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Former US Attorney Loretta Lynch announces a 95.5 million settlement with EDMC in November 2015 (Screencap courtesy of C-SPAN)
MOST LIKELY TO SCREW YOU OVER
REMEMBERING THE PEOPLE WHO GOT THE MOST OUT OF PITTSBURGH’S EDMC AND THE ART INSTITUTE — THE EXECUTIVES
BY CHARLIE DEITCH - PITTSBURGH CURRENT EDITOR CHARLIE@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
’ve written about the problems with for-profit education companies for the past 12 years or so. My stories in one way or another focused on the high costs, broken promises and shady recruiting tactics by one of these companies, EDMC. EDMC, located in Pittsburgh, owned the Art Institute and several other colleges across the country. They made their living mostly by getting kids with few other educational options to apply for massive student loans to train for a job that would never allow them to repay the loans and make a decent living. But while the students typically got the shaft — high dropout rates, degrees that didn’t lead to jobs, loans they could never repay — the folks at the top of the food chain, the ones who were making the rules at one time or another made out like bandits. At one time, EDMC’s stock price neared $50 and it was owned partially by investment-banking behemoth, Goldman Sachs. At one-time in the mid-aughts, EDMC was making more than $1.2 billion in revenues. By 2010, it had more than $400 million in cash lying around on its balance sheet. But rather than investing it that back into the schools, the board decided to spend a lot of that money — more than $290 million — buying back its own stock as it began announcing its first of what would be several rounds of layoffs. When it sold the company to the nonprofit Dream Center in 2015, the stock was worthless. Then, last week, the Dream Center closed Pittsburgh’s Art Institute and 2,200 students and a few hundred employees lost their jobs. But that didn’t mean the school didn’t help people make a better life for themselves and their families. Unfortunately, not many of those people were actual students or employees. Here’s a look at the former company’s top four success stories. 6 | MAR. 19, 2019 | PITTSBURGH CURRENT
Todd S. Nelson, former CEO, EDMC Summa Cum Laude Nelson is the top of the heap of former EDMC “leaders” who rode the sinking ship to big salaries and bonuses. Nelson came to EDMC in 2007 and almost immediately took the company public. It was the beginning of high profits for the company and lucrative pay for executives and shareholders. Unfortunately, it was also the beginning of the end of EDMC and the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. Nelson came to Pittsburgh after 20 years at the parent company of the University of Phoenix, the largest for-profit education company in the country. In 2004, he made $40 million in total compensation at Apollo. He was consistently on Forbes list of the country’s 25 best-paid executives. While there, however, the school was the subject of lawsuits over a Department of Education report that criticized the school’s recruitment tactics. The government got involved and brought suit against the company which was eventually settled for $9.8 million, a record at the time. However, Nelson was sued individually along with the school. He was later found to be 30 percent culpable for the recruitment tactics in the lawsuit that brought a $280 million award. During his time at EDMC, the company was again dogged by claims of illegal recruitment tactics. By 2015, Nelson was gone from the company and EDMC agreed to pay a total of $200 million to settle the charges and forgive $102 million in student debt. But at that point, the damage was done. Nelson made millions during his time at EDMC, including an annual best of $13.1 million. That’s probably why, despite apparently being bad for education, Nelson is still good for business. Since 2015, he has been the CEO of Career Education Corp. making annual total compensation of between $4-5 million per year. John McKernan, former CEO, EDMC Magna Cum Laude “Jock” McKernan, as he likes to be called, was the CEO of EDMC from 2003-2007 and was involved with the company in some manner between 1999 and 2015. This former governor of Maine (1987-1995), certainly managed to see his share of cashola from the school because he was there when fat-cat investors from Goldman Sachs came in and bought a giant chunk of the company. As a result of that merger, McKernan, who is married to former U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine, turned his 603,525 shares of unrestricted stock into more than $14.1 million. His 42,500 shares of restricted stock was cashed in for $1.8 million. Now, before you go running around claiming that good ole’ Jock didn’t deserve his money, look what else he did for EDMC. According to a brilliant three-month investigative story by the Maine Sunday Telegram in 2016, McKernan also ran a non-profit arm of EDMC out of his offices in Portland Maine. The paper reported that from 2003-2012, the EDMC Foundation was run and staffed by former aides and employees of McKernan and Snowe. You can find a link to the piece on our website, pittsburghcurrent.com, but essentially the paper claimed that the foundation’s sole purpose was to provide scholarships for EDMC students. It was granted non-profit status by the IRS, but in the preceding months, the majority of the governing board was made up by EDMC’s investors, directors and employees. According to the paper, “Experts say this arrangement was troubling, as charitable nonprofits are not supposed to primarily benefit a forprofit entity, especially one whose officials set up and controlled the foundation in question.” Mark McEachen, Final CEO of EDMC Most likely to step in dog crap and come out smelling like a rose Although he just gets an honorable mention here, McEachen may be pound-forpound the top of the class. When EDMC sold what was left of the company to Dream Center, settled its lawsuit brought by the United States Government and declared bankruptcy, McEachen was in charge. Aside from his salary, McEachen left his post with a hefty $14 million in bonuses and severance pay.
Ed West, former CEO, EDMC Cum Laude Joining the company in 2006, West was Nelson’s right-hand man and Chief Financial officer. He also took over as CEO in 2012 when the company’s stock went into freefall. But not to worry, if EDMC taught us nothing, it’s that bad stock prices rarely get in the way compensation. He resigned as head of EDMC in August 2015. By December of that year, he was named Chief Operating Officer of a company called Cardtronics, which makes ATM machines. Between 2009 and 2013, West’s total compensation at EDMC (which includes cash and stock options) was $23.5 million.
So, at least at the end of the day, some people managed to parlay their time at EDMC into extreme wealth. It’s just too bad that none of them were students. PITTSBURGH CURRENT | MAR. 19, 2019 | 7
Jeanine Pirro (Photo: Michael Vadon/Wikimedia Commons)
ON HEELS OF ANTI-MUSLIM COMMENTS, JEANINE PIRRO TO BE HONORED HERE IN APRIL
BY CHARLIE DEITCH - PITTSBURGH CURRENT EDITOR CHARLIE@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
t’s not often that Fox News executives disagree with the scatacological nonsense that flies out of the mouths of their hosts. But when Judge Jeanine Pirro made ridiculous Islamophobic comments last week, that’s exactly what they did. On her show, “Justice with Judge Jeanine,” Pirro made offensive comments about the patriotism of Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar because she wore a hijab on her head. “Omar wears the hijab, which according to the Quran 33:59, tells women to cover so they won’t get
molested,” Pirro said March 10. “Is her adherence to this Islamic doctrine indicative of her adherence to Sharia law, which in itself is antithetical to the United States Constitution?” Fox News Overlords had this to say about Pirro’s comments: “They do not reflect those of the network and we have addressed the matter with her directly.” She did have one supporter, however, President Donald Trump was bitching on Twitter about her show being removed for “scheduling issues.” I assume those issues are that she decided to schedule some
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inappropriate comments about Muslims. This is also not the first time that Pirro has railed against Muslims. She once said, “We need to kIll them. We need to kill them!” and “I told you, you need to be afraid because they are coming for you!” and “Bomb them! Bomb them! Keep bombing them. Bomb them again and again. I don’t care how long it takes!” I’m sure this isn’t news to you, you probably knew it already. So, why did I spend the last 236 words telling you again? So I could tell you this: Judge Pirro is coming to town in April to receive an apparently
prestigious award from St. Barnabas Health System. The Award is called the Hance Award, named after St. Barabas founder, Gouverneur Provoost Hance. According to the St. Barnabas website the recipients of the Hance Awards are “men and women who represent the visionary leadership, spiritual, compassionate and innovative spirit of the man who founded St. Barnabas in 1900, Gouverneur Provoost Hance. The Hance Award is presented to a person of national acclaim who exemplifies Hance’s ideals of benevolence, patriotism and service to others.” In Pirro’s case, however, that has to mean “others” who aren’t Muslims. Scanning over the list of past recipients most, with few exceptions, are all right wing Superstars and gadflys: Gerald Ford, Dan Quayle, Dr. Norman Vincent Peele, Rev. Robert Schuller, Charlton Heston, Barbara Bush, Newt Gingrich and Mike Huckabee. The event is April 24 in Cranberry Township and you can get a ticket for somewhere in the $295-475 range. Or you could do this. Let the folks at St. Barnabas know how you feel about a loud mouth Islamophobe coming to town to be feted with an award and told how awesome she is. You can get them at 724-443-0700. Then, you can hit up some of their sponsors to let them know how you feel: Cookson Peirce Wealth Management (412-471-5320), UPMC Health Plan (844-220-4785), TriState Capital (412-304-0304), Trib Total Media (1-800-909-8742), Fort Pitt Capital Group (412-9211822), Dollar Bank (1-800-242-2265), Arnett/Carbis and Toothman (412635-6270), Alera Group (412-4303070) and Leech Tishman (412-2611600). Maybe you don’t mind if they give Pirros an award. But if you do, my suggestion is: Call them! Call them! Keep calling them. Call them again and again. I don’t care how long it takes.
MIGRATORY PATTERNS BY ARYANNA BERRINGER - PITTSBURGH CURRENT COLUMNIST ARYANNA@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
peaking in rapid Spanish, Rebeca Alfaro stood at the podium and told her story. With a translator in my ear, I sat there, motionless, listening to her story with tears in my eyes. I listened to her recount the day she watched her husband gunned down by a gang member while walking across the street to buy tortillas in her small town in El Salvador. I heard Alfaro speak at an International Women’s Day Event sponsored by Oxfam on March 7 in Washington, D.C. Oxfam is an international human rights organization that I have worked with for the past few years as a Sisters on the Planet Ambassador. I have been an Ambassador for Oxfam for a couple of years now, working to advance human rights across the globe. As Alfaro cried in remembrance she told us how she did all the things that one would think to do when something like this happens. She immediately called the police, filed a report, and hoped for justice. While she waited for justice, the gang threatened her life and the lives of her two small daughters, and the rest of her family if they didn’t withdraw the charges. Rebeca, with all the strength in the world, pressed forward, until she came home to see that the gang had viciously murdered her mother as well. Fearing the lives of her young daughters and herself, Rebeca started out on the treacherous journey to America. In Honduras and El Salvador, a woman is killed every 19 hours. Nearly half of international migrants are women and girls, including many women who are forced to flee El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras (also called the Northern Triangle) in search of safety. Yet, we have a president who
is pushing a “remain in Mexico” policy - which is illegal. He shut down the government and declared a national emergency to fund a border wall. And even after his own party rebuked him with legislation, he vetoed it. Of the women leaving Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico, 64% are fleeing violence. In the first nine months of 2018 in Guatemala, 7,689 reports of sexual violence were recorded by the Public Prosecutor’s Office, including 4,576 instances of sexual assault of children under 18 years old. Of those reported assaults, 90 percent were committed against women and girls. Rather than demonizing and
criminalizing those fleeing violence and instability, we should protect the right to seek asylum, foster a humane asylum process, and invest in programs that address the root causes of forced migration from Central America. In 2018 the Trump administration initiated a detention and separation – or “zero tolerance” policy in a cruel attempt to deter families fleeing violence and persecution in their home countries which resulted in the cruel and massive separation of asylum-seeking parents from their children - affecting over 2,550 families, many who have yet to be reunited. Our country was founded by immigrants and all of our communities are enriched by all of those who have arrived on our shores since our founding, including my own family. Immigrants and refugees from
around the world have gone on to revitalize the communities in which they are living, right here in Pittsburgh, weaving their culture deep into the fabric of our neighborhoods. Casa San Jose is organizing a door knocking campaign to inform residents of the rights of their neighbors and how they can be better allies - March 30th in Beechview and April 20th in East Liberty. You can register to join them by signing up at bit. ly/2UG3F7b. As an Iraq war veteran and Oxfam Sister on the Planet Ambassador, I know the difference between what a national security emergency is and what it isn’t and how we can best protect the people in our country. What is happening on the border isn’t it.
ROB ROGERS PITTSBURGH CURRENT | MAR. 19, 2019 | 9
JUST APPLY FOR THE DAMN JOB BY JESS SEMLER - PITTSBURGH CURRENT COLUMNIST INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM “I’m not a good writer. In fact, after a couple weeks I bet the Pittsburgh Current will not only fire me, but ask me to please never write again for anybody, and maybe even ask me to pay them for making them read my work.” Me, last month, sitting down to write my first piece for the Pittsburgh Current as a regular columnist. “That was a disaster. I am never speaking in public again. I want to melt into the ground.” Me, three weeks ago immediately after speaking at Bethany Hallam’s County Council campaign kickoff event. And yet, despite how terrible I must be if these things were actually true, I’m invited to speak at protests, rallies and campaign kickoffs. I’m featured on panels and hearings as a Subject Matter Expert for reproductive rights and political organizing. I’m given platforms in publications to tell stories; stories like the one you’re reading right now! Despite plenty of external evidence to suggest otherwise, I often have intrusive thoughts that I’m a “fraud,” and that it’s only a matter of time before I’m found out as one. The name for this thoroughly unhelpful and annoying thought process is the Imposter Syndrome. The term was conceived by psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes in the 1970s. Folks experiencing this tend to attribute their success to luck, circumstances or timing rather than their inherent abilities. This is pretty isolating because people don’t want to talk about it. I emailed Charlie Deitch, the Current’s beloved editor to say I needed an extra day to write; my Imposter Syndrome was really making it difficult to write about, you know, Imposter Syndrome. How meta.
People across genders and identities experience this, although it can be amplified for folks in historically marginalized groups. I think about the ever present comments made by folks who assume someone might vote for a specific candidate, “because she’s a woman,” as if qualifications aren’t taken into account. A black woman I’ve worked with introduced me to “The Chronicle of the Problem Woman of Color in the Workplace.” This infographic created by the Safehouse Progressive Alliance for NonViolence illustrates the cycle women of color go through when white organizations make tokenized hires under the guise of increasing diversity. Things are great at first, but if the employee points out issues, they are denied or expected to fix the problem themselves. The woman who taught me about this was positively brilliant, and I hated watching her doubt herself because we live in a capitalist white supremacist patriarchal society. Over the years I’ve had the pleasure of mentoring some badass feminists. The various young women who’ve interned for me or volunteered at Planned Parenthood inspire me constantly and I’m just grateful that I got to meet them in the beginning of their ascents, before they inevitably rule the world because they’re so smart and talented. I’m currently the President of Young Democrats of Allegheny County, so I continue to meet energized young folks who want to make change. In the last month or so I’ve had coffee dates with three young women, two of whom are about to graduate with master’s degrees. A recurring theme in our conversations was the hesitance they felt to apply for certain jobs,
10 | MAR. 19, 2019 | PITTSBURGH CURRENT
or the presence of that annoying internal voice telling them that they weren’t qualified, were not experienced enough, or for some other reason undeserving. I met with one woman, H, to discuss a specific job she was interested in. I’ve known her for years and she is one of my heroes. Smart, eloquent, organized and passionate, I continue to be in awe of her. I nearly fell out of my seat hearing this familiar internalized script. It hurts my heart to hear women I admire verbalize these doubts out loud. How much greatness would our world be deprived of if they listened to their Imposter voice? H and I talked about these negative internal scripts that play when we’re faced with an opportunity to try something new or anything that requires a level of vulnerability. “Actually, it makes me feel a lot better knowing that even you have Imposter Syndrome,” she said. It was a teachable moment for both of us, and we hashed out these
false thoughts. My Imposter voice is absolutely still present, as evidenced above. But if Imposter Syndrome thrives on shame and fear, exposing it may be the best way to address it. A friend once gave me a card that has one of my favorite quotes about fear; “When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.” Audre Lorde. We owe it to ourselves to own our successes and be proud of our strengths. We owe it to each other. If you’re reading this and any of it sounds familiar, I have some evergreen advice for you; speak up at your work meeting. Write that article. Run for office. Apply for the damn job.
Sloane Crosley 7:00 pm, Carnegie Lecture Hall, Oakland Tickets $22, includes a copy of Look Alive Out There pittsburghlectures.org
PITTSBURGH CURRENT | MAR. 19, 2019 | 11
DRINKS ISSUE When it comes to liquor, LOCAL LIQUOR SUPERLATIVES local distilleries are truly in a class of their own. There are so many INTRODUCING THE GLASS OF 2019 BY HALEY FREDERICK - PITTSBURGH CURRENT STAFF WRITER HALEY@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
amazing distillers working right here in Pennsylvania that we wanted to use the Drinks Issue to give you an introduction to a few notable spirits that we think you should try. Here is our “Glass of 2019.”
BIG SPRING COCONUT RUM DISTILLERY: Nittany Valley Distilling, Bellefonte PA BIO: This bottle brings together Big Spring’s white rum made from 100 percent Caribbean Fancy Molasses and pure coconut extract to make a deliciously tropical liquor that’s a higher proof, less sweet and better tasting than any big name brand you’ve tried before. Big Springs Spirits is certified LEED Gold for their environmentally sustainable practices. And their location in Bellefonte gives them access to its “Big Spring” which was awarded as the “best tasting water in the state” by the Pennsylvania Rural Water Association. COMPARE TO: Malibu, Parrot Bay SERVING SUGGESTION: Use in daiquiris, pina coladas, bay breezes or any drink that should taste like summer. WHERE TO GET IT IN PGH: Pennsylvania Libations, $30.99
BLY RUM SILVER DISTILLERY: Pennsylvania Pure Distilleries, Glenshaw PA BIO: This rum comes from Barry Young, the same Master Distiller behind the much-celebrated Boyd & Blair Potato Vodka. So while critics have raved about BLY Rum Silver, we think you may have overlooked it amongst all the hoopla about it’s older potato-vodka-brother. Made from 100 percent PA molasses, this full-bodied rum tastes of toasted marshmallows. While light rums make a great cocktail ingredient, this one is good enough to drink on it’s own. COMPARE TO: Bacardi or your favorite white rum. SERVING SUGGESTION: On the rocks or in a classic daiquiri. WHERE TO GET IT IN PGH: Fine Wine & Good Spirits or Pennsylvania Libations $19.99
LIBERTY POLE PEATED BOURBON DISTILLERY: Mingo Creek Craft Distillers, Washington PA BIO: Located just blocks away from the home of one of the rebel leaders in the Whiskey Rebellion, Liberty Pole offers “history in a bottle.” The liberty pole was itself a symbol of the rebels’ unity. From their name to their location to their values, Liberty Pole is all about honoring the history of Pennsylvania whiskey. Their Peated Bourbon combines the worlds of Peated Scotches with American Bourbons—heavily peated barley and Bloody Butcher corn come together to make a smoky, earthy whiskey. COMPARE TO: Four Roses Bourbon SERVING SUGGESTION: On the rocks or in any classic prohibition-era whiskey cocktail. WHERE TO GET IT IN PGH: Pennsylvania Libations, $49 12 | MAR. 19, 2019 | PITTSBURGH CURRENT
XPLORER WHEAT VODKA DISTILLERY: Kilimanjaro Distillery, Allentown PA BIO: The Chokshi’s, the family behind Kilimanjaro Distillery, are originally from Tanzania. Their Xplorer Wheat Vodka is 12x distilled to achieve an ultra smooth product. It’s made with 100 percent Winter wheat and has a slightly herbal, citrus flavor. Kilimanjaro Distillery is conscious of the impact it can have on its local community and the world, so a portion of all profits from Xplorer Spirits is used to provide clean drinking water to communities in need through the Tanzania Water Project and to the Pennsylvania Meals on Wheels. COMPARE TO: Grey Goose, Ketel One SERVING SUGGESTION: This full-flavored vodka is perfect for martinis or mixing with your favorite fruit juices. WHERE TO GET IT IN PGH: Pennsylvania Libations, $25
MAGGIE’S FALERNUM CORDIAL DISTILLERY: Allegheny Distilling Company, Pittsburgh PA BIO: Maggie’s version of this Caribbean cocktail mixer starts with a white rum base and adds lime zest, ginger, cloves, allspice and turbinado sugar. You can even get involved in the making of this liqueur by attending one of Maggie’s lime zesting parties at their Strip District distillery. And no wonder they need help— each bottle of Falernum requires nine freshly-zested limes. When it comes to local liquor, you won’t find anything more uniquely and authentically tropical. COMPARE TO: Something you had on an island vacation. SERVING SUGGESTION: Use it in place of lime for a twist on a Moscow mule, or alone as a digestif. WHERE TO GET IT IN PGH: Maggie’s Farm Rum or Pennsylvania Libations, $35
QUANTUM GIN DISTILLERY: Quantum Spirits, Carnegie PA BIO: Quantum is all about the science. Their team is set on innovating distilling technology with their backgrounds in engineering and chemistry. They closely monitor dozens of individual parameters with hundreds of data points throughout the entire process. Their gin is made from a 50/50 blend of rye and rye malt. Flavors like cucumber, cardamom, black peppercorn, rosemary, juniper and citrus majorly pop in Quantum’s gin, making it like none you’ve ever tasted. COMPARE TO: Hendricks SERVING SUGGESTION: Begging to be a part of your gin and tonic. Pairs well with citrus flavors. WHERE TO GET IT IN PGH: Pennsylvania Libations, $35 PITTSBURGH CURRENT | MAR. 19, 2019 | 13
STATESIDE URBANCRAFT VODKA DISTILLERY: Federal Distilling, Philadelphia PA BIO: This Philly-based distillery is, fittingly, a brotherly business. Matt and Bryan Quigley started formulating vodkas in their parents’ basement. Last summer they opened a showroom in Lawrenceville to bring their product from east to west. Stateside Vodka is corn-based and 7x distilled. It has a very slight sweetness and notes of citrus. The brand is consistent in its modern industrial and minimalistic aesthetic, from its website to its bottles to its showroom. Because of its style and versatility, we could see this local vodka becoming a party staple. COMPARE TO: Ketel One, Smirnoff SERVING SUGGESTION: Your favorite vodka cocktail or straight from a shot glass. WHERE TO GET IT IN PGH: Stateside Vodka Showroom, $27.99
STOLL & WOLFE PENNSYLVANIA RYE WHISKEY DISTILLERY: Stoll & Wolfe Distillery, Lititz PA BIO: Dick Stoll is part of a lineage of Pennsylvania distillers that predates the state itself. Stoll apprenticed the grandnephew of Jim Beam and then was the last Master Distiller at Michter’s (formerly Bomberger’s) Distillery, which is known as America’s oldest distillery. Now in his 80s, Stoll provides his expertise to this new venture with Lancaster-native, Erik Wolfe. Their rye whiskey is composed of 65 percent rye, 25 percent corn and 10 percent malted barley. The spice and rye notes hit you up front, and caramelly flavors follow. COMPARE TO: The best premium rye whiskey you’ve had. SERVING SUGGESTION: Put it in a Manhattan or just on the rocks. WHERE TO GET IT IN PGH: Pennsylvania Libations, $50
VIEUX CARRE ABSINTHE DISTILLERY: Philadelphia Distilling, Philadelphia PA BIO: As the first legal absinthe to be distilled, bottled and sold on the east coast of United States in nearly 100 years, Vieux Carre is making booze history and looking good doing it. This aromatic absinthe is batch distilled in a double maceration process, using both Grande and Petite Wormwood. Flavors of anise, fennel and clove round out this bold beverage that is beautifully bottled. COMPARE TO: Pernod Absinthe SERVING SUGGESTION: An Absinthe Drip or a Death in the Afternoon (also called a Hemingway). WHERE TO GET IT IN PGH: Fine Wine & Good Spirits, $59.99; Pennsylvania Libations, $59 14 | MAR. 19, 2019 | PITTSBURGH CURRENT
DAD’S HAT MAPLE CASK FINISHED WHISKEY AND SMALL BATCH MAPLE SYRUP DISTILLERY: Mountain Laurel Spirits, Bristol PA BIO: For this purely Pennsylvania collaboration, Dad’s Hat takes barrels used to age their whiskey and sends them to Grinarml’s Maple Syrup Company in Somerset. Grinarml’s syrup ages in those barrels for several months. Then, Dad’s Hat’s barrel-aged whiskey is put back into those barrels to age some more. The whiskey picks up just a hint of maple flavor to create an end product that’s not too heavy or too sweet. It’s a special kind of give and take that makes this whiskey and maple syrup the best of friends. COMPARE TO: Crown Royal Maple SERVING SUGGESTION: Bring them together in an Old Fashioned with a few dashes of smoked bitters. WHERE TO GET IT IN PGH: Fine Wine & Good Spirits, $43.99; syrup available at dibruno.com, $20
PITTSBURGH CURRENT | MAR. 19, 2019 | 15
Christian Simmons and Jeremy Noah of Pennsylvania Libations (Current photo by Jake Mysliwczyk)
AFTER TWO YEARS IN BUSINESS, THE JOURNEY TO BECOME PA’S FIRST PRIVATELY OWNED LIQUOR STORE HAS BEEN WORTH IT BY HALEY FREDERICK - PITTSBURGH CURRENT STAFF WRITER HALEY@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
e’ve all walked into a state store and gazed without purpose at bottle after bottle on shelf after shelf, not sure what we want or what’s even good. You can try asking a salesperson, but the odds they’ve tasted even a quarter of the products in the store seem slim and a nuanced knowledge of spirits probably isn’t one of the main hiring criteria. So, in the end, you pick up the same generic bottle of booze you got last time and the time before, knowing you’re not really in love with it, but hey, it gets the job done. Now say you’re walking through the Strip, by the corner of Penn and 21st. There you’ll find Pennsylvania Libations—a different kind of liquor store. You won’t find Tito’s or Seagrams or Bacardi. For the most part, you’ll probably see a lot of bottles you’ve never seen before. But it’s okay, because you won’t be left to your own devices. “We get a lot of people that come in and think it’s just a regular liquor store,” Jeremy Noah, director of operations, says. “We’re the only privately owned liquor store in the state.” If you ask Dana Dolney, a sales representative and consultant, what her favorite liquor Pennsylvania
Libations carries is, she’ll say “that doesn’t matter unless you’re buying me a bottle.” And then she’ll ask you questions about what you like, give you samples and tell you stories until you’ve found something you love. If you’re shopping at Pennsylvania Libations, you’re buying local. According to storeowner Christian Simmons, in 2012 there were seven distilleries in Pennsylvania and now there are more than a hundred. At their 650 square-foot shop, 16 Pennsylvania distilleries sell more than 120 products. Each distillery’s story is as unique as the spirits they’re making, and Pennsylvania Libations wants to share all of it with as many people as possible. “It’s the stories, honestly—it’s what captivates everybody at the store,” Noah says. “It’s what Dana is doing right now with this couple over here: she’s talking about everyone’s story, everyone’s journey. Why are they doing what they’re doing?” But it isn’t only the distillers that have a story to tell. Opening the first craft liquor store that’s anywhere close to this scale was a journey for Simmons. As the cofounder of Four Seasons Brewing in Latrobe, Simmons was familiar with the
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production side things. Then he wanted to move more into sales. “One brand isn’t enough for me,” Simmons says. “I love that I don’t have to worry about making anything, because everybody in this store makes amazing spirits, so it allows me to do what I love to do best which is sell, market and represent the best of the best in the state and the country.” But Simmons knew that he couldn’t just call up distillers and ask them to be in his store. He had to earn their trust and prove he knew what he was doing. He started working with local distillers to sell their products to restaurants and bars. “Just because you have a location and an idea, it doesn’t mean the distilleries are going to trust you, because they only get five of these [satellite] licenses, so they want to see the highest volume in sales out of all five of those locations,” Simmons says. It took these relationships plus tons of research, large costs in lawyer’s fees, seven months of paying rent on a leased space for a business that couldn’t open yet, working with the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) and a whole lot of politics to make this idea a reality. “All of the distilleries wrote to their local [congress] people and said ‘hey you need to tell the PLCB this is going to be nothing but good for so many people,’ and that really helped,” Simmons says. “So it wasn’t just me, it was everybody working together to see this happen.” In the end, even though many people told him his store would never be approved, Simmons says the PLCB was open-minded and worked with him to make it all happen. Originally, he wanted to sell local wine and spirits in the same store, but that application was rejected because of certain physical requirements for the retail space. His second application was approved, in large part because the benefits to local small businesses are undeniable. The local liquor industry
affects so many others, all the way from farmers to graphic designers and label-makers. The store opened in June of 2017. Through a consignment system, they’re already selling the products of 16 distillers, from the hyperlocal Maggie’s Farm, to Lancaster’s Stoll and Wolfe, to Philadelphia Distilling. Including non-alcoholic brands like Red Ribbon Soda, 22 small businesses are represented at Pennsylvania Libations. And now Pennsylvania Libations sits, the only business of its kind, poised for success at the beginning of Pennsylvania’s craft liquor boom. Noah says most of the distilleries selling product in the store are less than five years old. “We’re in its infancy,” Noah says. “Five, six, seven years from now when these guys start pumping out six year aged bourbons and eight year ryes and add it to the years they’ve already been open, it’s going to be a force to be reckoned with.” Simmons is looking at a lot of options for the future: expand, open up another location across the state, bring in wine, offer onsite consumption. And all of those things may be in the cards,but Simmons is happy with what he’s got going on now while he still calculates his next moves. One of the main things he’s watching out for is the continuation of the 2017 Craft Modernization and Tax Reform Act that extended a tax break, similar to the ones that craft breweries and wineries already had, to distillers. The break really made a difference for small distilleries, whose spirits are taxed at an average of about 54 percent of their purchase price, according to Forbes. “It really helped the boom and now they’re thinking about not extending that tax break which would be detrimental to probably one sixth of the distilleries in the country to the point of actually killing them,” Simmons says. “So we’re hoping that the federal government listens and works with us.”
And to know them is to know that they knew what was happening, and what would happen, but didn’t allow that premonition to prevent them from fighting it, and also clawing and etching out a capacity to love.” Like his parents, Pittsburgh is an important character in the book. Young’s Pittsburgh is specific and, like all good art, the universality is found in the specificity. He writes about East Liberty as a case study of how blackness can be swept away under the wheels of breakneck
gentrification. He writes and thinks about being black in Pittsburgh — how hard it is to preserve and honor black spaces. “To be black in Pittsburgh is to be intentional about your blackness,” Young said. “If you’re not intentional, if you’re not protective of it, if you’re not safeguarding, it could just dissipate. If you’re not black in Pittsburgh, you’re thriving. In comparison to other cities, Pittsburgh is lagging behind when it comes to everything — education,
Damon Young (Photo by: Sarah Huny Young)
VERY SMART BOOK
DAMON YOUNG’S NEW MEMOIR EXAMINES HIS EXPERIENCES OF BEING BLACK IN AMERICA
BY JODY DIPERNA - PITTSBURGH CURRENT CONTRIBUTING WRITER JODY@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
ongtime readers of the site, VerySmartBrothas (VSB) may feel they know Damon Young and his funny and inventive takes. Unafraid to play with form and format, he often uses humor (sometimes as a light, sometimes as a cudgel) when dealing with difficult subject matter. With his first book, What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker: A Memoir in Essays (Harper Collins, 2019) Young goes even deeper. It is about being black in America, about being black in Pittsburgh and about being Young. He is bold and frank about his stumbles, his humanity and his growth. It is still as funny as we’ve come to expect, but also less punchy, less voicy. “This is much more personal, much more transparent and vulnerable,” Young said when we
sat down at City of Asylum on North Avenue, a couple of blocks from his home in the Mexican War Streets. Young writes with love, yearning and tenderness about his parents, Vivienne and Wilbur. They are woven through all the essays, present even when the book is not about them. In the chapters specifically devoted to his parents, he writes about their economic struggles, as well as his own impatience with them when he was a young adult. He also writes of their faith and perseverance. He admitted those were hard to write, but well worth it. He writes, “I want people to know them. Because to know them -- even just the sliver of them that I was able to capture here -- is to know how blackness doesn’t just find space but conjures beauty in a country specifically constructed to crush them.
What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker by Damon Young
PITTSBURGH CURRENT | MAR. 19, 2019 | 17
health care, life expectancy, income, wealth — all these measures. Whatever the national disparities are [between black and white], here they are greater. I’ve joked before that Pittsburgh is Wakanda for white people.” Though the book is a chronological memoir, it is structured in essay form, which allows him to move about in each space. He is able to bring to the table all the tools he honed while creating and writing for VSB, which he and Panama Jackson started in 2008. He showcases his absolute mastery of pop culture, deploying the absolute dead-on reference at just the right moment. From Axe Body Spray to Wu-Tang Clan, from “The Wire” to “Candyman”, from Allen Iverson to Love Jones, he lands each like Simone Biles at the Olympics. But if blogs and instant media are hot takes, this is his slow take. The writing is trenchant and unadorned in the best possible way. In the essay, ‘Your Turn,’ he begins, “I forget sometimes that my parents and I were homeless for three months in 2001,” an audacious lead sentence that stops the reader dead in her tracks. Sometimes the stories that are most personal, like ‘Living While Black Killed My Mom,’ place Young’s work as some of the most important current work on race, as he cuts into how the medical complaints of black women are brushed aside more easily or taken less seriously than their white or male counterparts. It is moving and profound. This is a book for anybody who enjoys reading memoir and sharp essays. It is a book for everybody in Pittsburgh. But most importantly, Young says, it is a book for black people. “I wrote the book I always wanted to read. I also wrote the book that I needed to write.”
will speak at the Carnegie Lecture Hall in Oakland at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, April 3rd with Tony Norman, Book Review Editor for the Post-Gazette. Young will also speak at the Barnes & Noble at Homestead Waterfront on Monday, April 1st at 7 p.m.
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March 30, April 2, 5, 7 at the Benedum Center Tickets start at $14 • Half-price for kids & teens pittsburghopera.org • 412.456.6666 SEASON SPONSOR TUESDAY NIGHT SPONSOR: AMBRIDGE REGIONAL DISTRIBUTION & MANUFACTURING CENTER
Amanda Smith and Anthony Santos of the Dance Theatre of Harlem. (Photo: Rich Sofranko)
BALLET COMPANIES REUNITE FOR MAGICAL PROGRAM AT AUGUST WILSON CENTER BY STEVE SUCATO - PITTSBURGH CURRENT DANCE WRITER INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
ith both companies celebrating 50th anniversaries, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre and New York’s Dance Theatre of Harlem continued their collaborative performance relationship begun in 2017 with another world class evening of dance on Thursday night at Downtown’s August Wilson Cultural Center. The special triple bill preview performance presented by BNY Mellon to begin a two week run of shows, offered up repertory very much in each company’s wheelhouse. It began with Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre performing “Rubies,” the
second act from George Balanchine’s ballet Jewels (1967.) The 19-minute plotless ballet danced to Igor Stravinsky’s “Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra” featured five men and 10 women in bejeweled ruby-colored costumes flared at the hips with fringe — the look resembling ancient Egyptian royalty for the women and medieval courtiers for the men. The ballet starred principal dancers Amanda Cochrane and Yoshiaki Nakano who early on danced a playful and energetic duet sprinkled with kitschy movement resembling skip rope jumping, do-si-dos and waltzing steps that were infused into Balanchine’s
signature neo-classical ballet style of the time. Surrounding them was a corps de ballet led by spritely soloist Gabrielle Thurlow who moved through expertly-patterned and grouped choreography that filled the stage creating picturesque tableau after picturesque tableau. Thurlow was a delight, high-kicking and turning on-a-dime as an alluring temptress for the corps’ four male dancers who partnered her in succession. And while Thurlow tempted, Cochrane dazzled with superior technique, extension and stage presence reminiscent of the role’s originator, New York City Ballet star Patricia McBride. Cochrane and Nagano had great chemistry throughout the ballet and the entire cast revelled in one of Balanchine’s most choreographically quirky and entertaining ballets. Next, Houston Ballet artistic director Stanton Welch’s ballet Orange (2001) was the lone work to feature both companies’ dancers on stage together. Performed to music by Antonio Vivaldi, three male-female couples in tangerine vacillated between moments of happiness and melancholy. A reference to the orange color associated with the Svadhishthana or Sacral Chakra dealing with the emotional body, the ballet at its heights bubbled with vibrant and challenging contemporary ballet choreography that let each of its dancers shine in solos, duets and as a group. Two who shone from the get go in the ballet were April 2019 Dance Magazine cover couple DTH’s Amanda Smith and Da’Von Doane. Smith performed a fast-paced, adroitly danced solo that shouted her star quality, while Doane danced a powerful and reflective solo along a shaft of light. Also making her mark in the ballet was PBT principal dancer Alexandra Kochis whose graceful movement and rapid turns highlighted her solo. She, along with fellow PBT principal Luca Sbrizzi, also captivated in a circular patterned pas de deux. Additionally, DTH dancers Alicia Mae Holloway
and Anthony Santos fleshed out Welch’s relationship-themed motif for the ballet that when expressing joy, took on a mood where the women yearned and the men moped. The program closed with DTH in Darrell Grand Moultrie’s Harlem on My Mind (2017.) Set to a jazz score with music by Duke Ellington, Fats Waller, Wynton Marsalis and others, the flirtatious work in five sections for the entire company proved a wonderful capper to another matchmade-in-heaven collaboration between the DTH and PBT. A blend of ballet and jazz, playfulness and poignancy, the work was tailor-made for DTH’s exquisite dancers. After a rousing opening group dance to Waller’s “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” dancer Anthony Santos in “Harlem’s Finest” performed a jazzy, low-tothe- ground solo with slow rising leg extensions and more than a little playing to the audience attitude. Next, company celebrity Ingrid Silva and Dylan Santos came together in “Duo de Jazzin’” to Ellington’s 1931 classic “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing.)” The couple engaged in cat and mouse choreography with Silva playing hard to get (but not too hard) toward Santos’ courting in a fingersnapping, foot-slapping duet. DTH’s Choong Hoon Lee then turned in one of the evening’s most memorable performances in “Soul of the Hood,” a heartfelt, gripping and athletic solo to haunting trumpet and piano music evoking the emotional flip side to Harlem’s jaunty Swing. PITTSBURGH BALLET THEATRE AND DANCE THEATRE OF HARLEM’S collaboration continues
through March 24 in two programs. Program A (Nyman String Quartet #2, Corsaire Pas de Deux, Orange, Rubies) runs March 23 & 24 at 2 p.m. and Program B (Rubies, Balamouk, Orange, Harlem On My Mind) runs March 22 & 23 at 8 p.m.; Downtown’s August Wilson Cultural Center, 980 Liberty Ave.; Tickets are $28-117 and available online at pbt.org, by calling (412) 456-6666, or in person at the Box Office at Theater Square.
PITTSBURGH CURRENT | MAR. 19, 2019 | 19
A piece from D.S. Kinsel’s upcoming show, “Nothing But Love”
BRIGHT COLORS, TEXTURE ON DISPLAY IN NEW D.S. KINSEL EXHIBIT
BY NICK EUSTIS - PITTSBURGH CURRENT CONTRIBUTING WRITER INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
very first Friday of the month, the myriad art galleries on Penn Avenue in Garfield burst to life. Artists of all sorts fill seemingly any available space with paintings, sketches, photographs, sculptures, and much more. In one of these humble spaces, an artist well-acquainted with the city is showing a brand new series. This March, D.S. Kinsel debuted his latest art collection, entitled “Nothing But Love.” This collection of paintings take varying shapes and forms, but are tied together with their mix of bright colors, and their use of texture. “All the paintings are textured and shaped to create patterns,” Kinsel said. Kinsel chose broadly relatable themes for this collection which, in his words, “[centers] on pop culture, bright colors, and familiar language.” Language is a major focal point in the work, with everyday phrases and quotes about love, created in
brushstrokes, permeating the work. “Most of the phrases come from hip-hop or other songs I enjoy,” Kinsel said. Hearts, appropriately, are an oft-used motif throughout the collection, but with Kinsel’s own twist. Many hearts feature a face, with two “x” shapes for eyes and a frown. It gives the whole collection an enigmatic vibe, as if imploring viewers to search for their own interpretations of the symbolism. “Nothing But Love” is not only an exhibition, but an art sale as well. Each piece is available for purchase, and Kinsel will be creating new work over the course of the three month exhibition. “I’ll be rotating the show periodically so it gives people a different feel,” Kinsel said. In addition, Kinsel will be hosting several events throughout the run of “Nothing But Love.” These events are intended to allow audiences to have unique opportunities to engage with
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both art and artist. These events will take place on April 5 and May 3 from 7-10 p.m., April 14 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and May 31 from 6-9 p.m. Those familiar with Kinsel’s past work will notice a significant thematic difference, as his art usually deals with themes of racism and activism in the digital age. “A lot of the work I’ve [created in the past] is focused on agitation and conflict,” Kinsel said. “My work often uses curse words and racial epithets, so it’s nice to do something different.” For example, in 2016, Kinsel presented a collection of prints he created at the Andy Warhol Museum in an exhibit titled “What They Say, What They Said.” The content of the work was the collected responses of African-American men in Pittsburgh to the question, “What do the police say when they see you?,” as well as excerpts from then-President Barack Obama’s “Final Report of the President’s Task Force on 21st
Century Policing”. These quotes were then transformed into colorful screenprints by Kinsel, framed by silhouettes of police officers. In the vein of creating art with political impact, Kinsel is also the co-founder of BOOM Concepts, a creative center that hosts art exhibitions, performance art pieces, and community gatherings. BOOM is dedicated to the advancement of black and brown artists from marginalized communities across America. “At BOOM, I help to select artists to create partnerships with, in order to create opportunities for those artists inside and outside Pittsburgh,” Kinsel said. Backed by the Heinz Endowments and the BloomfieldGarfield Corporation, BOOM hosts art events throughout the year, both at their Penn Avenue home base, as well as around the city. They’ve partnered with artistic organizations such as Artist Image Resource and the Andy Warhol Museum in the Northside, as well the Carnegie Museum of Art. These events range from serious exhibitions like “What They Say, What They Said,” to playful and campy “puppet karaoke.” Starting in 2017, BOOM began offering additional studio work space for local artists in the Allentown neighborhood. Through the BOOM Studio Artist Membership program, which allows artists a 24/7 workspace, complete with free wifi, audio/visual media support, woodshop, metalshop, and printshop. They also have access to the resources of New Sun Rising, a non-profit working to strengthen communities through grassroots organizing, for fiscal sponsorship and professional development. Whether it’s his work at BOOM, or his many other projects across Pittsburgh, there’s no doubt that, for Kinsel, art is “Nothing But Love.”
NOTHING BUT LOVE
opened March 1 and will be open to the public until May 31 at Everyday’s a Sunday, 4919 Penn Avenue in Garfield.
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CARTOONISTS CARTOONISTS WANTED WANTED pittsburgh current is looking for local artists who would like to have their comics featured on our twice-monthly funny pages.
email: firstname.lastname@example.orgPITTSBURGH CURRENT | OCT. 23, 2018 | 19
Sucks to Be an Animal
By Sienna Cittadino
by Andrew Schubert
CARTOONISTS CARTOONISTS WANTED WANTED pittsburgh current is looking for local artists who would like to have their comics featured on our twice-monthly funny pages.
20 | OCT. 23, 2018 | PITTSBURGH CURRENT
CARTOONISTS CARTOONISTS WANTED WANTED pittsburgh current is looking for local artists who would like to have their comics featured on our twice-monthly funny pages.
email: email@example.comPITTSBURGH CURRENT | OCT. 23, 2018 | 21
have a festival and I wanted to bring it to Pittsburgh.” There was a catch: The first Pittsburgh Comedy Festival was announced around that time, and Winters thought there wasn’t room for another. However, that soon changed, he says. “It just kind of occurred to me that I thought there was room for two festivals,” Winters says, planning his in the beginning of the year to not interfere with the Pittsburgh Comedy Festival’s August schedule. Now, the Burning Bridges Comedy Festival also has a namesake comedy club in
John DIck Winters performs at the 2018 Burning Bridges Comedy Festival (Photo: Kelly Hayes)
LAUGHING MATTERS BURNING BRIDGES COMEDY FESTIVAL HEATS UP PITTSBURGH
BY AMANDA REED - PITTSBURGH CURRENT STAFF WRITER AMANDA@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
ohn Dick Winters is a multihyphenate: stand-up comic, clothing designer and, with the Burning Bridges Comedy Festival— now in its fourth year—comedy producer, festival founder and night owl. “Comedy doesn’t really happen until the sun goes down,” he says. The Burning Bridges Comedy Festival runs from March 21 to
March 24, with all shows happening after 7 p.m. The fest spans all across Pittsburgh, from Pitt’s campus to the Strip District, and features more than 50 performers. Winters noticed that the Steel City did not have its own comedy festival around 2014. “I did a couple of festivals and they were just an incredible amount of fun,” he says. “Pittsburgh didn’t
HOME AND OFFICE CLEANING
Hambone’s, producing stand-up shows and open mics every week. Unlike other comedy festivals in town, which feature improv and sketch comedy, Burning Bridges focuses solely on stand-up comedy, bringing some of the best local talent and new, up-and-coming comics from around the country. According to Derek Minto, a local comic and longtime Burning Bridges performer, this helps expose people to comics they haven’t heard of. And, considering the festival received 500 performer submissions, the audience is truly getting the best of the best.
JOIN US AT THE LANDMARKS PRESERVATION RESOURCE CENTER FOR ONGOING WORKSHOPS AS WE CONTINUE 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, MARCH 21
6:30 P.M. - 8:30 P.M.
WORKSHOP: INSTALLATION BASICS OF MOLDINGS PRESENTER: REGIS WILL & VESTA HOME SERVICES JOIN US FOR A DEMONSTRATION WORKSHOP ON INSTALLING OR REPAIRING MOLDINGS ON YOUR HOUSE. WE WILL DISCUSS WHEN TO MITER AND WHEN TO COPE, OR EVEN WHAT A COPE IS. WE’LL ALSO DISCUSS INTERIOR MOLDINGS FROM BASEBOARD TO CROWN AS WELL AS DOOR AND WINDOW CASTINGS. PARTICIPANTS WILL ALSO LEARN ABOUT EXTERIOR MOLDINGS AND SOME OF THE TERMS FOR MANY OF THE SHAPES WE SEE IN OUR ARCHITECTURE. About the presenter: Regis Will is a woodworker, craftsman, and owner of Vesta Home Services, a consulting firm on house restoration and Do-it-Yourself projects. He blogs about his work at The New Yinzer Workshop.
THIS WORKSHOP IS FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC. RSVPS ARE APPRECIATED: MARYLU@PHLF.ORG OR 412-471-5808 EXT. 527
WE ARE INSURED, HAVE MANY REFERENCES, AND WE ARE PRICED TO MAKE YOU SMILE!
CALL TODAY FOR A FREE QUOTE: 412.728.0132 744 REBECCA AVENUE - WILKINSBURG, PA 15221 - 412-471-5808 PITTSBURGH CURRENT | MAR. 19, 2019 | 25
“It’s just really cool to be able to showcase people around the country who are working really hard. It might not be a TV name yet but they’re hysterical,” he says. The festival also features themed shows, like “Hotdog!”—a hotdog eating contest-meets- comedy show—and “One Liner Madness,” a bracket-style one-line joke contest, to ensure fest-goers are getting a wide variety of stand-up shows. Helen Wildy, a local comic who also performed in last year’s festival, says that, as a performer, the fest’s focus on stand-up is refreshing. “It’s so great to be surrounded by so many other people who share that passion and that love and people who want to celebrate that,” she says. This year’s headliners include Todd Barry, Ramon Rivas II and Kyle Kinane and Dave Stone, who bring their “Boogie Monster” podcast to the festival. Barry and Rivas have been featured on Comedy Central, and the “Boogie Monster” podcast has about 600 patrons on Patreon. According to Winters, this is a sign of the festival’s growth, in both audience size and legitimacy, which he says will only improve in the future. “I’m just excited to see it continue on as a natural progression of just becoming a better and better festival,” Winters says. All tickets are less than $20, and the festival spans six locations, making the festival easy to attend, according to Winters. “If you’re a comedy fan at all, there’s no reason not to see at least one of these shows ,” he says.
BURNING BRIDGES COMEDY FESTIVAL. March
21-24. $10-$20. Various times and locations. www.burningbridgescomedyclub.com
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P L E A S E f o r
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B A L L
Saturday March 30 2019 5:30 PM Dinner, Drinks, Desserts and Drag
The University Club 123 University Place Oakland
Purchase reservations online at alliespgh.org
Hotel Accommodations at the New Oaklander Hotel Visit alliespgh.org for more information
TICKETS GOING FAST!
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Dale Watson plays the Hard Rock Cafe March 22.
DALE WATSON’S GOT A NEW RECORD, A NEW HOME AND A NEW OUTLOOK ON LIFE
BY CHARLIE DEITCH - PITTSBURGH CURRENT EDITOR CHARLIE@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
lmost from the moment you put it on, you realize there’s something different about Dale Watson’s new record, Call Me Lucky. He’s happy. Not that the Ameripolitan music pioneer (a sound firmly grounded in traditional country music) normally walks around with a rain cloud over his head. But if there’s one standard you can count on with a Dale Watson record, it’s a “heartbreak song” that rips your guts out, but only in the most positive, therapeutic way. That type of song is missing on
Call Me Lucky. For Watson, a guy who has seen more than his share of heartbreak over the years, that’s just fine. “I’m in a great place and the songs I’m writing reflect that,” Watson tells the Current. Watson rolls into town on Friday, March 22 at the Hard Rock Cafe in Station Square for a show with legendary singer/songwriter Kinky Friedman, the Jewish Cowboy. Seeing Friedman is always a unique experience and although they’ve been friends a long time, this is their first show together. So, what can the
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audience expect? “Arranged Chaos,” says Watson laughing. “Neither of us are going up there with a set list, it’s going to be real organic. We’re both playing acoustic, which is weird for me because it’s not something I do. I’ve been wrestling with that instrument for awhile now, but I’ll get up there and I know the friends and fans who come out will be forgiving. “But I’m looking forward to this show. It’ll be like walking a tightrope.” There are several reasons for Watson’s current outlook on life.
First is his relationship of the past several years with fellow singer/ songwriter Celine Lee. The two are nearly inseparable on the road and on stage, and they often collaborate. On the new record, they perform a duet on a song called “Johnny and June,” an homage to Cash and Carter, respectively. “There ain’t no doubt that where I am has a lot to do with Celine,” Watson says. “She writes great lyrics and is really talented. She constantly inspires me and we try to stay together on the road.” Another reason for the positive outlook is a recent partial move from Austin to Memphis. He splits his time between both cities and has a house in both. But making the move to Memphis had a tremendous impact on his music and his career. Over the past decade, you’d be hard-pressed to find a musician more synonymous with Austin than Dale Watson. He owned businesses in the city, performed on a regular basis and was a good ambassador for Austin in media appearances and commercials. But, he says, the city known as the place to hear live music has changed way too much for his liking. Not that he’s gone all together, in fact the move may have made for an easier commute. “No one was more excited than me to be living in the live music capital of the world,” Watson says. “But now, you have shows that keep getting bumped for marathons and other events like that. The city is not as conducive to live music as it used to be. It’s so congested that you can barely get downtown to see a band. “But now, when I come to Austin, I jump on Allegiant Air and it’s a 70-minute flight. Hell, these days it will take you an hour-and-a-half to drive from North Austin to South Austin.” He found in Memphis the things that he missed about Austin. Earlier this year, Watson held, for the second year in-a- row, the Ameripolitan Music Awards in Memphis. The show was in Austin for several years, but city leaders made it tough to put on
a show of this size, an awards show that also featured four solid days of artist showcases at area venues. The last two years, though, the City of Memphis has been extremely accommodating “rolling out the red carpet.” Watson also recently purchased the legendary Memphis club Hernando’s Hideaway and wants to once again make it a mustplay venue for acts coming through town. “It’s been so nice, that I’m almost the relaxed guy I was in the 1980s,” Watson says. It’s good that Watson found a place to recenter and recharge. While he may not want the accolades, Watson has been essential in carving out a niche for roots-based Ameripolitan music. It started in the mid-90s when he was an aggressive combatant against “new country music.” He fought a constant battle to take back the name “country” for more traditional country music. Watson eventually realized, however, that it was a battle that even Don Quixote would have abandoned long ago. That’s when he coined the phrase Ameripolitan Music and started something new. And while he is an extremely talented artist (a claim he tries to brush off ), he’d rather be known as the guy who helped keep music in the vein of Ray Price and Bob Wills alive. “At the end of the day, I’d be happy to be known as someone who helped give new artists a leg up,” Watson says. “Someone who gives a darn about this music. There are so many great artists out there making really good music like Jimmy Dale, Jessie Daniels, Summer Dean, Whitney Rose, Big Sandy and the Flyrite boys and Mike and the Moonpies. “That’s why the Ameripolitan Awards are important. It brings the musicians, the booking agents and the record label together in one place to network. And now that we’re in Memphis with all of the support from the city and others, I can say for sure we’ll do it again next year.”
PITTSBURGH CURRENT | MAR. 19, 2019 | 29
Ches Smith, David Torn, Tim Berne (Photo by: Robert Lewis)
GOLD SOUNDZ FOR SUN OF GOLDFINGER, THREE RENOWNED JAZZ MUSICIANS BAND TOGETHER
string quartet, two more guitarists and a keyboardist. They recorded the bigger piece, “Spartan, Before It Hit,” two years before the rest of the album, revisiting it when Berne insisted that it flowed with the rest of the set. The saxophonist says Torn’s production skills bring out the depth in the music. “It’s like a Robert Altman movie, there’s all this dialogue going on,” Berne says. “There’s a foreground, there’s a background, there’s a middle ground. Somebody has a conversation in the left corner you’re not supposed to hear, and the third time around you do hear it.” The name originated from an
amplifier that Torn helped design called Goldfinger. “Sun of” was added when they needed a name for the gig. “Does it mean Goldfinger himself was a good guy, if you have him as something iconic in your reading history,” Torn asks. “It really doesn’t mean anything. I just like the way it sounds.” To paraphrase him – it’s a name.
SUN OF GOLDFINGER WITH WHITE HOLE.
8 p.m. Wednesday, March 20. Spirit Lodge, 242 51 Street, Lawrenceville. $25-$30. www. spiritpgh.com
BY MIKE SHANLEY - PITTSBURGH CURRENT CONTRIBUTING WRITER INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
avid Torn is more than happy to speak about his work in great detail. He has the stories too, since the guitarist’s list of collaborators includes David Bowie, Jeff Beck and Tori Amos, in addition to soundtrack projects with the Coen Brothers and numerous recordings under his own name. On the subject of Sun of Goldfinger, an improvising trio with alto saxophonist Tim Berne and drummer Ches Smith, he’s a bit more concise. “Every time somebody says something about Sun of Goldfinger, my only response is, ‘It’s a band,’” he says with a chuckle. “I have my hand deeply in the pile of post-production stuff. But I see it as a band. I don’t see it as my vehicle.” Of course, this three-word summary comes at the tail end of a 30-minute phone conversation with Torn, following a detailed look at the trio’s formation and their ECM Records debut. So while there’s humor in his comment, it underscores a grain of truth. Tim Berne’s tart, rugged alto saxophone was first heard during the late ’70s in what became the Downtown New York jazz scene. It followed years of apprenticing with the late Julius Hemphill of the World Saxophone Quartet.
“I had so much stuff I adopted from him,” Berne says on the phone from his Brooklyn home. “Including his attitude of always coming up with new stuff, not resting on whatever you just did and milking it for the next five years. Seeing him, this brilliant genius, doing [only] three or four gigs a year, it made me realize that if you’re going to do this stuff, you’ve got to do it because you love it.” Today, Berne’s jagged approach to compositions can be heard in a pack of younger musicians that came up listening to him. Torn has an equally distinct voice on guitar. Surrounded by a bank of effects, his sound brings together progressive rock, jazz and ambient soundscapes. He was recommended to Berne in the 1990s when the latter needed to master some live recordings of his group Bloodcount. They bonded over the work and Torn has produced nearly every Berne project in the ensuing years. In 2010, Berne invited the guitarist to an improv gig in Brooklyn along with Smith, the drummer in Berne’s current quartet Snake Oil. The trio clicked immediately and even before releasing anything, they were touring Europe and Brazil. Sun of Goldfinger consists of three long tracks, two improvisations and a Torn composition that adds a
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JOIN US AT THE LANDMARKS PRESERVATION RESOURCE CENTER FOR ONGOING WORKSHOPS AS WE CONTINUE PROGRAMMING ON ARCHITECTURE, HISTORY, DESIGN, URBAN PLANNING, AND OTHER TOPICS RELATED TO HOW CITIES FUNCTION AND HISTORIC PRESERVATION AS A TOOL OF COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT.
TUESDAY, MARCH 26
6:00 P.M. - 7:30 P.M.
LECTURE: REPURPOSING EVERYDAY BUILDINGS PRESENTERS: BEA SPOLIDORO & ERIC FISHER THIS LECTURE WILL FEATURE EXAMPLES OF EUROPEAN ADAPTIVE REUSE, WHERE CITIZENS RESPECT HISTORY BUT FUNDING IS OFTEN SPARSE. COME LEARN WHY PRESERVING A VARIETY OF BUILDINGS IS IMPORTANT, NOT JUST THOSE THAT HAVE BEEN DEEMED SPECIAL AND BE INTRODUCED TO EXAMPLES OF EXTRAORDINARY RENOVATIONS OF ORDINARY STRUCTURES AND TECHNIQUES FOR IMPLEMENTING ADAPTIVE REUSE STRATEGIES IN UNEXPECTED WAYS. About the presenters: Bea Spolidoro AIA, LEED Green Associate, WELL AP, is an Italian Architect registered in Pennsylvania who has been working with Pittsburgh-based firm Rothschild Doyno Collaborative since 2012. Eric Fisher AIA, LEED AP, is the principal at Fisher ARCHitecture, a Pittsburgh firm he founded in 2006. A fourth generation Pittsburgher, Eric has more than 25 years of experience as an architect, working in Europe and the United States, including a four-year apprenticeship with Richard Meier detailing the Los Angeles Getty Museum. THIS LECTURE IS FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC. RSVPS ARE APPRECIATED: MARYLU@PHLF.ORG OR 412-471-5808 EXT. 527.
744 REBECCA AVENUE - WILKINSBURG, PA 15221 - 412-471-5808
Brian Carpenter (Photo courtesy of Dan Huiting)
DID YOU GET YOUR TAX RETURN?
BOSTON’S BEAT CIRCUS BRINGS ITS ‘WICKED’ OUTLOOK TO BRILLOBOX BY MIKE SHANLEY - PITTSBURGH CURRENT CONTRIBUTING WRITER INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
rian Carpenter sings like a man who knows the Lonesome Highway. You can visualize the sun beating down on his shades as guitars twang in the foreground and a pedal steel guitar yowls on the horizon. It’s a bleak world in songs like “Bad Hotel,” where someone meets an untimely end. Carpenter tips his hat to the Gun Club, a band that sang tunes like this a generation ago, appropriating a line from them when he repeatedly asks, “What will they say about her?” But even as he borrows from that band, he and Beat Circus deliver the goods with a punch that the Gun Club could only imagine. Even though Beat Circus evokes the bleak desert landscape, the group actually hails from Boston. These Wicked Things, its new album, began as a commissioned work by the Berkeley Repertory Theater. They asked Carpenter to compose music and lyrics for The Barbary Coast, a play about violence in 1800s San Francisco, based on the life of Joaquin Murieta, the inspiration for Zorro, who went on a revenge spree when his wife was killed by gold miners. The concept, fleshed out in great detail by Carpenter’s
lyrical skills, is accompanied by a band that includes strings, bassoon and bass saxophone, with members of Morphine and the Thalia Zedek Band joining him. Before the album is through, the group draws on the ominous whistling of spaghetti western soundtracks and even dabbles in free jazz that uses the Chinese suona (sounding like a more nasal soprano saxophone) to push the storyline forward. These Wicked Things comes ten years after the last Beat Circus album and is only its fourth release since Carpenter started the group in 2002. It represents the final installment of his “Weird American Gothic” trilogy. Along with this band, he has also performed with acts ranging from the brutal New York band Swans to the late jazz trombonist Roswell Rudd. With experiences like that, and the depth of the production on These Wicked Things, the live performance comes with high anticipation.
BEAT CIRCUS WITH EMILY RODGERS BAND, THE NEW POOR.
8 p.m. Sunday, March 3. Brillobox, 4104 Penn Avenue, Lawrenceville. $6-$8. www. brilloboxpgh.com
PITTSBURGH CURRENT | MAR. 19, 2019 | 31
Suzanne Lawrence at Spirits & Tales (Current photo by: Haley Frederick)
THIS TASTES FUNNY:
LUNCH WITH SUZANNE LAWRENCE AT SPIRITS & TALES
BY HALEY FREDERICK - PITTSBURGH CURRENT STAFF WRITER HALEY@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
ince this is the Current’s “Drinks Issue,” and I’ll take any opportunity to get a good cocktail, I asked Suzanne Lawrence to join me for lunch at the recentlyopened Spirits & Tales restaurant and bar at the top of the new Oaklander Hotel. On the corner of Fifth and Bigelow, the Oaklander is designed to offer modern luxury. And Spirits & Tales is now one of the most upscale dining options in the neighborhood. It’s a mixture of sleek metals and rich velvet in a space that seems part restaurant, part cocktail lounge.
We choose the more lounge-like seating with armchairs that swivel at a knee-height table to be close to the giant windows, which look out over a nice green patch of Oakland, the lawn of Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall. We order our cocktails first. I go for a classic Negroni, while Lawrence chooses a tequila-based drink called the Root of All Evil. It comes out a gorgeous purpley-red color due to some beet juice, and also contains orange liqueur, celery juice and lime. Chatting over our drinks, we find out Lawrence has something in
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common with my dad—and perhaps many sentimentalists across the country. Both she and my father have no ties to Kentucky, but have been known to shed a few tears while watching the Derby on TV during the annual playing of “My Old Kentucky Home.” “I don’t cry when I’m upset or angry or sad—I cry at things like a Subaru commercial that’s really sweet,” she says, starting to fakeweep. “I’m like, ‘oh my god, that’s three generations of a family.” Maybe it’s something that happens to you after you have kids.
You cry at advertising campaigns or when you’re explaining the plot of the “Rocky” films to your daughter. (I swear, the latter was an actual thing that happened with my dad.) Lawrence has a four-year-old daughter that keeps her on her toes. “It’s just constant imagination which is amazing,” she says. “It can kind of interfere with your day—like she’s constantly running an improv scene with me, except I’m not allowed to deviate from the script that she’s written in her head, but she also hasn’t told me what it is.” I like to imagine that Lawrence’s background in acting and psychology makes her performances in her daughter’s “sketches” MerylStreep-level-good. Lawrence actually first got her bachelors and masters in psychology before getting a BFA in acting. And because she says it “seemed like the thing to do” she moved out to LA for a year. She says the main thing she misses from that time was the way crazy things just seemed to happen to her. Like when she won 15-grand on a game show and through that was cast in a pilot for a show on the Game Show Network. “I think that’s why I do stand up— to add a little bit of adventure and unpredictability [to life],” she says. Our food arrives pretty promptly, and it is gorgeous. Lawrence got an omelette with leeks and gruyere. I got the horseradish gnocchi, which are deliciously caramelized and creamy. Our table looks like a spread in a food magazine. Lawrence says she thinks the food lives up to the atmosphere. Lawrence has been doing stand up for five years now. Drunk with some actor friends at a wedding, they decided that she had to try stand up. She came back to Pittsburgh and took Aaron Kleiber’s stand up class at the Arcade Comedy Theater. And now—cue up The Lion King’s “Circle of Life”—Lawrence teaches that stand up class. “How do you teach people stand up?” I ask. “You make them do it,” Lawrence says. “A lot of stand ups make fun of
Negroni and Root of All Evil from Spirits & Tales (Current photo by: Haley Frederick)
the idea of a class because you learn stand up by doing stand up...I think of it as an accelerator.” Doing open mics, it can take as much as a year to develop a good five minutes, she says. The class is meant to cut that time down by making people stay on top of it and giving them an environment for constructive feedback. Lawrence’s next show is a unique one. She’s performing as a part of “HOTDOG!” during the Burning Bridges Comedy Festival. The name of the show should be taken more literally than you probably thought.
“Basically it’s a show where I attempt to do comedy but the host picks a secret trigger word and anytime I say that word or hit that topic, I have to eat a hot dog,” she explains. So if you’re jealous of how many comedians I’ve gotten to see eat food, this sounds like the show for you.
“HOTDOG!”is Friday, Mar. 22 and
Saturday, Mar. 23 at 8 p.m. in Hambone’s for the Burning Bridges Comedy Festival. Suzanne Lawrence performs Saturday. Tickets available at burningbridgescomedyclub.com for $10
FRIDAY, MAY 31 PETERSEN EVENTS CENTER EXCLUSIVE CURRENT TICKET OFFER • $30 +FEES
*WHILE SUPPLIES LAST
PITTSBURGH CURRENT | MAR. 19, 2019 | 33
KEEPING UP WITH PITTSBURGH’S CRAFT BEER SCENE BY DAY BRACEY - PITTSBURGH CURRENT CRAFT BEER WRITER INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM March 5, 8 p.m.: I’m at Hitchhiker, Mount Lebo, on a Tuesday to meet with Aaron Watson of Pipers Creative to discuss the Going Deep Summit. No, it is not a porn convention, but he promises plenty of stimulation. I haven’t been here since we podcasted live nearly three years ago. Back then, Andy was making his shit beers in a basement the size of a studio apartment. And I’m not talking like the lavish kind. I mean the closets that Manhattan slumlords put a sink in and rent out for $2300 a month. The kid has come a long way.
Every time I come into this place I order the Bane of Existence, but I refuse to do so this time around. I go with the barrel aged Woke. I’m in that BiL (Barrel is Life) gang, and I need as much of the good stuff as I can get before saison season is upon us. This bitch does not disappoint! It’s dumb cold outside and I’m feeling toasty. Just then, Aaron walks in and orders a lager to match his collared shirt. Me: Tell me about Going Deep. AW: It’s a one day event at Factory Unlocked on the North Shore, Saturday March 23rd, featuring a collection of speakers such as Gisele Fetterman, Tammy Thompson, Mike Dariano, & Kenny Chen, with a focus on connecting. We want people to come in and trust that we’re going to take them on a journey of learning. Last year, we had one of the world’s experts on foraging for mushrooms, and no one went there to hear from him. They went for some other character, but were blown away by the perspective that this guy had. Me: Shrooms tend to have that effect. What is your secret? AW: There’s room for the polymath in a world of specialists. Me: What’s a polymath? AW: Someone with a bunch of areas where they’re a five or six out of 10, but not a 10 out of 10. Me: Jack-of-all-trades. I would say that describes me, but I’m clearly a 10 out of 10 in self-sabotage. I’m a three at best in everything else. What do you look for in a speaker? AW: They need to be a great communicator and they need to have a secret. That secret has to be valuable to a large swath of the
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community. Leah Lizarando’s (412 Food Rescue) secret is that there is plenty of food and there are people who need it. Let me tell you where it is and how to get it to people. For Alan (Gannett) it’s that creativity isn’t some divine intervention, it’s what you consume and the repetitive process of honing your craft. Me: For the last 40 years we’ve hemorrhaged youth. Why did you stay, and do you plan to die here? AW: I stayed because I was able to pay off my student loans and become a property owner before 30, by keeping costs down and living off peanut butter, which is fairly difficult in larger markets. As far as my aspirations, the company is named after the Pittsburgh Pipers, who won the 1968 ABA Championship before changing their name to the Condors. We will never forget our Pittsburgh roots, but we want to win here, and use the kinetic energy to expand elsewhere. March 5, 9 p.m.: I ordered a Bane of Existence.
March 12, 3 p.m.: I have time between my meeting downtown and the Mindful, Apis collaboration release, so I stop into the Original Oyster House for a sandwich and some beer. To my surprise it’s fairly empty and I’m able to grab a seat next to the window under a warm spring sun. The bartender hands me a Duquesne pilsner in the dirtiest glass I’ve ever been served. I’m clearly being hazed. I wipe the lipstick off and chug it like a true yinzer. Afterwards, I have no interest in what the rest of the dishes look like, so I hand the bartender my card. “Cash only, but there’s ATMs all around here,” she says. Good to know, if I ever want to pay $10 for a 12oz session. Luckily, I have cash and a beer column for moments like this. Before I leave, I tip her 20%, because even people serving hepatitis deserve a living wage.
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A mural by famed artist Dan Kitchener on the side of New Amsterdam bar and restaurant (Current photo by Jake Mysliwczyk)
tretching from 34th Street to 62nd Street, the Pittsburgh neighborhood of Lawrenceville boasts an impressive array of shops, restaurants, artists collectives, barber shops, and just about everything else in between. It has rightly become known for roving bands of hipsters and quickly escalating real estate prices. But if you stroll down Butler Street, the main drag through the quirky community, and ask folks what they think of when they think of Lawrenceville, those aren’t the
BY BETHANY RUHE - PITTSBURGH CURRENT ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER BETHANY@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM answers you get. Rachel Webber, Program Coordinator for the 21st Business District, operating under the Lawrenceville Corporation, is quick to point out the three characteristics that she thinks makes Lawrenceville such a strong neighborhood; authenticity, sustainability, and, she says, “we have the highest concentration of women-owned businesses in the city of Pittsburgh.” “I would say we are still working on the neighborhood we are going
to be, and at the core of that is our strong small business community,” she continues. Within the business community itself there is a lot of collaboration, and a lot of pride in the abundance of women-owned businesses. Jessica Graves owns Una Biologicals, an independant organic beauty and wellness space that has been in Lawrenceville since 2015. She had been in the Strip and few other places in the city, but nothing spoke to her like Lawrenceville did.
“Lawrenceville is filled with so much great energy and countless places for folks to shop, eat, play and hangout,” she said. “We love the small-shop focus here,” she continued. “As an independent business owner, it’s important to me to support other small shops and in Lawrenceville anywhere I send someone they are supporting another local business. It’s amazing and somewhat rare in the age of big box stores.” Patty Logan, owner of City Grows,
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Inside the Make + Matter store located at 3711 Butler St in Lawrenceville (Current photo by Jake Mysliwczyk)
an urban, organic garden shop, concurs. “We opened the shop in August of 2014. I did a lot of research before choosing Lawrenceville,” she said. “Some of the main reasons were the town was drawing millennials from all over the country. Most younger people now have a serious interest in organic gardening, sustainability and combating climate change, all things we’re firmly committed to.” It’s hard to have a conversation about Lawrenceville without talking about the real estate prices, both residential and commercial. Lawrenceville Corporation’s Webber fully admits, “Affordability is an issue.” But even that becomes an example of how their small business community, and specifically their women-owned small businesses, band together to create solutions. Webber points to Make + Matter as the perfect example. Set back in the Lower Lawrenceville section of Butler Street, Make + Matter is what happens when three textile-based
designers band together to create not just a shop, but a space for both their own designs and to give other designers an opportunity to show and sell their wares. Three partners, Rebekah Joy of Flux-Bene, Kelly Simpson-Scupelli of Kelly Lane Designs, and Rona Chang of Otto Finn, combined forces to create this unique space. “Anyone of us on our own would not have been able to do this,” said Joy. The space features the work of all three founding partners, but also visiting
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designers wares. “We opened in August, and we’ve made about 75 changes since then,” Joy said with a laugh. “It’s an experimental model for sure, but it’s working.” She felt like real estate prices be damned, Lawrenceville was where they had to be. “It’s the most design forward neighborhood in Pittsburgh.” City Grow’s Logan has also seen first-hand the power of the Lawrenceville small business community, “We try to work
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A pedestrian crosses Davison street in upper Lawrenceville as downtown Pittsburgh is seen in the distance. (Current photo by Jake Mysliwczyk)
together not only with the other women businesses in Lawrenceville, but all the businesses. We all want everyone to succeed.” The sense of collaboration, and even kinship, is echoed again and again. Graves adds, “The are so many women owned businesses in the Lawrenceville area. It’s truly phenomenal to be a part of such a strong network. I maintain friendships and working relationships with many of the female business owners, and we all work to promote and support one another.” Graves recalls a project they did two years ago; “We coordinated as a group for the Women Owned Business signs that we had made for International Women’s Day. These ladies will actualize on a dime and make things happen.” One of these signs hangs proudly in the storefront of Bahn Mi and Ti, owned by sisters Kellie and Tuyen Truong. Tuyen stresses again how the overwhelming sense of community, the looking out for one another, has positively impacted their almost three years in Lawrenceville. “Rachel (Webber, of Lawrenceville Corporation) is the best.” Tuyen goes on to recount a day last summer when unexpected and unannounced construction work closed off her entire sidewalk. “I tried to talk to them, and they
just said they had to do what they had to do, and they would reopen it at 3 p.m.,” she recalls. “I thought, that’s my entire lunch hour. That’s my busiest time! I called Rachel up, and a half an hour later, my sidewalk was open again.” The genuine caring that people have for each other in Lawrenceville is palpable. It’s easy to make a quick joke about handlebar mustaches or real estate prices, but none of that truly gets to what is the essence of the neighborhood. Logan sums it up like this; “My absolute favorite thing about the neighborhood are the people. I’ve worked in retail most of my adult life and I’ve never met such nice people before. We all know each other’s names, kids’ names, all the dogs, etc. It’s like having a super large extended family.” And sometimes, she means this literally. Another woman-owned business in the neighborhood is Black Cat Market, a cat cafe with adoptable kitties. The owners are working to expand their offerings and increase food and beverage options for customers. They have a big supporter in the owner of City Grows. “Olivia, one of the co-owners, said Logan, “is my daughter.”
Lawrenceville sign after exiting the 40th street bridge (Current photo by Jake Mysliwczyk)
PITTSBURGH CURRENT | MAR. 19, 2019 | 37
What made you choose Lawrenceville for your location? We feel welcome here. To be honest, we looked around. We looked in Wexford in the North Hills, we looked in the South Hills. But we felt very comfortable here in Lawrenceville. We liked that it felt up and coming. We also love that people move here from far away. We meet a lot of people who are from all over the place, LA, San Francisco, probably mainly because of UPMC. We looked at this location and we fell in love. What did you and your sister do before Bahn Mi and Ti? I was in marketing for the hotels and casinos before this, and my sister had a management accounting degree, and she worked for a bank for a little while. But we always cooked together. She said, do you want to open something for us? We had always talked about it. We
should open something small, we should do this, we should do that, so when the time was right, we opened one. At the end of the day, me and my sister love this. We love what we built here. We love to cook. We love our customers. I like to see the familiar faces come in, talk to them about their lives. What do you think you’re best known for? Our sandwiches! Drunken Beef is our most popular. We are also very well known for our Vietnamese coffee, which is Cafe Du Mond chicory with condensed milk. We also use premium ingredients for all of our menu items. It’s important to us that we give our customers the absolute best.
Co owner of Báhn Mì & Tí, Tuyen Truong (Current photo by Jake Mysliwczyk)
NEIGHBORHOOD CONVERSATION: TUYEN TRUONG
BY BETHANY RUHE - PITTSBURGH CURRENT ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER BETHANY@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
uygen and Kellie Troung are co-owners of Lawrenceville’s Bahn Mi and Ti. Affixed to the front window is a sign, proudly declaring them a Women Owned Business, one of the many that you will find in Lawrenceville. For almost three years now they’ve been serving up Vietnamese sandwiches and bubble tea to happy and wellfed customers. We sat down with Tuygen to talk about the restaurant business and why they love their neighborhood so much.
Is this your first time owning a restaurant? This is our very, very first time. We both love cooking. We were always cooking. My parents, my family, have a history in restaurants, but this is our first time. We specialize in traditional Vietnamese sandwiches. We stay mostly traditional, but we do put our own twist on things. But you would still consider it very traditional, especially the marinades.
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Our hands-on summer STEM camps provide week-long science and engineering adventures to excite and inspire. Topics include DNA, ancestry DNA, aquatic robotics, zoology, drones, outer space, and microbiology. For grades 4 through 12, at locations in Pittsburgh and the South Hills. Pre- and post-care available.
Imagine what they’ll discover Summer STEM Camps for Grades 4-12
Photo by: Mike Seamans
FORMER RECORD STORE OWNER OPENING MUAY THAI STUDIO
BY MARGARET WELSH - PITTSBURGH CURRENT MUSIC EDITOR MARGARET@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
even years ago, if you’d told Mike Seamans that today he’d be opening a Muay Thai gym, he probably would have laughed at you. In those days, he was still running Mind Cure records (now Cruel Noise,) in Polish Hill. And you were more likely to find him at the bar than working out. “I was really burning the candle at both ends,” he recalls. “I had no outlet for anything.” Things have changed since then. And on March 31, he and his wife and trainer Marissa Barr-Hartman, along with partner and head trainer David Reese, celebrate the official opening of Sitkiatnin Muay Thai. The gym — located on Murray Ave. in what was once the Heads Together video rental store, where Seamans went as a kid — has actually been up and running since February. Offering traditional Muay Thai classes for kids, teens and
adults, they do have a competition team (Seamans says they shy away from calling it a “fight team,”) but Sitkiatnin (or SKN, for short) aims to offer something for everyone. “If you really just want a great workout, but also [want to] really learn a martial art, and learn something that’s valuable for everything from fitness to selfdefense, there’s a program for you.” If you’ve never tried Muay Thai (which literally translates to Thai boxing,) you probably know someone who has: your cousin, your barista, the guitarist of that punk band you saw the other night. It’s similar to kickboxing, but involves more close physical contact, almost like upright wrestling. In Thailand, it’s a stadium sport, but interest in the U.S. has exploded over the last several years thanks, in part, to the popularity of MMA. But, while the integration
of Muay Thai into MMA may have introduced many Westerners to the basic concept, Seamans says that the appeal of Thai boxing runs deeper. “It has a really interesting history and [culture] and I think it’s something that people feel a broader global connection to.” For Barr-Hartman and Seamans — who now travel to Thailand twice a year to train and to experience the sport in its original context — that broader connection is something that they want to capture with Sitkiatnin. “We wanted to create a space that was really focused on authentic Muay Thai and Thai culture,” BarrHartman says. “To be able to go and see the sport as it’s actually played and the culture surrounding it was really amazing, so we wanted to try to bring some of that back to Pittsburgh.” But they’re also motivated by a
desire to create a welcoming and comfortable space for anyone — especially those who might shy away from typically “macho” spaces. Barr-Hartman says that Muay Thai has changed the way that she moves in the world. “In my personal relationships … I [feel] more comfortable taking up space and asserting myself,” she says. “So I wanted to create a space where people could come and try the sport and see that it’s really fun, and tap into an aggressive part of themselves that they might not interact with every day.” In that spirit, Sitkiatnin offers women-only classes, taught by BarrHartman, and will soon be adding classes for members of the LGBTQAI community as well. “I think about all the other women in my life who are tough and like to use their [bodies], and [how] they would really like this if they would just feel comfortable enough to try it,” she says. “And I think it’s turned out to be true, because we’ve been having these women’s classes that I teach and the turnout for them has been really amazing.” Seamans agrees. “I mean, I’m a well-over-six-foot-tall white guy who’s under 60. Like, [I’m] the person that the world is catered to, and I get intimidated walking into gyms. So knowing that, and wanting to make a space where, if you don’t even check one [demographic] box that I can, let alone multiples, you would feel comfortable walking in the door, and someone’s going to make sure you’re not just standing in the corner feeling uncomfortable, and is going to make sure you feel welcome, that’s paramount to us. “We want to build a community of people who feel welcome and safe and part of something,” he adds. “That’s something I want everyone to have.”
celebrates its grand opening March 31 with a blessing from Thai monks at 10 a.m. followed by a party. 1918 Murray Ave., Squirrel Hill. For more information visit www.facebook.com/pg/ sitkiatninthaiboxing
PITTSBURGH CURRENT | MAR. 19, 2019 | 39
THE CAN’T MISS BY MARGARET WELSH AND MADELINE URY INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
FEATURED EVENTS IN AND AROUND THE PITTSBURGH REGION
Ashton Applewhite became a leading voice on the topic of ageism after her 2017 TED Talk became a sensation. Her book This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism highlights everything that later life and life experience has to offer. Age discrimination is often overlooked, and Applewhite seeks to discuss how unacceptable it is. Join the conversation tonight at Carnegie Lecture Hall. 7 p.m. 4400 Forbes Ave., Oakland. $10. 412-622-8866 or info@ pittsburghlectures.org Working through mediums such as sculpture, painting, drawing, film, photography and performance, Beverly Semmes does it all. She aims to examine the female body and feminism through her Feminist Responsibility Project (FRP). The FRP uses magazine images featuring rough brushstrokes to create colorful art resembling pots. The lecture is presented by Carnegie Mellon University School of Art at Kresge Theatre. 6:30 p.m. 5000 Forbes Ave., Oakland. Free. art.cmu.edu
The Westmoreland Museum of Art presents its third installment in their 2018-2019 Great American Music Series. Pop-country husband and wife duo Willow Hill is performing. The concert includes a cash bar and food available for purchase. If you love the show you can even purchase tickets for all four concerts in the next series for $65, and $50 for museum members. Students receive a discount and children under 18 get in for free. 6:30 p.m. 221 N. Main St.,
Greensburg. $10-$25. thewestmoreland.org or 1-888-718-4253
The next installment of the Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures at Carnegie Lecture Hall features artist Carrie Mae Weems and author Claudia Rankine. Both are a part of the free Poets Aloud series and are the recipients of multiple awards. Weems’ photos, videos and artwork focuses on a wide range of topics, including gender roles, racism, classism, politics and family relationships. Rankine has authored five books and two plays, as well as multiple video collaborations. She also teaches at Yale University and serves as Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. The artists’ presentation is followed by a discussion. Registration is required. 7 p.m. 4400 Forbes Ave., Oakland. Free. pittsburghlectures.org or firstname.lastname@example.org
Who knew a sleepover could be so educational? Tonight, the kids can learn everything they could want to know about the cosmos, becoming an astronaut and more at the Awesome Astronomy Sleepover! The Carnegie Science Center event includes exploring the planetarium and exhibits at night, sleeping among the exhibits, free museum admission the following day and a free breakfast! 6 p.m. 1 Allegheny Ave., North Shore. $39. 412-237-3400 Guitarist Norman Westberg is best known for his work with Swans – he’s been in that band from the beginning, participating in everything from the sonic punishment of 1983’s
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Filth to the heavy ambient abstraction of 2016’s The Glowing Man. When it comes to his solo work – like 2018’s After Vacation – he told webzine Self-Titled, “I like my music to fall into the more meditative world. Let the listener be able to tune out, or engage in the listening experience.” On Friday, March 22, Westberg performs at Cattivo along with DBUK (featuring members of Slim Cessna’s Auto Club) and the Armadillos. It’s Westberg’s first ever solo show in Pittsburgh, so don’t miss it. 8 p.m. 146 44th St., Lawrenceville. $1215. www.cattivopgh.com
songs sung by her African American father, as well as by the culture of her Cherokee/Choctaw mother. All of these elements, plus some teenage years spent in Brooklyn, play a part in Redbone’s eclectic blues-based roots music. Her warm, powerful voice and bold artistry have earned her awards, as well as accolades from the likes of Robert Christgau, who praised her “lucid, subtle force.” Calliope brings the Martha Redbone Roots Project Quartet to the Carnegie Lecture Hall on Saturday, March 23. 7:30 p.m. 4440 Forbes Ave., Oakland. $20-45. www.calliopehouse.org
Haven’t you heard? Vintage is back in style. Head over to the Heinz History Center’s seventh annual Vintage Pittsburgh fair. You can find clothing, accessories, home decor, vinyl records and more. The fair is included with museum admission. 10 a.m. 1212 Smallman St., Downtown. $9-$18. heinzhistorycenter.org Today begins the month long celebration of spring at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. The Spring Flower Show: Gardens of the Rainbow features a wide array of vibrant flowers as they begin to bloom for the warmth of spring (hopefully.) 9:30 a.m. One Schenley Park, Oakland. $11.95-$17.95. 412622-6915. Today kicks off the first of many Emo Brunches at The Smiling Moose. The Emo Band will be hosting the Emo Brunch every fourth Saturday, following their performances every fourth Friday. 2000’s emo and pop punk themed, the drinks and dishes are named after some of the most popular songs of the 2000’s. Go get yourself a “Dirty Little Secret” coffee beverage and some “I Bake Cinnamon’s, Not Tragedies” french toast. 10 a.m. 1306 E Carson St., South Side. See menu for prices. Theemobrunch. com Growing up in the Appalachian mountains of Kentucky, Martha Redbone was fortified by the Gospel
Tonight will be the final performance of the Pittsburgh Savoyards operetta, The Gondoliers. The show is a combination of two popular stories out of Italy, following Don Alhambra del Bolero and the King of Barataria. The musical, taking place at Andrew Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall, is sure to leave audiences with a smile on their faces. 2:30 p.m. 300 Beechwood Ave., Carnegie. $12-$25. pittsburghsavoyards.org Depending on how you personally define a “supergroup,” TV2000 might possibly qualify. Featuring members of a litany of Pittsburgh-based underground rock bands (including Boys, Psychic Boots, CHOIR and Radon Chong), the four-piece just released their debut EP, American Hoverbike. It’s sludgy, noisey rock that hits some of the same pleasure points as ZZ Top and Melvins, but most often sounds very much like the defunct (and sorely missed) Athens, Ga. three-piece Harvey Milk. Head to bandcamp to check out the record, and then go see the band at Howlers on Sunday, March 24. BBGuns, Sorry I’m Dead and Metacara also appear. 9 p.m. 4509 Liberty Ave., Bloomfield. $6. www. howlerspittsburgh.com
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For more information or for insurance inquiries call 412-532-9196
PITTSBURGH CURRENT | MAR. 19, 2019 | 41
NEWS OF THE
Universal Crossword Edited by David Steinberg March 19, 2019
ACROSS 1 Title for some moms 4 “Modelland” author Banks 8 Dallas NBAers 12 Anderson of Jethro Tull 13 Get well 14 Core belief 15 *Illicitly procured college degree? 17 Butt in 18 Holler 19 Chelmsford’s English county 21 Formal promise 22 Mexican liquor 24 Rescue expert, for short 25 Yes, in Paris 26 Before, before 27 *Ancient Peruvian sun god? 31 Say “&*$@!” 33 Societal problems 34 *Copycat’s entreaty before a costume party? 37 Dump, as stock 38 Looked leeringly 39 *Place to relax with Indian tea? 42 Unreturnable serve 3/19
45 Doe or sow pronoun 46 Missions, for short 47 Place to drink on a train 50 What e-cigs don’t produce 51 Grill brand 54 Barista’s foamy creation 55 Had some cud 57 Cosmetic surgeries that, read differently, are performed on the starred answers 59 Found out 60 Hardly cheery 61 ___ worth 62 email@example.com, e.g., slangily 63 Proofer’s “undo” 64 University extension? DOWN 1 Question upon returning 2 Somewhat 3 Not get up just yet 4 Greek letter for an angle 5 Nikkei currency 6 Broccoli ___ 7 “Regrettably ...”
8 ___ student (future dr.) 9 Unveiling cry 10 Plush fabrics 11 “Family Guy” baby 14 It contains plain type 16 Jean-___ Picard (“Star Trek” captain) 17 Office note 20 Black or Baltic 23 Fibs 28 Senate thumbsdown 29 Sing soothingly 30 Skipped town 31 Songs for one 32 Rolled in the mud 34 Car buff, slangily
35 Sheepskin boot brand 36 Commoner 37 Man cave relative 39 Fast Latin dance 40 Side piece? 41 PC port 42 Play opener 43 Tabby’s resting spot 44 1974 Mocedades hit 48 Caffeinated, perhaps 49 “The Big Bang Theory” role 52 Make ___ meet 53 Yam or carrot 56 Like twisted humor 58 Name that sounds like “Sioux”
PREVIOUS PUZZLE ANSWER
© 2019 Andrews McMeel Universal www.upuzzles.com
“A-bridge-ment” by Andrew Zhou
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BY THE EDITORS AT ANDREWS MCMEEL SYNDICATION WEIRDNEWSTIPS@AMUNIVERSAL.COM WHAT’S IN A NAME? Unfortunately named Johna Martinez-Meth, 46, of Clearlake, California, was sentenced on Feb. 21 for involuntary manslaughter stemming from a delivery she made to Adrian Sepulveda, an inmate at California Medical Facility in Vacaville, in May 2018. Sepulveda, who died on May 28, 2018, was serving a life sentence for seconddegree murder when Martinez-Meth visited him; an autopsy showed that shortly after her visit, Sepulveda had swallowed multiple balloons filled with methamphetamine, Fox News reported. A subsequent search of Martinez-Meth’s home uncovered meth and balloons. She pleaded guilty to the charges and will serve two years. THE CONTINUING CRISIS Attorneys in Maryville, Tennessee are debating the merits of a felony case brought against Howard Matthew Webb, 31, after he — proceed with caution here — dipped his testicles in a takeout container of salsa that his companion was delivering along with Mexican food. As the two ferried the food on Jan. 12, Webb took his boys for a swim while he recorded the act, and the driver laughed and said, “This is what you get when you give an 89-cent tip for an almost 30-minute drive.” Webb is heard saying, “Oh, oh, it feels so good.” The video made it to Facebook, and Webb was arrested on Feb. 22 for “adulteration of foods, liquids or pharmaceuticals,” a Class C felony. But three local attorneys told the Knoxville News Sentinel that they don’t think the charge holds up. “It’s doubtful under these facts, no matter how outrageous, that this criminal offense could be proven,” said attorney Gregory P. Isaacs. “It appears salsa man may have committed an act for which the legislature has not yet contemplated
the absurdity of.” BRIGHT IDEAS The long, harsh winter must be getting to folks in Muskego, Wisconsin to wit: Police were called to a home on Feb. 22 after “a big teddy bear” was reported to be at a neighbor’s front door. As it turned out, the human-sized panda — not native to the Badger State — was a 48-year-old man who had been asked to check on the dogs and thought it would be funny to prank his neighbors through their security system. “I knew my neighbors had cameras, and I thought I was going to make the ordinary extraordinary and dress up in the panda suit,” the unnamed man told CBS 58. Apparently he has also picked his daughter up at school and met her at the bus stop in the suit (pandas are her favorite animal.) ANIMAL FARM Neighbors of Michal Prasek, 33, of Zdechov, Czech Republic, were rightly concerned about the animals living on his property. In 2016, Prasek bought a full-grown lion, and two years later added a lioness, for breeding purposes. He built enclosures for them, defying government regulations, and would not allow authorities onto his property to investigate. BBC News reported on March 5 that Prasek’s project had met a tragic end: He was discovered by his father in the lion’s cage, mauled to death. The father said the cage had been locked from the inside. Police who were called to the scene killed the two lions in order to reach Prasek’s body. Presumably grasping for a silver lining, Zdechov Mayor Tomas Kocourek commented: “Today’s incident will perhaps finally help to resolve this long-term problem.” Cold, dude.
Savage Love BY DAN SAVAGE MAIL@SAVAGELOVE.NET
I’m a straight white woman in my early 30s. In theory, I’ve always been into men of all races—but in practice, most of my exes are Latino and white. In September, I met this really handsome Chinese-American guy, and I feel like he rewired me. I’ve been exclusively attracted to Asian guys since. I’m not writing to ask if this is racist, because I’m not asking these guys to, like, speak Korean to me in bed or do any role-playing stuff. We just date and have sex, same as my past relationships. But if any of these dudes saw my Tinder matches, they’d be like, “This woman has a thing for Asian guys.” Which I do, but it’s pretty new. Is this normal? Do people just change preferences like that? Also, can you do a PSA about Asian dicks? In my recent but considerable experience, they run the gamut from average to gigantic. If small Asian dicks were a thing, I would have encountered at least one by now. That shit is a myth. Asian Male/White Female Here’s my general take on racespecific sexual preferences: So long as you can see and treat your sex partners as individuals and not just as objects—we are all also objects— and so long as you can express your preferences without coming across and/or being a racist shitbag, and so long as you’ve interrogated your preferences to make sure they’re actually yours and not a mindless desire for what you’ve been told you’re supposed to want (i.e., the currently prevailing beauty standard or its equally mindless rejection, the “transgressive” fetishization of the “other”), then it’s okay to seek out sex and/or romantic partners of a particular race. I ran my general take on racespecific sexual preferences past Joel Kim Booster—a writer and comedian whose work often touches on race
and desire—and he approved. (Whew.) I also shared your letter with him, AMWF, and Booster had some thoughts for you. “It doesn’t sound like her newfound preference for Asian men has anything to do with the uncomfortable fetishization of culture,” said Booster. “It’s good that she’s not asking them to speak Korean or do any sort of Asian role-playing—something that’s been asked of me before (and it’s a bummer, trust). Her interest in Asian men seems to be mostly an aesthetic thing, which you certainly can’t fault her for: There are a lot of hot Asian dudes out there.” Booster also had some questions for you. “It’s not uncommon for people later in life to discover that they’re attracted to something they’d never considered sexy before—full-grown adults are out here discovering they’re bi every damn day,” said Booster. “But she went 30 years before she saw one Asian man she was attracted to? And now this guy has ‘rewired’ her to be attracted only to Asian men?” He said that he would like to see a picture of this magical guy, AMWF, and I would, too. “If she was chill about it and just started adding Asian men into the mix, this wouldn’t seem like an issue,” added Booster. “But from what I can gather, she has shifted to exclusively fucking Asian guys and feels the need to write a letter about it. That feels like a red flag, and yet I can’t pinpoint why.” Follow Joel on Twitter @ ihatejoelkim, and visit his website ihatejoelkim.com. On the Lovecast: Musical-theater nerds rejoice, it’s Andrew Rannells! Listen at savagelovecast.com. PITTSBURGH CURRENT | MAR. 19, 2019 | 43
Celebrate the closing of the Carnegie International. March 21–25
Third Thursday: Museum Joy
March 21, 8–11 p.m. $10; $15 at door
Friday, March 22, all day Chat with curators and other museum experts about artworks in the International.
Pose with sculptural accessories handmade by an International artist at this fashion-themed party! Evening includes late-night access to the galleries, music by girlFx, and a cash bar. 18+
After Hours Saturday, March 23, 5–7 p.m. Explore the Carnegie International after hours with half-off admission.
cmoa.org/finale Presenting sponsor
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The Drinks Issue