzhistorycenter.org/events Laugh it up at Steel City Improv Theater as Classy and Relevant join with Crocodile’s Dilemma for a night of long-form improv comedy. It’s an hour and a half of improvised fun with one of the three best improv troupes in Pittsburgh nominated in 2018. 8 p.m. 5950 Ellsworth Ave. $10. 412-404-2695 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The Full Pint Wild Side Pub hosts a Rust Fabric Dyeing workshop. Learn techniques to turn plain linens into stained fabrics with rusty tools, vinegar, water, and wrapping techniques. Then don’t forget to come back on August 11 for the unwrapping session. Ticket price includes all materials and one beer or nonalcoholic beverage. 1 p.m. 5308 Butler St. $49. 412-308-3083
The Musical Theatre Arts of Pittsburgh presents 2019 Hot Metal Musicals, a showcase of new musical theatre songs from regional artists, both newcomers and established professionals. Director Steve Cuden and Musical Director Douglas Levine, in partnership with the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, present this event for one night only at the Greer Cabaret Theater. 7 p.m. 655 Penn Ave. Free/Donation. mtapgh@gmail.
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1300 Bingham St. Free for children and first time adults. 888-718-4253
Kenia, the Brazilian songstress, comes again to City of Asylum @ Alphabet City for a night of jazz and Brazilian music. Kenia performs both jazz standards and contemporary pieces, including pieces written specifically for her by Antonio Adolfo and Ivan Lins. The event is free with reservation. 7 p.m. 40 W. North Ave. Free. 412-435-1110 or email@example.com
Enjoy a free Vibes Under the Bridge concert underneath the Homestead Grays Bridge between Primanti Bros. and Barnes & Noble. Attendees are welcome to bring blankets and lawn chairs, and should be advised that the schedule may change with inclement weather. 5 p.m. 149 W. Bridge St. Homestead. Free. 412-2769157 or waterfrontpgh.com
The thirteenth PGH Giant Pillow Fight happens at Schenley Plaza, followed by a screening of “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World.” Bring your own pillow for this kid-friendly, rain-or-shine event, free with reservation. 8 p.m. 4100 Forbes Ave. Free. meetup.com/pittsburgh-free/events/262208436
The Carnegie Science Center holds an 18+ Apollo Moonshot Celebration, where attendees can learn more about the technology and advancements in science that made one small step for man possible. The event features presentations by guest astronomers, lunar science demonstrations and a screening of Apollo 11: First Steps Edition at The Rangos Giant Cinema. 7 p.m. 1 Allegheny Ave. $50. 412-237-3400 or carnegiesciencecenter.org/programs
Kids seventeen and under can enjoy a free show by the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble at City Theatre where they can learn more about how the performers decided on their artistic pursuits and the life of a professional artist. Snacks and crafts will be available after the show. Parents who are attending for the first time get in free with a reserved ticket, while parents who have attended before pay $25 or $30 at the door. 1 p.m.
City of Asylum @ Alphabet City screens “White Fright” as part of the Sembène Film Festival. The film is about the arrest of Robert Doggart, a Christian minister who planned to attack a small African-American Muslim community after claims by Fox News that it was a terrorist training camp. Doggart’s arrest received little media coverage at the time, and he was released on bail by a Tennessee judge one month later. A discussion will follow the twenty-eight minute film. The event is free with reservation. 7 p.m. 40 W. North Ave. Free. 412-435-1110 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Savage Love BY DAN SAVAGE MAIL@SAVAGELOVE.NET
My fiancé and I have been in a relationship for 11 years. His best friend is one of his exes, and that has always bothered me. What do I do? Needing Guidance After Getting Engaged You could make up your mind to get over it, NGAGE. Or you could threaten to break off the engagement unless your fiancé cuts his best friend out of his life. That would be an asshole move—that would be an emotionally manipulative asshole power move. But, hey, you wouldn’t be the first person to wait for the moment of maximum leverage before telling your partner that, despite what you led them to believe (or allowed them to assume), they are going to have to choose between their best friend(s) and the person they’re about to marry or just married. Fair warning: If you issue that ultimatum and your fiancé (or husband) writes in and asks me what to do, I’m going to tell him to leave you. I’m a 58-year-old happily married gay man, and I have a well-hidden kink that I’ve had since childhood: I get off on destructive, city-smashing giants—think of Godzilla as a muscular man smashing things with his dick. Since this is impossible to realize, I rely on drawings and other images. After Tumblr removed the adult content, I found my way to newer websites. Some featured manga-style drawings of giant prepubescent boys. I’ve NEVER experienced any attraction to children, but these cartoons are a turn-on. Does lusting after cartoon images of boys make me a pedophile? Freaky Erotic Art Requires Serious Self-Scrutiny If you aren’t sexually attracted to children, FEARSSS, you aren’t a pedophile. Pedophilia is not something a non-pedophile drifts into after viewing a little squicky manga. Pedophilia, according to
the best and most current research, is a hardwired sexual orientation— one that can never be acted on for moral and ethical reasons. That said, I would urge you to avoid viewing or downloading this stuff. It’s illegal in the United States (and lots of other places) to possess drawings or computer-generated images of children that depict “a minor engaging in sexually-explicit conduct,” per federal law. I don’t know whether your local prosecutor would consider viewing drawings of giant prepubescent boys smashing buildings with their dicks as a criminal offense, but I’m sure you don’t want to find out. Avoid those websites. I understand the pleasure received by the “suckee,” but I need help understanding what benefit or pleasure the “sucker” derives from the exchange. Is it the taste of come? Confusion Over Cocky Knobblers We do it for the glory, COCK, and that warm feeling that comes over us when we can look up and say, “Emission accomplished.” (Sorry about that.) Where can a gal go to find reluctant/nonconsensual porn that isn’t overly rapey? I really love power play (think “naughty secretary gets punished”)—but when I look for reluctant/nonconsensual porn, I often come across male-perspective rape fantasies. I’d love to wank to a video or story about a woman reluctantly enjoying herself while her aggressor fucks her up the ass, but every search is fraught with the perils of finding something truly rapey. And that just makes me feel sad and icky. I’m willing to spend money if I trust the source. I just don’t know where to look! Is the issue with my keywords? Help! Really Enjoys Specific Pornographic E-Content, Thanks “This is one of the things people don’t understand about ethical
and feminist porn—it’s not just soft lighting and sweet lovemaking,” said Tristan Taormino, the feminist author, sex educator, podcaster, and porn director (tristantaormino.com). “Ethical and feminist porn can also have an edge and feature power play, so long as there’s consent. My series ‘Rough Sex,’ which has three volumes, is all about real women’s kink fantasies, and there will be something in there for RESPECT (you can find it on gamelink.com). In addition, I recommend bellesa. co, where she can use the search term ‘rough,’ and xconfessions. com, where she should search for ‘BDSM.’” I’ve written before to ask if there is a newspaper or online publication that translates Savage Love into Spanish. If there is, I can’t find it. I can hardly believe no one does this. Can you give me a simple answer, please? Something’s Lost In Translation Simple answers are my specialty, SLIT. As far as I know, my column isn’t translated into Spanish. But it can be read in Italian in Internazionale (internazionale.it), the weekly Italian newsmagazine. (I have to give a shout-out to Matteo Colombo, who does an amazing job of translating my slang-laden, neologism-packed column into Italian every week! Thanks, Matteo!) I’m a 57-year-old man, and I have been in a relationship for 10 months. I have some erection problems that are helped by ED meds. The issue is I haven’t told my girlfriend I’m taking them. I take a pill when we are together “just in case,” but this is costly and the resulting lack of spontaneity makes me anxious. Also, I feel like I’m holding on to this secret. Please Send Advice Call your girlfriend. It’s time you had the talk. Give her your reasons. Tell her it’s not her fault—and, really, it’s not her fault or yours. Men don’t
take boner pills because they aren’t attracted to (or horny for) their partners, as some fear. The reality is quite the opposite: Horny men take ED meds. She may need to hear it a few times before it sinks in, PSA, but you have nothing to be ashamed of. And, if she enjoys the sex, she should be as grateful for these meds as you are—and she shouldn’t want you to waste them any more than you do. I’m a bi guy in my late 20s. I date women and occasionally hook up with guys. In between, I have toys. My question has to do with something that happens when I’m using a dildo and stimulating my prostate: During intense stimulation… I pee (I think)? My confusion lies in the fact that what comes out is clear and doesn’t smell like urine. I know there’s a debate about female squirting and whether it’s urine, but I’m still very confused. But is this normal for a man? Should I worry? Leaking Everywhere And Knowing It’s Not Good Your dildo isn’t just stimulating your prostate gland, which produces the milky fluid that comes flying out of your cock when you ejaculate, but your Cowper’s glands as well. The Cowper’s glands are located just under your prostate and they produce a clear fluid, aka “precome,” that basically flushes out your urethra during arousal. Urine is acidic, and acids can harm sperm cells. So pre-come neutralizes whatever acids might be lurking in your urethra—basically, pre-come makes sure your urethra is a safe space for your sperm cells. Some men produce very little pre-come, some men produce buckets of it, and some men produce more under particular circumstances. Don’t worry, LEAKING, just enjoy. On the Lovecast, work questions on the podcast?! Yup. Listen at savagelovecast.com.
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in d n a l Mark To
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