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Vol. II Iss. XV July 23, 2019 NEWS 6 | Seeding the Desert SPORTS 8 | Booms and Busts
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OPINION 9 | Take a Stand 10 | Dear Mike Kelly, You’re White 11 | Blank Panel
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Neighborhood youth plant for the future at the Homewood farm. Photos: BUGS Co-Op Facebook page.
SEEDING THE DESERT
HOMEWOOD FARM PROJECT FIGHTING AGAINST FOOD INSECURITY
BY ATIYA IRVIN-MITCHELL - PITTSBURGH CURRENT CONTRIBUTING WRITER INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
ucked away on Monticello street in the historic Homewood neighborhood there sits a farm. Not one that matches up with the traditional images conjured in the nursery rhymes most remember, but one that if the Black Urban Gardeners and Farmers of Pittsburgh (BUGS) Co-op has its way, will grow a healthier community along with fruits and vegetables. It started with an idea in 2011 in the Hill District to teach neighborhood children to garden and grow their own food, founder and executive director Raqueeb Bey explains. More than that, the program was meant to teach them about African culture and sustainability. The group would call itself Mama Africa’s Green Scouts. Over time, the group grew and adults who wanted their children, or who wanted to garden themselves, became interested.
Despite the group’s success, though, Bey noticed a problem. “I was noticing that in primarily African-American communities, there were no people who looked like us doing this work and leading it or teaching our children; they were being taught by non-AfricanAmericans,” she says. Bey went to meeting after meeting where she was the only, or one of few, people of color in the room. Although she was happy with the success of the inaugural program as it spread to other parts of the city, she believed the people who lived in areas such as the Hill District and Homewood needed to take the lead. “Our people need to see us doing this,” Bey says. “Pittsburgh has a majority of caucasian residents; even in schools they have white gardening education so they’re usually not seeing us doing this work in the community.” Officially established in 2015 and
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based in Homewood, the BUGS coop has grown into an organization grounded in social justice with a vision for a sustainable and selfsufficient future. Although for some people Homewood might not be the place that immediately comes to mind when you think of farming, for BUGS there was no better place to set up shop. As of 2017 an estimated one in five Pittsburgh residents struggles with food insecurity, meaning being unable to obtain a sufficient amount of healthy food daily. Homewood has long been classified as a food desert, which is why the BUGS CoOp chose it. “We can’t always wait for people to help us, we decided to work in the Homewood area because it’s a food apartheid area,” Bey explained. “We say apartheid because of food deserts, because it’s systematic racism. There hasn’t been a grocery store here since the mid-1990s.”
Last year the co-op acquired a vacant lot, thanks to the city’s Adopt-a-Lot program, which now grows lettuce, tomatoes, basil and other vegetables in addition to hosting workshops on gardening and nutrition. Although the co-op is still modest with roughly 25 members, it has big plans for the future. Among them is working to give Homewood residents options aside from convenience stores for food. In the Fall, the co-op will launch a weekly farm stand for residents. Additionally, as soon as 2021, or as late as 2022, there are plans to open a resident-run grocery store. While teaching about sustainability, nutrition and maintaining gardens is an important part of the co-op’s mission, the members would also like the co-op to be a place of healing for members of the community. Through the years the Homewood area has had its ups and downs. After an instance of violence, where young people were involved, left the community shaken, Dana Harris-Yates, operations manager for the co-op, felt the farm could be used to help residents work through a number of mental health issues. “We began to discuss trauma in our community and how to effectively integrate growing food and healing PTSD and trauma,” Harris-Yates says. “So as a natural doctor what I decided to do was create a program that would bring the children out of their minds and take them into a space of healing.” Harris-Yates, who holds a master’s degree in counseling psychology, decided the best course of action would be sectioning off a part of the farm specifically for healing. A “healing garden” to be exact. “The whole approach is a cultural-based approach to helping young people deal with trauma, PTSD, stress and other labels that children are given in the school system that place them at-risk,” Harris-Yates says. Among the ways she plans to help young people in
the area deal with trauma, is through yoga, meditation and growing healing herbs among other things. For both Harris-Yates and Bey, who happen to be cousins, farming has a significant history for them personally and for the African-American community. Both shared memories of gardening with their families as children, but beyond their own experiences, they both stressed the importance of understanding that gardening and farming had a deep, rich history that needed to be shared with the next generation. “We’re just carrying on that tradition and honoring it and teaching the youth that farming for us [African Americans] does not just have a history with slavery, it has a connection with the world history and world agriculture,” Harris-Yates says. Bey adds that down the line another method of fostering healing will be a program that would allow formerly incarcerated women to reunite with their children. “We’re working with the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, developing a workforce female re-entry program,” Bey says. The program will work in conjunction with the healing garden. Bey and Harris-Yates expect the program to launch next year. What started with a few garden beds in the Hill District has grown to include several partnerships, the farm, a beehive and, if co-op members have their way, so much more. The Black Urban Gardener and Farmers of Pittsburgh plans to keep growing through a community based approach. For Bey, it will always remain important that residents of neighborhoods lead the charge in creating a sustainable future. “We’re a work in progress,” Bey says. “ We did this work for a couple of reasons, but it was mostly to make sure we had a voice at the table.”
PITTSBURGH CURRENT | JULY 23, 2019 | 7
Felipe Vazque is one of the Pirates best MLB trade deadline acuisitions. (Photo: Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire)
BOOMS AND BUSTS
THE PIRATES HAVE A HISTORY OF BIG WINS AND HORRIBLE LOSSES AT THE TRADE DEADLINE
BY MIKE WYSOCKI - PITTSBURGH CURRENT BASEBALL WRITER INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
he July 31trade deadline is approaching quickly and this time Major League Baseball really means it. In past years, we’d wait for 4 p.m. on July 31 to see if the Pirates decided to trade some of our favorite players. But even if a player managed not to get traded, they still weren’t safe because they could still be traded in August if they cleared waivers. But, finally, August waiver trades are a thing of the past. If a team wants to make a move, this year, they’ve got to get it done over the course of the next 12 days, Since Clint Hurdle took over a sunken Pirates ship in 2011, the Bucs have mostly been in a bull market after almost 20 years in a bear market. Diehard fans used to lament this
time of year because they knew one of their favorite players was on his way out of town, another $100 jersey from Dick’s would be rendered obsolete and either players you never heard of or players 5 years past their prime, were on their way in. But the past eight years have been a little more fun and so this week we look at the three best and worst trades since the departure of manager John Russell. The Best In 2016, Neal Huntington painted his masterpiece. Mark Melancon had ERA’s of 1.39, 1.90, and 2.23 along with a 51-save season, breaking the Pirates all-time record. Arguably, the best closer in Pirates history was sent packing to Washington for an inconsistent young left-handed fireballer named Felipe Vazquez.
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At the time, it looked like another Aramis Ramirez deal, but this one was a beauty. Since the deal Melancon is now a Giant and has a 5-8 record in the past couple of years. Vazquez has emerged as a top five closer in the game and at times can be unhittable. Marlon Byrd joined the Bucs in 2013 making Pittsburgh the seventh different uniform he had worn. The 36-year-old journeyman hit .318 down the stretch and clobbered a two run homer off Johnny Cueto in the Pirates first postseason win in 19 seasons. All they gave up was Dilson Herrerra who cashed a check in the bigs for a few years while hitting just three points above the Mendoza line. Not much was made of Huntington’s acquisition of J.A. Happ in 2015. But Happ went 7-2
with a skinny 1.85 ERA; too good for the Pirates to be able to re-sign him. Happ was a huge part of the Pirates 98-win season. It’s still hard to believe they had a 98-win season. In exchange, the Bucs sent Adrian Sampson to Seattle. He’s still in the Show but has six wins in three years, one less than Happ had as a Pirate for two months. The Worst This could drop in the rankings if Chris Archer regains his form and it seemed like a great idea at the time. Tyler Glasnow struggled to a 3-11 record with Pittsburgh and Austin Meadows was just another prospect in a crowded outfield. Meanwhile, Archer was in the top three in strikeouts in the American League for the past three years. Glasnow started off 6-1 with Tampa this year and Meadows was an early MVP candidate. Archer has struggled to an ERA of over 5. Now, Meadows has cooled off, Glasnow might be out for the season and Archer is slowly getting his groove back. The worst trade as of now, but it is still under investigation. Tony Watson was 31-16 with the Pirates with a 2.68 ERA. He was one of the most effective left-handed relievers the Pirates had in the past 30 plus years. He’s still a relevant and sought after arm, but the Bucs unexplainably gave him to the Dodgers in 2017. Oneil Cruz and Angel German was the Pirates’ haul in that deal. Cruz is still in rookie ball while German has a 5.00-plus ERA as a member of the Altoona Curve. Fan favorite Jason Grilli was a big part of the team’s transformation from doormats to contenders. His reward was being shipped to the Angels in 2014 for Ernesto Frieri. Frieri appeared in 14 games in black and gold accumulated an ERA of over 10 and was never seen at PNC again. As we roll toward July 31, the Pirates are clinging to another playoff run. We will see if Huntington can do a little more Happ and a little less Frieri.
TAKE A STAND
BY JESSICA SEMLER - PITTSBURGH CURRENT COLUMNIST INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
t least seven children that we know of have died at the US/Mexico border in U.S. custody in the past year. Mariee Juárez was two when she died of a viral lung infection shortly after leaving ICE custody with her mother Yazmin. Doctors argue that gross overcrowding and medical neglect caused her completely unnecessary death. Anne Frank, who wrote that book that you probably read in 8th grade, didn’t die in a gas chamber. She died from typhus, which she caught from living in unsanitary conditions. We’re in the hot days of summer, and I’ve been waiting to write a guide on how to get a bikini body for months. Here’s step one: put a bikini on your fucking body. You did it! I had a lot to say about body shaming, internalized sexism, and the disordered relationship with food that is common under the guise of “clean eating.” But it is 2019 and we have concentration camps in our country. It feels wrong to me to give my ink to anything else. News of children being caged at our borders in subhuman conditions was rolling out during the Fourth of July festivities. Red, white, and blue attire. Beers, burgers, fireworks. We hear the news and we’re horrified, but for a lot of us without direct skin in the game (that we know of ), it is easy to feel news fatigue and want to
check out or step back. Right? Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about questions we asked ourselves as children when we read about Nazi Germany. How could people let that happen? Why didn’t anyone stop it? I wouldn’t have been one of those people, we all tell ourselves. The research is out there about how genocides happen. The road to dehumanization is long and begins with treating a group as “the other,” and using them as a scapegoat for our problems. Remember the story of the frog who dies in the hot water because the temperature is raised gradually? Anyone else feeling an affinity with that guy lately? This isn’t the first time atrocities have happened on our soil that was first enabled by stripping away people’s identities as people like us. During WWII we had internment camps for Japanese-Americans. We enslaved black folks and the damage from that time still reverberates today. We are on land we stole from Native Americans, and the list goes on. The disgusting treatment of immigrants that we’re seeing today is simply the most recent iteration. We don’t need to look to the border to see the terror of ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement); we have people rounded up in vans in Pittsburgh, and a detention center in Berks County. WESA reported that the
Residential Center in Berks is one of three ICE facilities in the country that exists for the purpose of longterm detainment of families seeking asylum or awaiting deportation. Immigrant advocacy organizations have been protesting the center for years. The center is federally operated but still requires a state license. Governor Wolf didn’t renew their lease in 2016, but a state judge ordered it to be renewed; it was, and there has been no state action since. Recently, the center lost a case in the US Court of Appeals Third Circuit. Nineteen years old at the time, “E.D.” was a Honduran asylum seeker who was repeatedly sexually assaulted by Daniel Sharkey, a guard in charge of overseeing immigration detainees. Berks County and center staff were sued for knowing about this abuse and doing nothing. In their failed attempt at an appeal, they argued that they weren’t at fault because E.D. was an immigration detainee, therefore not technically a prisoner, therefore there was no requirement to do something about her abuse. They also said what happened to E.D. wasn’t rape because Sharkey didn’t beat her, he just (lol, just) coerced her with repeated threats of deportation of her and her toddler son. Thanks to the diligent work of organizations like Women’s Law Project, the Appeals Court shut that down, and said, “Excuse you, motherfucker, immigrant detainees have the same rights as non-immigrant detainees. The law makes no damn distinction, and honestly how dare you.” (I may have paraphrased some of that.) What remains terrifying to me is that these people thought it was a sound argument to say E.D.’s assault didn’t need to be reported because she was an immigrant. In court, enshrined in public records, they argued that knowing about the assaults didn’t make them culpable because of this woman’s immigration status. What about her status as a human being? In 2019 in Pennsylvania, folks are showing no shame when arguing
that an immigrant is less of a person than a citizen and not deserving of protection from rape and assault. Despite this and countless protests all over the state, Governor Wolf still hasn’t issued an Emergency Removal Order (ERO), saying it wasn’t in his scope of power. However, Temple University’s Beasley School of Law’s Center for Social Justice released a legal memo thoroughly explaining why and how shutting down Berks Detention Center is well within the state’s purview. It would be so powerful for Pennsylvania to take a stand and say “not here.” We can make it happen. Back to the news fatigue: feeling overwhelmed is a natural, common reaction. Perhaps we can have a bit more grace and understanding for folks of the past, maybe they didn’t understand the moment they were in, or felt powerless to tip the scales. We are not powerless, and we all can do something in this moment. Here are steps each of us can take, thanks to info I received from All for All Project Director Betty Cruz and Casa San Jose: • Help locally: donate and volunteer for Casa San Jose, a Pittsburgh-based Latino Community Resource and Welcome Center • Help at the border: Donate to RAICES, The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Resources • Don’t share 2nd and 3rdhand accounts of ICE activity; while well-intentioned, these reinforced fear and panic • If you hear about ICE presence in Pittsburgh, call Casa San Jose’s Emergency Number- 412-736-716 to share as much information and detail as possible. • Share “Know Your Rights” far and wide • Call Governor Wolf. Call your State Senator and State Representatives. Demand action to close the Berks Detention Center. PITTSBURGH CURRENT | JULY 23, 2019 | 9
Congressman Mike Kelly, very white man on left, claims to be a “person of color.” (White House Photo)
DEAR MIKE KELLY, YOU’RE WHITE
BY ARYANNA BERRINGER - PITTSBURGH CURRENT COLUMNIST ARYANNA@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM t’s almost August and it’s time to base engaged in his upcoming start firing up the base for 2020. Presidential rallies and give them At least that’s what something to get behind. The Presidential candidates think; you proof is that when he spoke in and I know we still have important Greenville, NC at length about these elections in November. congresswomen by name, the crowd Democrats are thoughtfully began to chant “send her back” very evaluating the plethora of potential similarly to the “lock her up” chant presidential candidates based on from the 2016 election. issues that are most important While the Pennsylvania to them. Then, there is President delegation was mixed on the Trump. tweet and comments made by the As most people know, last week President, some Republicans in in a series of tweets, Trump told four more competitive districts leaned progressive female Democrats to towards condemning the President’s “go back and fix the totally broken thoughts. Those in Republican and crime-infested places from districts that are considered safe, which they came.” The “squad” of toed the party line. And one Representatives, Alexandria OcasioCongressman, in particular, stood Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, out. Representative Mike Kelly told a and Rashida Talib, that Trump was reporter, “You know, they talk about referring are all US Citizens and 3 of people of color. I’m a person of color. 4 of them were born in the United I’m white.” States (Representative Omar came Now Kelly, an extremely white to the US as a refugee more than 20 man, is certainly not a person of years ago). color. Hell, I’ve spent a good portion I think this is Trump’s attempt of my life having people question to chum the waters to get his whether or not I am a person of color
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and my dad is black. Just to be clear, Mike Kelly, you are NOT a person of color. It was all some twisted attempt to back the president, regardless of how ridiculous he sounded. But, Kelly isn’t sitting in some safe, Republican district. With the Congressional redistricting that happened in 2018, the 16th District has become one of the more competitive districts in the country; one that Democrats can actually flip in 2020. Ron DiNicola ran a somewhat uninspiring campaign and still came close to beating Kelly, losing by just five points. And the National Party has already added the 16th as a target for 2020. So far, Democrats have one announced candidate against Kelly and that is Daniel Smith who ran against state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe in 2018. Smith would be the first openly gay congressperson from Pennsylvania in the history of our commonwealth. When I read the tweet about Kelly, my first reaction was OMG; my second was why? Why would he think that doubling down on the president’s comment with an equally racist charge of his own was a good thing to do? Does he also believe that he’s got to begin to bloody the
water in an attempt to get those who turned out in 2016 to get behind him in 2020? Was the race in 2018 so close that he feels as though aligning himself even further with Trump will ensure his victory? Most people know that Trump is a racist and he’s always looking for opportunities to divide our nation. We must make sure that we don’t fall prey to the antics of the President and Republicans like Mike Kelly. To do so, let’s stay focused on a couple of things: 1. Democrats need to win elections this November to build momentum for 2020. 2. Win back the 16th Congressional District. The Trumpers attending rallies chanting “send her back” got one thing right; we should be sending “her” back. In fact, we need to send all of the squad back to Congress to stand up to the racism and vitriol that is spewed by the President and politicians like Mike Kelly. Let’s make sure they understand that embracing racism to win votes won’t get you elected. Editor’s Disclosure: Daren Berringer, husband of Aryanna Berringer, is woring on Daniel Smith’s congressional campaign.
BY SUE KERR - PITTSBURGH CURRENT COLUMNIST INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
’ve been blogging about the Mayor’s LGBTQ Advisory Group since it was first proposed under then-Mayor Luke Ravenstahl in the fall of 2008. I’ve watched it ebb and flow with changes in membership, duties, and investment from the Mayors Ravenstahl and Peduto. I’ve sat in countless planning meetings and spent hundreds of hours trying to pry information about this body from the City to make it accessible to my readers and the LGBTQ community. As recently as February 2019, I was blogging about the Administration’s failure to adequately staff the committee. When established in 2008, it was a much needed step forward for Pittsburgh and the Mayor’s office. It created a new degree of visibility and priority for LGBTQ residents throughout the City. Granted the group’s effectiveness has waxed and waned over the years. Recent comments from members of the current advisory group indicate not just a broken relationship with the Mayor, but the reality that the model of a Mayoral Advisory Group is no longer effective. In fact, it should be dissolved. It is time for Pittsburgh to establish an Office of LGBTQ Affairs with a dedicated paid staff. This Office will be a resource for all City Departments and Programs, City Council and the City Commissions, Boards, and Authorities. In addition, a LGBTQ Community Advisory Group should be created to work with this staff and Office. They can be trained on Municipal Government 101 to ease their transition into this expanded role. Recent examples of how this type of staff could have saved the City time and resources (and money): • Vetting the RFP process to ensure an LGBTQ artist was selected to create the commemorative Stonewall crosswalk mural in
Shadyside. Working with the Carnegie Library, the Children’s Museum, the Warhol Museum and others targeted by threats about Drag Queen Story Hour to ensure a thoughtful response. • Coordinating SOGI trainings for Citi Pool lifeguard staff to ensure all residents feel safe and welcome at every facility. • Working with community event organizers like the Pittsburgh Marathon to robustly explore the impact of anti-LGBTQ businesses in very high profile sponsorships. • Overhauling all City forms that use gendered language, including permit & fee applications as well as the paperwork to get your pet spayed or neutered. The current Advisory Group wants better communication between the City and LGBTQ residents. Some of their requests are implausible to impossible. Public government resources like email addresses and social media accounts cannot be managed by residents who are not City employees. It would set a precedent that could be a slippery slope. What if all 35 boards, commissions, and authorities demanded the same? There are issues about public disclosure, accountability, rightto-know, even simple issues like webfilters that need to be addressed. My blog was blocked in 2013 by the City and in spite of multiple promises, there has never been follow up on the core issue that caused the problem. That’s six years of lag time. It was just 2017 when the ACLU addressed social media malfunctions by members of City Council. It was a gay man (still) employed by County government who used his work computer •
resources to harass his ex-boyfriend as recently as 2017. There’s no reason to create a special exemption for LGBTQ advisors and plenty of reasons not to do so. A dedicated staff person would be able to respond to email in a timely manner and report out on communication to its own Advisory Group. And those communications are covered under the Freedom of Information act so there’s no reason to hide any of it. Another request is for more meetings with the Mayor. That’s also not practical. Meeting even quarterly with all 35 boards, commissions, and authorities in addition to the advisory type groups would become a full-time task for him and that’s not good governance. But a staff liaison meeting with the Mayor’s inner circle and the Chief of Staff regularly can be effective in achieving the same end goal of stronger communication. Rather than budgeting for the Mayor’s Advisory Group, let’s budget for a City-wide Office to have the
maximum impact for everyone. Create a new Community Advisory Group working with that office. Let’s acknowledge that the LGBTQ community has a range of needs and issues that require the undivided attention of a cabinet level leader and a fully prepared advisory group. The City did this in 2016 with the Gender Equity Commission, a new body that has a part-time Executive Director. There are multiple models to consider and ways to share support staff and other resources. Perhaps our good government friends in Pittsburgh’s foundation community could assist in funding an exploratory group to assess best practices? The LGBTQ landscape in Pittsburgh has changed dramatically since 2008. It is time for the City to build a municipal resource that reflects where we are heading in 2019.
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We’ve had our party. We’ve had our cake. We’ve had our ups. We’ve had our downs. So, with that, we are officially putting our first year in the books. It feels like we’ve been celebrating for a month and I guess we kinda have. But we’re so excited to hit this watershed moment that we don’t want it to end, or face all the new challenges ahead. Not that we had any doubts that we’d still be here, but as a lot of small business owners can affirm, hitting that year-one mark is like finishing a marathon/obstacle course/ Running-Man-style death race. And now as we move into our terrible twos, we wanted to share some of our favorite firsts. Then, we swear, we’ll shut up about it.
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First Issue In hindsight, the easiest part of the first issue was asking D.J. Coffman to do our cover, an image that has become our mission statement. But once we got all these papers printed, we werenâ€™t sure what to do with them at first. But we cried to our friends and families, rented a truck (that was accidentally driven into a bridge) and got them out on the streets.
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First Advertisers An editor thanking advertisers is harder to get proof of than Bigfoot’s existence. But if you think we didn’t know how to deliver the first issue, you should have seen us selling ads (before we hired people who actually knew how to do it). We put out a random call on social media and two of the first people to get back to us were Chris Setlock and Frank Walker. Setlock is a kitchen and bath designer and Walker is a lawyer. We didn’t have a product to show them, just a purpose that they felt strongly enough to support.
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First Comics Page
14 | JULY 23, 2019 | PITTSBURGH CURRENT
By Joe Wos Yinzer Funny
I’ve heard from folks like Joe Wos and D.J. Coffman for years, that Pittsburgh needed a locally focused comics page. In our second issue, we took the leap and haven’t looked back.
1/8 cover advert
First Neighborhood Feature The fabric of Pittsburgh is found in its neighborhoods, so we came up with a feature to profile them; the first was our home neighborhood, Beechview. Look for a revamped version of that feature in the coming weeks.
Mike Sorg. (Current Photo: Jake Mysliwczyk)
Las Palmas IGA grocery store in Beechview. (Current Photo: Jake Mysliwczyk)
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Artisan is a safe space for all. We have an accessible and genderfree restroom on our first floor. PITTSBURGH CURRENT | JULY 23, 2019 | 15
First Sex Issue So every issue we did was the first. But the sex issue was really popular and a lot of fun to put together. We looked at sex in a positive light and the feature we did on Pittsburgh adult-film star Michele James has led to the creation of a new podcast coming soon, Sex, With Michele James.
Michele James. (Current Photo: Jake Mysliwczyk)
KUSAMA: INFINITY Mattress Factory Thursday, August 15 6-8 pm
Yayoi Kusama, Repetitive Vision, 1996 500 Sampsonia Way • Pittsburgh, PA 15212 • 412.231.3169 • mattress.org • #mattressfactory
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KusmaInspired Costume Contest
Cocktails & Movie Snacks
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by Andrew Schubert
Phineus: Teen Wizard
By Barry Linck
Â© Barry Linck phinmagic.net PITTSBURGH CURRENT | OCT. 23, 2018 | 19
Heroineburgh By Benjamin Zeus Barnett
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
First Birthday Party We launched our paper at the Deutschtown Music Festival in 2018. In 2019, we joined in as a venue and held our birthday bash. Associate Publisher Bethany Ruhe and marketing assistant Sereny Welsby worked hard to make a great party.
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 Photos by: Melanie Friend Creative
PITTSBURGH CURRENT | JULY 23, 2019 | 19
Members of Squonk rehearsing Hand to Hand (Photo: John Altdorfer)
SQUONK TO DEBUT NEW SHOW AT REGATTA
ne of the most original acts to ever come out of Pittsburgh will be making a return to the EQT Pittsburgh Three Rivers Regatta. Squonk, founded by Steve O’Hearn and Jackie Dempsey more than 20 years ago, is now an internationally touring troupe, but right here in their hometown is where they will premiere its new show, Hand to Hand. According to O’Hearn, the idea behind Hand to Hand began to germinate shortly after the 2016 election. This is not unusual, as most of Squonk’s performances are a two-to-three-year process of storyboarding, grant applications and other processes that are
BY EMERSON ANDREWS - PITTSBURGH CURRENT INTERN INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM necessary for a nonprofit. Squonk, originally called Squonk Opera, is a fascinating blend of musicians, artists, designers, and other creatives coming together to put on large outdoor spectacles for public consumption. The shows often involve large props or set pieces that the musicians interact with in various ways. O’Hearn, who specializes in the visual arts, is quick to credit the members of their group who manage those props and set pieces. “It’s really a ten-person ensemble when we’re doing the show,” he says. This time around, the show will feature two hands standing 25 feet tall, capable of being moved with a complicated rigging system.
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The group began working on the puppets about six months ahead of the performance, and adjustments to the rigging have been a continual process, even in the final stages of rehearsal. “One of the things we’re doing at the end of the show, we’re going to invite audience members up,” says O’Hearn. He hopes audience members will have fun working with the puppets themselves, which have been built with safety measures in mind for just that purpose. Besides the interactivity of people working with their hands to create movement, O’Hearn and Dempsey want to convey the idea of power with the giant hands. In total, there are about seven unique themes and
ideas the group decided to play with, both in the movement of the puppets and throughout the different musical movements Dempsey has composed. O’Hearn says those ideas and themes are still entirely up to audience interpretation. “We think it’s a more engaging activity for an audience when they have to create or invent their own meaning,” he says. The group also prefers a non-narrative setting where they perform as themselves, rather than pretending to be characters in a story. The process of brainstorming and deciding on ideas is another reason the shows are years in the making. “We try a lot of ideas that don’t
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6 great stores in the pittsburgh region! CRANBERRY TOWNSHIP
always buying comics, toys, and games! owner, todd mcdevitt. overstreet price guide senior advisor. in business since 1986. email: email@example.com
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ST. CLAIRSVILLE, OH
work,â€? Oâ€™Hearn says. â€œYou have to be very generous to yourself in terms of failing as you allow yourself to go through it. You donâ€™t get good ideas without going through bad ideas.â€? Some may be most familiar with Squonkâ€™s work from competing on season six of NBCâ€™s Americaâ€™s Got Talent. Squonk made it all the way to the top 48, reaching a live audience of 14 million viewers. Oâ€™Hearn believes the group does its best work in a festival setting such as the Regatta. â€œWe have a strong instinct that art should not be about proving youâ€™re more sophisticated than the guy next to you,â€? he says. â€œPeople should walk away having had a good time in a group.â€? In fact, the â€œoperaâ€? part of their original name was inspired not by European-style opera, but by Chinese opera, which Oâ€™Hearn says is much more of a spectator event. He likes the outdoor festival setting for its openness and interactivity between audience members, rather than darkened concert halls where people are expected to sit in silence and isolation. Though theyâ€™ve since dropped the â€œoperaâ€? from their name, that spectator event is still very much their aim as a group. In todayâ€™s age where itâ€™s far more usual for people to remain in their own bubble, Oâ€™Hearn believes itâ€™s an accomplishment to bring people out into a public space to experience something together. Though Hand to Hand is a show sponsored by groups in multiple cities, its first performances will occur over all three days of the EQT Pittsburgh Three Rivers Regatta, which the group couldnâ€™t be happier about. As Oâ€™Hearn says, â€œWeâ€™re thrilled to be bringing a new show home.â€?
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SQUONKâ€™S HAND TO HAND
will debut at the EQT Three Rivers Regatta Aug. 2-4. squonkopera.org/
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PITTSBURGH CURRENT | JULY 23, 2019 | 25
ACTOR BRIAN KRAUSE ON LONGEVITY IN HOLLYWOOD AND WIZARD WORLD’S RETURN TO PITTSBURGH
BY CHARLIE DEITCH - PITTSBURGH CURRENT EDITOR CHARLIE@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
ike a lot of people, actor Brian Krause is a big fan of television and movies. He understands investing time and emotion into a program that speaks to you and means something to you on some level. “I find myself all the time sitting down and binging something, like The Twilight Zone for hours. You grow an attachment to it,” says Krause, who himself was a star for eight seasons on Charmed, a cult classic that comes with multitudes of diehard fans. “That’s why I look forward to doing Comic Cons. I love seeing the enthusiasm of the fans when they get a chance to meet, whoever it is they came to meet. And for actors, it’s a chance for us to go face-to-face with our fans. It gives me the chills, actually. “Plus,” he laughs, “it’s a huge
ego boost. I come home and tell my agent, ‘people love me!’ I should be working more!” Krause comes to Pittsburgh this weekend, Friday-Sunday, as part of Wizard World Comic Con. Besides Krause, his Charmed co-star Holly Marie Combs, will also appear as will American Pie actor Thomas Ian Nicholas, Samm Levine of Inglorious Basterds, Manny Sanguillen of the Pittsburgh Pirates and former ECW wrestlers Tommy Dreamer and Shane Douglas, among others. The show is headlined by actor Zachary Levi, who played the title character in DC Comics’ Shazam!, Fandral in Marvel’s Thor: The Dark World, NBC’s Chuck and Amazon Prime’s breakout hit, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. While Krause jokes about working more, he has been employed as
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an actor since 1989. After doing commercial and guest starring roles on TV series, his big break came when he was cast opposite Mila Jovovich in Return to the Blue Lagoon, a sequel to the 1980 Brooke Shields film, Blue Lagoon. THat led to more roles including the lead role in Stephen King’s Sleepwalkers in 1992. He worked steady and in 1998, he moved to New York with his family for a role on the NBC soap opera, Another World. However he was fired after six months and the show ended the next year. “I definitely had my career ups and downs after that,” Krause says. “I did a movie of the week, a series called Bandit and Another World. After I lost that job, I moved back to L.A., I had a one-year-old and I’m auditioning but also working construction, working in a restaurant
and even driving a pie truck to get by.” In 1998, he went in to audition for YA-series guru Aaron Spelling who was casting for a series featuring young witches called, Charmed. He took the day off work, without telling his wife, because she wouldn’t have approved of him missing out on the $100 the construction job paid. But Krause was confident. He had met Spelling before, auditioned for classic shows like Beverly Hills 90210 and Melrose Place. He remembers being excited walking into Spelling’s “5,000-square-foot office with a giant couch that 20 people could sit on. “I was going to walk in and when I went up to Aaron, I was going to tell him how great it was to see him. I mean I’d auditioned for the guy a million times before,” Krause says. “When I did, he answered, ‘Nice to meet you.’ At the moment, the culmination of being fired and working all of these jobs kicked in. “‘Nice to meet me?’ I thought. I was instantly angry. I was like screw this, screw him, screw the struggle. That anger made me instantly change the way I auditioned. I let all that anger come out. When I finished, I looked at Aaron and I didn’t even say thank you. I just left. An hour later, they called and told me I had the part. It was a lifechanging experience.” Krause spent eight seasons on Charmed and has worked steady as an actor for the past 30 years. “I have to say, I got lucky,” Krause says. “I’m going to eventually get a pension and retire as an actor. That was my goal; not to be famous, but to work my entire life as an actor. A lot of people come to Hollywood and don’t last that long because this business has a way of weeding out the people who aren’t cut out for it. It takes a long time to make it and you get rejected and beat down a lot. It takes its toll and those who make it are probably a little dead inside. But once you make it, the rewards are pretty great.”
The Adventures of El Fantasma by Mikey Wood
NEW COMICS COHORT TAKES THE ISOLATION OUT OF THE CREATION PROCESS BY MATT PETRAS - PITTSBURGH CURRENT CONTRIBUTING WRITER INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
reating a comic is hard, and it can be even harder when you’re alone. “Drawing comics can be very isolating for creators,” says local cartoonist and regular Current contributor D.J. Coffman. “That seems to be a common problem that a lot of creators have, is that when you’re drawing a comic, you’re by yourself at your table, for hours and hours; maybe you have the selfdoubt, as in all things, but definitely in comics.” Coffman’s new crowd-funded
project, 7x7 Comics, unites a small group of local comics creators using collaborative workshops to combat the loneliness of cartooning. The collective, which seeks funding from the online crowdfunding platform Patreon, will meet monthly and chat regularly online to keep each other on track delivering new pages of their respective comic series. Seven creators, randomly assigned one of the seven days of the week, will deliver a new page of their individual comic series every week. The first season for the project will
run for eight weeks, starting Sept. 2. All of the comics will be distributed online for free, but anyone who contributes at least one dollar a month to the Patreon page will get each page seven days early. Higher tiers, which climb to $25 a month, offer rewards like physical artwork delivered in the mail, a t-shirt, commissions and more. All of the money collected will be distributed evenly among the seven creators. When Coffman got the idea for the collective, he contacted the first people on his mind, and, though some declined because of other commitments, a bunch agreed. Eventually, he landed on the number seven. “First I was just gonna do a few people. Maybe like three or four,” Coffman said. “And then we thought seven is kind of cool. Seven days, seven creators.” The idea is that getting creators together, in person in addition to frequent online communication, will create an encouraging, productive and positive environment. “A lot of times, creators will just quit,” Coffman said. “A couple of these guys, I know they’ve kind of started to try to do something, but then kind of fell off, so this is finally giving them the push to finally do something.” Though seven has become the magic number, there are currently only six members of the collective: Coffman, Mikey Wood, Scott Hedlund, Angela Oddling, Ian Sharpley and Shawn Atkins. The seventh spot is open, and instead of picking someone directly like the rest, Coffman wants the collective to pick its next member from submissions. Anyone in the Greater Pittsburgh area can apply to be the final member, whose comic will release on Wednesdays. “There might be a diamond in the rough out there somewhere,” Coffman said. “We all are in this circle already, but there might be someone that’s a little shy or someone that we don’t know about, or someone brand new to the city
that’s moved in, who doesn’t know anyone and we don’t know them.” The collective has already released synopses for the current six creators’ series on its Patreon page. Coffman will, on Tuesdays, deliver a new chapter of his series Secret Forces, which currently runs in the Pittsburgh Current, that follows a zombie invasion. “It’s not your typical zombie story, I’ll say that. It has to do with a neighboring dimension full of what we call zombies, people that are born of death energy, and they come here for our water because our water is life energy,” Coffman said. “And, you know, hijinks ensue.” Atkins’ Sunday comic, Hard Lemonade, will mix the science fiction and western genres in a revenge story, whereas Hedlund’s Thursday comic, Kaiju Kitty, will pit monster against feline. Oddling’s story, perhaps the most grounded, will follow the lives of ghosts residing in Pittsburgh. Wood’s series, The Adventures of El Fantasma, which will release Mondays, is a luchador action comic. Though he’s built a solid reputation in the area, he’s been away from comics recently. “I needed a little boost,” Wood said. Sharpley’s series, A Synthetic Life, which will run Saturdays, takes place in the future and explores humans adding synthetic parts to their bodies. The collaboration thus far has helped Sharpley get his ideas down on a page. “It’s good to have other creatives to lean on,” he said. That’s the idea behind the collective, really. “This is kind of a way that they can try out something new and also support each other,” Coffman said. “Almost like a support group for comics.”
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to each other, plus something distinctive. Standardization is an enemy of baseball. You want each ballpark to feel a little bit different, emblematic of its place. Pittsburgh has had examples of the most characteristic of every generation of ballparks. Forbes was as good as the early parks were. Three Rivers was as bad as that era was. And PNC is among the best, maybe the very best of this generation. I love it. It is as close to a total success as any new ballpark of the post-Camden Yards generation. You refer to Three Rivers Stadium and others as concrete donuts. I prefer concrete toilets. I’m not going to argue with that. I refer to one as having all the charm of a highway underpass.
“Ballpark: Baseball in the American City” by Paul Goldberger
NEW BOOK EXAMINES THE BALLPARK’S PLACE IN THE COMMUNITY
BY JODY DIPERNA - PITTSBURGH CURRENT LIT WRITER JODY@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
ld-timers say there was nothing like the smell of Forbes Field. I imagine a mix of wood and grass, peanuts and spilled beer, the thicket of Schenley Park and smoke from the Mon Works. Veteran architecture journalist Paul Goldberger could not speak to the smell, but he did speak to the Current about the iconic Oakland ballpark. In his new book, “Ballpark: Baseball in the American City” (Knopf, 2019), Goldberger takes us from the mid19th century through the present-
day commodification of ballpark neighborhoods, examining all the balancing inherent in baseball and how major league parks balance public versus private space, and holds the tension between urban and pastoral. (Answers have been edited for length.) What makes a really great ballpark? Intimacy with the game, a sense of connection with the field, and something that encourages a sense of connection among the crowd
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They feel like bunkers you can’t see out of. Even if you could, there’s nothing to see -- they were all surrounded by a sea of parking. Exactly right. There’s no sense of connection to the world. Part of the joy of the early ballparks was that they were in neighborhoods and people walked to them or took streetcars. They were woven into the urban fabric. It’s completely untrue that that is incompatible with a contemporary city as, in fact, PNC proves. The joy of walking across the bridge and going to the ballgame and looking at downtown. It’s fantastic. You write about the unique placement of the luxury boxes at PNC. The design feels more democratic. The luxury boxes exist, but they’re tucked away and don’t control the design of the ballpark. It’s much more discreet -- they don’t control the vista. PNC is also helped by being a little bit smaller than other parks. That difference in seating capacity makes a real difference in intimacy. Can you place ballparks in a larger historical, architectural context?
Baseball tends to follow larger architectural trends, it doesn’t lead them, but it follows them. If you go back to the wooden ballparks of the 19th century, they picked up on a lot of Victorian details common in architecture at the time. Almost everything from that early 20th-century picks up on some larger architectural trend. In every generation, they follow trends in the broader architectural world. Starting with Camden Yards, the whole movement toward more traditional architecture, away from modernism, played out with baseball, with the retro stadium. I’m hesitant to say it’s exactly the same, but it’s the same impulse -- this belief that modernism had not served everyone’s needs terribly well, it was not popular. In baseball it was the least popular of all: modernism was so unsuccessful in baseball. We were pushing back against it in many areas in the ’80’s and ’90’s. It was inevitable that ballparks would follow. There is a struggle -- do we want it to look too traditional? Is there a risk of it being a little too Disneyland, a little too theme park? Can we do something more modern, no concrete donuts, no huge brutal concrete structures, but not a lot of cute, retro details either? One of the nice things about PNC is that it straddles those two. It’s not annoyingly cutesy historical and it’s not aggressively modern either. I hope you follow this book up with one about the use of ballparks and space by the Negro Leagues. As I said in the preface, I didn’t deal with that, not because it’s not important -- quite the opposite. It’s so important. It’s a huge story, really rich and amazing. I hope someday that story is told. The Pittsburgh Crawfords had their own field here in the Hill District -- Greenlee Field. It reminds you how all this stuff connects to so much. It’s not just the narrow story of a few buildings. It’s about a whole culture and all the other things. I love hearing that.
Mark Toland on stage at Liberty Magic (Current Photo: Jake Mysliwczyk)
MARK TOLAND BRINGS HIS MIND-READING TALENTS TO LIBERTY MAGIC
magine a complete stranger knowing about a secret tattoo that not even your own mother knows about. Or, imagine someone correctly guessing the gender of your unborn baby. When it comes to mind readers and mentalists, a lot of the public can be pretty skeptical. But if you get the chance to see Mark Toland’s show, “Mind Reader” at Liberty Magic through Aug. 4, you may find yourself becoming skeptical of your skepticism. Toland has been traveling nationally and internationally for a decade now and believes that his fascination with theater,
BY SYDNEY KELLER - PITTSBURGH CURRENT INTERN INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM performance and magic is what made him want to become a mind reader. “I was always into the more psychological side of magic,” Toland says. Toland says his interest in psychology, detective work, theater and performance all come together in his shows. “I really think being a mind reader is a combination of all those things.” Toland’s show focuses primarily on mystery to the extent that when the audience leaves, they must keep the show’s secret in order for the mystery to continue. “My real love is mystery and my goal is to insert mystery back
into people’s lives,” Toland says. “I wanna give people that feeling of not knowing. Where they have to leave and be comfortable with the idea that they’re never going to know, they’re never going to have an answer and to reconcile with that.” Toland says the show is completely different each night because each show depends on the audience. The only way to find out what the show is about is to come and experience the mystery at Liberty Magic for themselves. “I think of the audience as the cast of the show,” Toland says. “Their thoughts are my props, their minds are my stage.”
Each night the audience is amazed because Toland will read their thoughts. “Connections,” Toland says is his favorite part about being a mind reader. He says he’s passionate about how, for an 80-minute show, a group of people in a room can connect without using their phones and just engage with one another. “It’s just a wonderful thing,” Toland says. “I absolutely love that... being able to connect with people on a human level. I am just lucky enough to do it with so many people every night. “It’s kind of what I live for more than anything.”
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Steve Gunn. Photo courtesy of Matador Records.
STEVE GUNN’S BACKGROUND IN IMPROVISATION INFORMS HIS APPROACH TO SONGWRITING
BY MARGARET WELSH - PITTSBURGH CURRENT MUSIC EDITOR MARGARET@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
he last time Steve Gunn was in town was for the opening of Kim Gordon’s art exhibition at the Warhol back in May. Along with Gordon, guitarist Bill Nace and drummer John Truscinski, Gunn helped shape an hour-long improvisational piece. His next visit will be different: Gunn is promoting his latest solo record, The Unseen In Between, a collections of glittery psychedelic indie-folk tunes. In a conversation with the Current earlier this year, Mr. Airplane Man singer/guitarist Margaret
Garrett mentioned The Unseen In Between as a particular source of inspiration, and described a sense of longing to “just live inside” Gunn’s songs. It’s not so much a wish to enter the poetic narrative, though there’s plenty of short-story romance to enjoy on that front – the lyrics to “Vagabond,” for example, could have been written by Springsteen. But there’s a magic in the New York-based musician’s iridescent melodies, which take odd, unexpected turns. As catchy little fragments surface and then drop
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back out, the listener may wish to slow down time in order to enjoy the moment just a little longer. In a recent New York Times piece, Gunn noted the influence of guitarist Sandy Bull, who he discovered via his interest in Indian classical music. “I was trying to figure out how to use that influence and I knew people in the ’60s used that style,” he explained. “When I heard [Bull’s] piece called ‘Blend,’ I kind of emulated that for a number of years.” Bull experimented with traditionally Eastern instruments, but used a finger-picking style
similar to that of godfathers of American primitive guitar like John Fahey and Robbie Basho. His resulting sound was rich and warm and complex and intricate, never tipping into overstuffed showboating. Gunn’s music shares those qualities. The Unseen In Between is dense, but Gunn knows how to leave breathing room, a skill honed through years of improvising as one-half of the Gunn-Truscinski Duo (the quartet configuration for the Warhol opening came out of a coheadlining tour Gunn-Truscinski did with Body/Head, Gordon and Nace’s experimental duo.) When Gunn met Truscinski years ago, not only did the two have similar taste in music but, he told the Current before Gordon’s exhibit opening, they were both trying to be the same kind of musician, musicians who really focused on practice. “He and I came up with these sort of wild, loose long-form pieces,” he recalls. “Looking back on it, it was pretty insane to memorize ten different parts with all different time signatures. And it was a bit of a departure from what we were doing with others. It was a lot more open improvising and there wasn’t any real structure.” Gunn didn’t start pursuing straight-ahead songwriting till long after he began playing with Truscinski. And while his songwriter side is taking up most of his time these days, one component bleeds into the other. “Whether it’s apparent or not, improvisation is sort of an important element of a lot of things in my life. Especially music,” he says. “Structurally it might not sound that way, but musically I’m always kind of on the edge of improvising.”
STEVE GUNN WITH PAIRDOWN. 8 p.m.
Wed., July 31. Club Café, 56 S. 12th St., South Side. $15-17. www. clubcafelive.com
self-titled 2012 debut was going to be a one-off. Her husband, Chet Vincent, convinced her to record five songs that he had written with her in mind. She already had the perfect stage name, inspired by one person’s inability to pronounced her Polish maiden name. “I had been out in Montana in graduate school working at a clinic,” she recalls. “And a patient there said, ‘I can’t pronounce your last name. I’ll call you Molly Alphabet.’” Describing herself as “not a particularly shy person” who started taking music lessons prior to recording the first EP, Alphabet had a great time with the music and never stopped. These days, writing seems to come fairly easy to her, but her process differs from many songwriters. “I am driving around or walking around or trying to sleep, and I’ve got words and melody in my head,” she explains. “And I’ll typically have the entire song structure all the way through —verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge — before I then sit
down and figure out what the chords are.” Vincent and producer Dave Hidek help flesh out the arrangements, which are particularly noteworthy in “Just a Prop,” where the instruments do a little call-andresponse behind Alphabet’s voice. She also acknowledges current artists like Kasey Musgraves and Margo Price as inspirations. “Ever since high school, I’ve been listening to music made well before I was born. So I really like when I hear people who can take those sounds that I love and try to make them appeal to a modern audience,” she says. Broken Record works in the same way.
MOLLY ALPHABET CD RELEASE With Cello
Fury, Bindley Hardware Co., Thunderbird Café & Music Hall, 4053 Butler Street, Lawrenceville. Friday, July 26. 7 p.m. $10. 412-682-0177
Molly Alphabet (Photo: Katie Krulock)
COUNTRY SINGER MOLLY ALPHABET RELEASES FIRST FULL-LENGTH
BY MIKE SHANLEY - PITTSBURGH CURRENT MUSIC WRITER INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
he best country music singers are good storytellers, spinning yarns of love, lack of love, drinks, the good and bad times that come as a result and, occasionally, death. Molly Alphabet might be one of the first country singers to pen a song about a bird watcher. And “For the Birds” is based on a true story. “It’s actually about my friend Marianne who has an interest in bird watching. The birds around her feeders were fighting and she found a dead one with a hole pecked in its skull,” Alphabet says. “She took a picture and took it to the bird store to try to figure out which birds are doing this and how to negate this kind of thing. And the advice the
woman gave her was, ‘Feed the birds for you and not for the birds.’” When she heard her friend’s story, the song’s chorus line fell into place. “I found myself thinking about that for a long time,” she says. “And obviously, there’s a lot you can draw out of that as far as making it a poignant phrase.” With some haunting backing vocals and some heart-tugging pedal steel guitar from Read Connolly, the song captures the poignancy of classic country, even though it comes with a modern flourish. “For the Birds” appears on Broken Record, Molly Alphabet’s third release, following two EPs. It also marks the first set of material penned entirely by the singer. Her PITTSBURGH CURRENT | JULY 23, 2019 | 33
Madame Dolores (Photo: Gavin Benjamin)
CHRISTIANE LEACH, AKA MADAM DOLORES, IS TIRED OF WALLS
BY MIKE SHANLEY - PITTSBURGH CURRENT MUSIC WRITER INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
hroughout various artistic projects, Christiane Leach used a few variations on her name, including Christiane D. and Christiane Dolores, to name just a few. Now the local musician/artist/ activist has become Madame
Dolores for her latest release, The Pantry of Salt and Sugar. The project began on the day after the most recent presidential inauguration. “I think it was snowing outside,” she says. “I sat at my dining room table, thinking, ‘Did this just really happen? How am I going
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to emotionally psychologically, spiritually, psychically deal with the coming hell?’” Madame Dolores answered her questions by creating songs spontaneously, using only her computer. After numerous collaborations, in groups like Soma
Mestizo and Qliterrati, this marks her first solo project. She gave herself a limited amount of time to layer the beats, with lyrics coming spontaneously as soon as she hit Record. To date, she has created over 500 of these pieces, which she initially referred to as micro-songs. The 15 tracks on The Pantry of Salt and Sugar come from this first batch, although she says that, with most of them lasting two or three minutes, they’re not really “micro” anymore. Ranging from stark, distorted beats to more peaceful, sensual grooves as it progresses, the album presents a response to the turbulent times, offering hope for the future. The album title envisions this country as a pantry. “If America was made into a cabinet, you would open it up and it would be full of salty and sugary things,” Madame Dolores says. “We call it the land of milk and honey, but I call it the pantry of salt and sugar.” Madame Dolores is releasing a physical CD, she says, only after being encouraged by friends. She has higher hopes of presenting music in nontraditional settings. Earlier this year it was featured in Streaming Space, a public art piece displayed in Market Square. She would like to continue utilizing it for sound art. In keeping with unusual settings, her CD release show — part of LovePghMusic month — includes a full band and takes place on a Pittsburgh water limousine rather than a club or a performance space. “I’ve played a lot of shows in spaces that have walls. I’m tired of walls. I’m tired of people talking about walls,” she says. “We’re not just going to go into any old club. You’re going to go into my mind. It’s something special and I want it be special for you.”
MADAME DOLORES CD RELEASE SHOW.
Saturday, July 27. Pittsburgh Limousine, South Side Works Dock, 2611 S. Water Street, South Side. 9 p.m. $30
Grassroots Advertising Program Pittsburgh Current wants to help your new business succeed. We know how important getting your name out there is, and we know that sometimes it's an expense that new businesses can't always afford. We are changing that. Find out how by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
YOU’VE NEVER SEEN ANYTHING LIKE THIS! SEPT 14 – OCT 6, 2019
CAMBODIAN ROCK BAND by Lauren Yee
NOV 9 – DEC 1, 2019
ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI... by Kemp Powers
JAN 11 – FEB 2, 2020
DOWNSTAIRS by Theresa Rebeck
FEB 29 – MAR 22, 2020
CRY IT OUT
by Molly Smith Metzler APR 4 – MAY 10, 2020
Join Us for the 2019-2020 Season!
PERKUP PERKUP by Isaac Gomez
MAY 9 – 31, 2020
CONTACT THE CITY THEATRE BOX OFFICE TODAY.
book by Liza Birkenmeier
CityTheatreCompany.org 412.431.CITY (2489) 1300 Bingham St. / South Side
music, lyrics and concept by Jill Sobule
PITTSBURGH CURRENT | JULY 23, 2019 | 35
Jasmine Cho decorated rocket ship cookies to donate to Beverly’s Birthdays, a local nonprofit that provides birthday celebrations for children experiencing homelessness. (Photos by Jake Mysliwczyk)
JASMINE CHO’S COOKIES PROMOTE ASIAN REPRESENTATION AND THERAPEUTIC HEALING
019 is a big year for Jasmine Cho. She published her first book, gave a talk at TEDxPittsburgh, and after bouncing in and out of college for the past decade—trying everything from pharmacy to education—she’ll be graduating with her degree in art therapy this December. “I’ll be a first-generation graduate,” says Cho, the daughter of Korean immigrants. “I’m really excited about that.”
BY HALEY FREDERICK - PITTSBURGH CURRENT MANAGING EDITOR HALEY@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM Cho calls her academic path “the epitome of non-traditional.” She couldn’t quite figure out the right direction at first. Her father has a successful martial arts studio business, but following those footsteps didn’t feel right. The turning point came during her time in the Americorps Public Allies Pittsburgh program. One of the values they learned was to embrace the assets that already existed in the community, as opposed to building something new.
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“So I applied that to myself and that’s how I ended up saying ‘well I love doing pastry the most and that’s what I seem to be best at,’” Cho says. “That program really gave me the courage to move forward on my personal passions in pastry and learn how to connect it to something greater than myself.” A self-taught baker, she first founded her company, Yummyholic, in 2012 as a foodie apparel brand. After years of juggling multiple jobs, she shifted her main focus to
Yummiholic in 2015 and developed it as an online bakery, taking custom orders for cookie portraits and other intricate designs. Now, in addition to Yummyholic, Cho is full-time at Carlow researching baking as a form of art therapy. “I had these ideas about bake therapy just from my own experiences getting reenergized in the kitchen and I researched and the closest thing I could find is art therapy, and that’s exactly how I
Cho’s cookie portrait of Sammy Lee, the first Asian American Olympic gold medalist, alongside his appearance in her book, “Role Models Who Look Like Me.”
approach my cookies in an artful kind of way,” she says. Cho sees in baking the potential to treat people with anxiety, depression and many kinds of trauma. She’s partnering with Center For Victims to conduct some of her research on vicarious and intergenerational trauma treatment. “Working with Center for Victims we talk a lot about how activating all five of your senses really helps to rewire your brain, and trauma is something where whatever happens really stunts you,” Cho says. “[When you’re baking] everything is engaged.” Other than the therapeutic application of baking, Cho’s main concern is Asian American representation. She creates cookie portraits of overlooked Asian historical figures to share online, and her self-published children’s book, “Role Models Who Look Like Me,”
depicts Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who have made history. “I was thinking from the beginning ‘what can I do that’s bigger than just a bakery, and what do I care about?’” Cho says. “And the social justice issue I care about most has to do with representation because that’s the one that I’m living.” Cho’s TEDxPittsburgh talk about her activism through cookies has garnered over 40,000 views on YouTube since it was posted on July 7. “Privilege is when your history is taught as core curriculum, while mine is taught as an elective,” she says in the speech. Her cookies allow her the opportunity to highlight the stories of people who don’t get the places they deserve in history books. She’s depicted figures like the first Asain American Olympic gold medalist
Cho’s intricate cookie creations.
Sammy Lee, the Black Panther Party field marshal and the “anti-model minority” Richard Masato Aoki, and the civil rights activist and philosopher Grace Lee Boggs. Cho is enjoying the recent focus on Asian representation in Hollywood and admits to watching Ali Wong in Netflix’s “Always be my Maybe” at least ten times. She says she hasn’t identified with a character in a movie so much since “Mulan” twenty years ago. Locally, she’s encouraged by the work of “badass” women like Kim Dinh and Sabrina Liu, who started a Pittsburgh Chapter of the Asain Pacific American Labor Alliance. According to Cho, change feels certain but slow. “I do get very hungry for more diversity apart from black and white. Always feeling like a minority of minorities is a struggle I have in Pittsburgh.”
Cho says a common feeling in the community is that Pittsburgh’s Asian population seems transient— people come for college and then they leave for bigger cities with more established Asian American communities. This has made Cho determined to stay. She looks forward to graduating, moving forward with her bake therapy research, continuing to promote her book, and one day opening a bakery cafe space. “Ultimately I would love to have my own space to have informal therapeutic cookie decorating sessions for the public and also exploring bake therapy in private settings,” Cho says. “Not only the therapeutic part, but I think baking can become a marketable skill that can empower somebody to pursue their own career path.”
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Samantha Bentley at Eat’n Park in Robinson Township. (Photos by Haley Frederick)
THIS TASTES FUNNY:
BREAKFAST AT EAT’N PARK WITH SAMANTHA BENTLEY BY HALEY FREDERICK - PITTSBURGH CURRENT MANAGING EDITOR HALEY@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
he Robinson Township Eat’n Park looks like it was originally constructed to be a large bank or perhaps a small and outdated movie theater. But once you get inside, it’s all there: the bakery counter, the soup and salad bar, and the 80-20 ratio of seniors to infants. I didn’t grow up in the world of Eat’n Park, but local comedian Samantha Bentley certainly did. “My grandma used to take me to Eat’n Park all the time,” Bentley says. “When you went to Eat’n Park you were on your best behavior—you didn’t fuck around.” Bentley grew up in Pittsburgh, and though being in comedy wasn’t in her plans, she ended up gaining a following on the show “Off Da Grill” that aired Mondays at midnight on PCTV, Pittsburgh’s public access channel, in the early 2010s. The
show, created by Howie D. Mac, featured raunchy comedy sketches and other hijinx. In the five years since I came to Pittsburgh, I’ve had the privilege of dining at Eat’n Park more than a handful of times. The first time I tried one of the venerated Eat’n Park cookies, after having heard so much about them, I was both disappointed and confused. What I’ve since come to understand is the power of nostalgia. “They’re famous for [the cookies] and ranch dressing and senior citizens,” Bentley says. But we’re here for breakfast, so ranch and cookies aren’t on the menu. Bentley gets the Mixed Berry Waffles with bacon. They come out looking remarkably like the picture on the menu. We’re impressed. I can’t figure out the exact
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formula of how to just get pancakes, home fries and bacon. The server is happy to suggest ordering the Griddle Smile minus the eggs. The pancakes and bacon are perfectly good. The home fries are spongy; I’ll skip those next time. When Bentley decided to do stand up, she wanted people to be able to get to know her for who she was, instead of as her “Off Da Grill” character Crazy Cakes. “A lot of my stuff was my character just being the worst person,” she says. People she knew or met that watched the show would confuse Crazy Cakes’ persona with Bentley’s. Now when Bentley is on the standup mic, she takes the opportunity to let her real personality shine through. She’s never been one to write out every word and every joke; she likes to react in the moment. “I love to just be myself, improv, talk to the crowd—that’s my favorite thing to do,” Bentley says. In 2016, Bentley won the Pittsburgh Improv’s open mic competition, so being herself must be working. Bentley and her friend and fellow comedian Tracey Williamson cofounded BentWilli Entertainment this year. Together with Shaun McCarthy, they do a live show called “Three Women, One Mic” and record it as a podcast. “We all have very different personalities which makes it funny,” Bentley says. “Being with females in comedy is cool. I’ve met a lot of cool
women. “Pittsburgh has always had a lot of talent, and a lot of unrecognized talent. There’s a lot of women here in Pittsburgh that I think are very, very funny and I think the more stuff that I start to do with Tracey, the more we’ll incorporate other women because that’s important to spotlight that. Women sticking together is amazing.” She’s enjoyed the journey so far. Though, being a mother and a stand up comic is difficult at times, she says. She works full time in the day and has shows on nights and weekends. It’s a lot, and there have been a few times over the years where she’s had to take a break. “I don’t think I’m stopping anymore. I know that the talent that was given [to me] is supposed to be seen by everybody. Pittsburgh is a great place to do comedy and I look forward to performing all over this city,” Bentley says. “It’s nice now, but I look forward to getting a whole lot bigger. I would like to be something like Jimmy Fallon one day—being the host of the show, laughing,” she continues. “Black women, that’s not an area we’re at...we host shows, but it isn’t funny like that. That’s a man’s thing. I would like to break into that.”
performs in Chrissy Costa’s Broad Squad Comedy Show at Arcade Comedy Theater on Friday, July 26 at 9 p.m. Tickets $12. Show is 18+. arcadecomedytheater.com/events
Mixed Berry Waffles with Bacon.
Day Bracey and Steve Lenhart, Taptender at Birdfish Brewing.
Christopher Walken cooler at Birdfish Brewing.
KEEPING UP WITH PITTSBURGH’S CRAFT BEER SCENE BY DAY BRACEY - PITTSBURGH CURRENT CRAFT BEER WRITER INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM June 7, 2:30 p.m.: I’m at Birdfish Brewing in Columbiana, Ohio. There is never really a good reason to be in Ohio unless you’re buying beer, driving to Chicago, or wanting to show your ungrateful children how good they’ve got it at home. After being introduced to a few cans of Super Galactic Expialidocious double dry hopped milkshake IPA with pink guava, I decided it was worth the trip, which is only an hour NW of Pittsburgh. By comparison, it takes about that long to get from Downtown to East Liberty in rush hour traffic. The brewery has two locations, Up Top and Down Low, more on that later. We start Down Low, where there seems to be a biker gang bachelorette party going on in the parking lot. It’s one of those things that you know exists, but until you see it, it never crosses your mind. Biker babes become biker
brides and book biker bachelorette bashes. Beautiful. The space has a cool vibe, picnic tables, pinball machines, coloring books, and a gift shop with a stained glass entrance. Steve Lenhart, Taptender, joins me at the bar. Me: How long have you folks been here? SL: We first opened Up Top in 2015. We started out small with a one-barrel system. We do a lot of experimental beers up there now. It’s only open Friday and Saturday, and we bring in good live music. When live music isn’t playing, we have an impressive vinyl collection that we spin. We host record swaps, and people have donated some as well. Down Low is a seven-barrel system, and we opened this up in December of 2017. A big thing about us is trying to keep as much of what we do as local as possible. You see the Ohio
reasonable distance. Me: Tell me about the pinball machines. SL: It’s a pretty big deal. We partnered with A Pirate’s Life Pinball. They rotate the games in and out. We have a league and hold tournaments on Tuesdays. It’s a dollar a game. You and I will spend that dollar in about two or three minutes. But some of these kids will come in here and keep that thing going for an hour. It’s amazing to watch. June 7, 4 p.m.: After showing me the brewery side and the Christopher Walken cooler, we head Up Top to do another flight. It’s within walking distance, but I’m lazy and have a designated driver. The place is located on the main street in the middle of a quaint town with a roundabout and antique shops. I can smell the Amish nearby. The place is tiny, but homey. The draft list is short, but wild. The Pineapple Shandy and Lavender Ale are superb. To top it all off, I got a hot dog from Josie’s down the street topped with pulled pork, cheese, and perfectly crisp bacon. There is never really a good reason to come to Ohio. Today, I found a few great ones. Hell, I might fuck around and buy a Cavs jersey.
logos on the taps? Those are beers that are completely locally sourced. Our growlers come from a local guy, the art, merch, all local. We have food trucks come by to serve food, and R’s Pizza delivers here. Me: What’s a Birdfish? SL: It’s a penguin. Youngstown State’s mascot is a penguin. Back in the garage days of brewing, the motto was “Drink like a fish, fly like a bird.” Me: What are some of the collabs you’ve done with breweries in the area? SL: We’ve collaborated with Noble Creature out of Youngstown. Downtown there is a restaurant that has been there forever called the MVR. The brewery is right by there in an old church they renovated. They’re fantastic. Modern Methods is another brewery we’ve done work with. Both are very good and within PITTSBURGH CURRENT | JULY 23, 2019 | 39
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Stefani Allegretti’s work, “Peace Love Light-Warm,” is part of her new show, “Reverberations of Love” at Assemble
THE CAN’T MISS BY EMERSON ANDREWS INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM FEATURED EVENTS IN AND AROUND THE PITTSBURGH REGION
JULY 23 The Heinz History Center hosts documentary filmmaker Lynn Novick and Washington Post Columnist Alyssa Rosenberg for a discussion on America in the Vietnam War. Novick previously produced a 10-part, 18-hour docu-series directed by Ken Burns on the subject and Rosenberg helped start the Post’s “The American War” podcast in 2017. 5 p.m. 1212 Smallman St. $20. heinzhistorycenter.org/events Gina Apostal comes to City of Asylum
@ Alphabet City for a discussion of her newest book, Insurrecto, one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Best Books of 2018. Insurrecto is set in Duterte-era Phillipines. The event is free with reservation. 7 p.m. 40 W. North Ave. Free. 412-435-1110 or email@example.com
a 360° soundscape usually only achieved with headphones. The event is free with reservation for first time attendees to PNME events, and $10 for those who have attended previous events. 7 p.m. 1300 Bingham St. Free or $10. 704-8067800 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Composer Steven Bryant and Artistic Director Kevin Noe present with the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble a workshop on binaural sound. Using a binaural microphone, Bryant will create
Bring a gift from their wishlist to Prime Stage Theatre for their Christmas in July event. Santa will be there for photos, games, cookies and milk, and attendees will have the chance to win tickets to one
or all three Prime Stage Productions. 6:30 p.m. 840 Saw Mill Run Blvd. Free. 724773-0700 or email@example.com
JULY 27 The Fort Pitt Museum holds its fifth annual 18th-century Women’s History Seminar. Authors Dr. Jennifer Van Horn and Dr. Catherine Kerrison will be present for discussions at the event. General admission is $15 while students and History Center members pay $10. Online registration is requested. 10 a.m. 601 Commonwealth Pl. $10 students, $15
PITTSBURGH CURRENT | JULY 23, 2019 | 41
general admission. heinzhistorycenter. org/events The Carnegie Museum of Art holds a Lozzipalooza. Enjoy an art picnic in the galleries, then step out into the sun to play in the colorful sculpture in the museum’s front courtyard. The event is free with museum admission. 12 p.m. 4400 Forbes Ave. Free with admission. cmoa. org/event/lozzipalooza/ The Deep End, an improv troupe combining new talent with familiar faces from the Pittsburgh improv scene, delivers a unique set at Steel City Improv Theater. The group promises experimentation with form and flow, 8 p.m. 5950 Ellsworth Ave. 412-404-2695 or office@ steelcityimprov.com
JULY 28 Stop by Full Pint Wild Side Pub with an iPad for a class on contour drawings using flower bouquets as the subject. Participants will also learn basic photography and work in the app Procreate. iPads are available for a $25 refundable deposit. Ticket price includes all class materials as well as one beer or nonalcoholic beverage. Pre-registration is required. 1 p.m. 5308 Butler St. $59. 412-408-3083
JULY 29 Author Helon Habila presents his newest novel Travelers at City of Asylum @ Alphabet City. Travelers depicts the African diaspora in Europe in an engaging and imaginative way. The event is free with registration. 7 p.m. 40 W. North Ave. Free. 412-435-1110 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Ba tha Dra !
Boom Concepts holds their last Puppet Karaoke event of the summer. Audience members are invited to bring their own puppets or make them on site for a night of silly fun and performances. The event is free. 6 p.m. 5139 Penn Ave. boomuniverse. co
ReelQ screens I’m Moshanty. Do You Love Me? at City of Asylum @ Alphabet City. The film covers the life of popular Papau New Guinea transgender recording artist and activist Moses Moshanty Tau, including her last interview. Director Tim Wolff will be present for a discussion after the film. The event is free with reservation. 7 p.m. 40 W. North Ave. Free. 412-435-1110 or email@example.com
The Carnegie Museum of Art is asking audience members select the film for their outdoor screening event. Complete the online survey by July 28, then enjoy a tour of the museum and a movie with a cash bar and snacks in the courtyard. Student and member prices are available. 7 p.m. 4400 Forbes Ave. $5 for students, $8 for members, $10 general admission. firstname.lastname@example.org
Stefani Allegretti captures the visual representation of sound in her show Reverberations of Love. Focusing on positive words and phrases spoken by people of all races, genders, and
h ste� b ... eddieok� EVERY FRIDAY 9:30 - 1:30!
EVERY THURSDAY @ MIDNIGHT
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ethnicities, the show displays these spoken words as a visual art. The event is free. 6 p.m. 4824 Penn Ave. Free. 412-661-6111 or email@example.com
members to choose which news stories to use as inspiration for long form comedy improv sets. 9:30 p.m. 5950 Ellsworth Ave. 412-404-2695 or firstname.lastname@example.org
BOOM Concepts hosts the opening reception of Corrine Jasmin’s solo exhibit, Beams of Light. Enjoy the works of this interdisciplinary artist on display the whole month long. The reception is free and open to the public. 7 p.m. 5139 Penn Ave. Free. corrinejasmin.com
Steel City Improv holds their News N’at event. The show asks audience
Pittsburgh Tattoo Co. and Hello Bully partner up for a special LoveA-Bull ink event. Get a tattoo and meet some friendly bulldogs, with merch, snacks and raffle prizes also a part of the fun. All proceeds will go directly to Hello Bully’s dogs and outreach programs. VIP packages are also available for additional cost. 12 p.m. 103 Smithfield St. $75. 412-2019075 or hellobully.org
Savage Love BY DAN SAVAGE MAIL@SAVAGELOVE.NET
I’m a 36-year-old straight guy, happily married for more than 10 years, and a longtime reader. My wife and I are monogamous. We’re good communicators, well matched in terms of libido, and slightly kinky (light bondage, Dom/sub play in the bedroom). For the last few months, I’ve been thinking about trying prostate play, and I have a couple of questions. A lot of bloggers and other writers in the sex-advice complex tout the health benefits of regular prostate massage, but I haven’t found any academic research to back up some of the lofty claims that are being made. Does prostate massage reduce the risk of prostate cancer and prostatitis? Now the relationship question: I’ve brought partnered prostate play up with my wife, and it’s a hard pass for her. Hygiene is an issue, but that’s easy to take care of (shower, enema, gloves, towels on the bed, etc.). The other part deals with our power dynamics. Typically, I’m the Dom, and, based on the limited conversations we’ve had about this, there is something about penetrating me that she finds deeply uncomfortable. What should I do? How do I frame this conversation in a way that may make her more comfortable and gets her finger(s) in my ass? We’ve shared so much—she’s an incredible partner who has helped me realize so many of my fantasies, and I’d like her to be a part of this one, too. Partner Protests Prostate Play If there were any legit studies out there that documented the health benefits of regular prostate massage, PPPP, Richard Wassersug, PhD, would know about it. Wassersug is a research scientist at the University of British Columbia, where he studies ways to help prostate cancer patients manage the side effects of their treatments. “I’d like to believe that I’m knowledgeable on this topic,” Wassersug said, “[but] I checked
PubMed to see if I’d missed anything in the relevant and recent peerreviewed medical literature. As I expected, there are no objective data supporting the claim that ‘regular prostate massage’ reduces the risk of prostate cancer and prostatitis. [And while] prostate massage can be used to express prostatic fluid for diagnostic purposes, that’s not the same as using it for the treatment of any prostatic diseases.” But that doesn’t mean that prostate massage isn’t beneficial; absence of evidence, as they say, isn’t evidence of absence. “We [just] don’t know,” said Wassersug, and finding out “would, in fact, take a very large sample and many years to collect enough data to provide a definitive answer.” But there definitely is something you can do right now to decrease your risk of prostate cancer, PPPP: Two large studies found that men who ejaculate frequently—more than 21 times per month—are roughly 35 percent less likely to develop prostate cancer than men who blow fewer loads. So if sticking things up your butt makes you come more often, then science says sticking things up your butt will reduce your risk of prostate cancer. Researchers don’t know exactly why coming a lot may reduce a man’s risk for prostate cancer. There’s no data to support one frequently mentioned theory—that ejaculation may flush out “irritating or harmful substances” that could be gathering in the prostate along with the fluids that make up roughly 30 percent of a man’s seminal fluids— so, again, more research is needed. And until those studies are done, men and other prostate-having people should err on the side of ejaculating as often as (safely and consensually) possible. As for convincing your otherwise submissive wife to finger your ass, PPPP, you could search for “power
bottoms” on the gay section of Pornhub—assuming your wife enjoys gay porn—and familiarize her with the concept of dominant penetratees. You could also add female condoms to your list of hygiene hacks—put one of these trash-can liners in your ass, and the only thing your wife will get on her fingers is lube. But if anal play is a hard no for the wife, you’ll have to enjoy anal play solo. Richard Wassersug co-leads Life on ADT (lifeonadt.com), a national educational program in Canada for prostate cancer patients dealing with the side effects of androgen deprivation therapy. I am a poly nonbinary person, and I’ve been seeing this guy in a BDSM context for about six months. About two times a month, he canes me and destroys my ass, I get to call him “daddy,” and I get fucked in mind-blowing ways. In the beginning, I expressed interest in dating (with more emotional investment), and he said he didn’t have the mental space for it but he’d be interested in trying to develop something eventually. So we’ve played and had fun, and I’m starting to get feels for this guy… buuuuut… he’s given me no indication he’s interested in anything beyond our current arrangement. I’ve said, “Hey, let’s schedule a date,” something like dinner, coffee, a walk around the fucking block, but he just wants to fuck, no talking. What he wants isn’t what I’m looking for, so I decided to take my business elsewhere and focus my energy on my other relationships. Well, his mom just got diagnosed with cancer and has a couple months to live. He’s devastated. What are the ethics of breaking up here? I dislike just ghosting, but he’s got other friends and lovers to support him. He doesn’t really need me. But he does on occasion send little “thinking of you” texts. So am I able to ghost him? Do I owe him a conversation about wants and needs? I’d like to be friends—I am part of a small kinky community, I’m friends with some of his fuck buddies, and I’m going to run into him again—but this isn’t a time
in his life when he should be worrying about the feelings of a now-and-then spanking partner. Ghosting Has Obvious Shortcomings That Suck You’ve constructed a false choice for yourself, GHOSTS: either initiate a conversation about your wants and needs or ghost him. But there’s no need for a wants-and-needs convo, as you’ve already had that conversation (more than once) and his don’t align with yours. So instead of disappearing on him, you can simply respond to his “thinking of you” texts with short, thoughtful, compassionate texts of your own. (“Thinking of you, too, especially at this difficult time.”) The odds that he’ll want to meet up in the next few months seem slim, and you can always claim a scheduling conflict if he should ask to get together. Being friendly is the trick to remaining friends after a casual sexual arrangement ends. Kindly acknowledging someone’s texts—or greeting someone in public—doesn’t obligate you to sleep with (or submit to) them again. And while in most cases I would advise a person to be direct… in this case, I think you should simply step back. Calling him to say, “Hey, I know your mom has cancer and is dying, but I needed to tell you I’m not interested in fucking around anymore, okay?” will make you seem self-involved, thoughtless, and uncaring—you know, not the kind of person someone wants to remain friends with after a casual sexual arrangement ends. Now, if you were this man’s primary partner, GHOSTS, and you’d been thinking about ending the relationship before he got the news about his mother, I would encourage you to wait a few months and love and support him through this process. (Unless the relationship was abusive, of course, which this one wasn’t.) But you’re just a FWB—a “friend with bruises,” in your case— and this man has other friends and lovers around him, people whose support he can rely on during this difficult time.
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