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PROTESTERS RISK THEIR HEALTH AND LIVES AS PAWNS IN SOMEONE ELSE'S GAME VOL. 3 ISSUE 10

April 21, 2020 - April 27, 2020

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STAFF Publisher/Editor: Charlie Deitch Charlie@pittsburghcurrent.com Associate Publisher: Bethany Ruhe Bethany@pittsburghcurrent.com Advisory Board Chairman: Robert Malkin Robert@pittsburghcurrent.com EDITORIAL

Art Director: Larissa Mallon

contents

Vol. III Iss. X APRIL 21, 2020

NEWS 4 | The Hoax is on You 7 | Mocking Behavior 8 | Gradual Opening 9 | Brewed on Grant OPINION 10 | Rachel Carson loved science, why can't we?

Larissa@pittsburghcurrent.com Music Editor: Margaret Welsh Margaret@pittsburghcurrent.com Visuals Editor: Jake Mysliwczyk Jake@pittsburghcurrent.com Social Justice Columnist: Jessica Semler jessica@pittsburghcurrent.com

ART & ENTERTAINMENT 12 | Show Will Go ON 14 | Record Reviews 15 | Can't Miss 17 | SYmphony Food and Drink 21 | Day Drinking EXTRA 18 | Savage Love 19 | The Con Man 20 | Parting Shot

Contributing Writers: Jody DiPerna, Mike Shanley, Dan Savage, Larry Schweiger, Brittany Hailer, Meg Fair, Matt Wallenstein, Emerson Andrews info@pittsburghcurrent.com Logo Design: Mark Addison

COVER:

PHOTO BY JAKE MYSLIWCZYK

ADVERTISING

The Fine Print

Senior Account Executive: Andrea James

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

Andrea@pittsburghcurrent.com

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

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We are an influence-free, Independent alternative print and online news company in Pittsburgh Pa. As we’ve been reporting on the COVID-19 outbreak, we’ve seen firsthand the dramatic effect it’s having on businesses around southwestern Pennsylvania. This is especially true for small businesses like ours. While we remain steadfastly committed to reporting on the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak through the latest information and features, we need your help. Support independent journalism through a sustaining or one-time donation to the Pittsburgh Current. 80% of all donations go toward paying our staff and content creators, 20% will help keep the lights on. And 100 percent of it will ensure this city continues to have an alternative, independent voice. Even before canceling events and staying at home became the new normal, media companies like ours were struggling to keep things going. But we, like others, have found a way because people depend on our product, they like what they do and we feel that appreciation every day. We announced last week that we were temporarily halting our twice-monthly print publication and focusing on our online digital edition because people aren’t going outside, and the businesses where we distribute are all closed. The good news in all of this is that our digital edition will now be coming out weekly instead of bi-monthly. So beginning March 24, you’ll be able to get the Current every Tuesday (to make sure you get it delivered to your inbox, fill out our email signup on our homepage). We are a small team with a big mission and we’re stubborn enough to know that with your help we will get through this. The Current, like many small businesses, is at a crossroads. We plan on doing our part to get you the information you need to make it through this crisis, but we need your support to make sure we’re also able to report on the next one. You can donate by clicking the popup on our homepage or clicking donate below.

Donate to the Pittsburgh Current and the future of Independent Journalism Thank You,

Charlie Deitch

Publisher, Pittsburgh Current charlie@pittsburghcurrent.com

PITTSBURGH CURRENT | APRIL 21, 2020 | 3


NEWS DEAR PR

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NEWS THE 'REOPEN AMERICA' PROTESTS IS ABOUT POWER, NOT FREEDOM AND THE RIGHT'S CONSPIRACY-HUNGRY FOOT SOLDIERS FALL FOR IT ... AGAIN

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have a conspiracy theory. A high-ranking government official has staked his reelection to a second term on the strength of the economy. It’s really the only play he has after screwing up foreign policy, abusing his position for political gain, rolled back every important environmental protection initiated in the past decade and, to top it all off, he was impeached. But on paper, at least, he’s built a strong economy. Well, strong for the wealthiest of his base. But that’s OK, because the largest swath of his base follow him without question. Despite that healthy economy not working out for them, they still have a leader who talks tough, bullies his opponents and plays to their core issues: stopping abortion, stopping immigration while also dabbling, when necessary, in support of racist, sexist, homophobic and transphobic actions when he thinks it’s necessary to appease his base. But then something happens. A once-in-a-lifetime worldwide pandemic is killing people across the globe before finally coming to America and wreaking havoc. People are sick, people begin dying and all of a sudden his reelection is starting to take a backseat to saving lives. The leader can’t let this happen, so he ignores it, or pays it the least amount of attention that he can. He even goes to campaign rally and calls it a hoax. He knows that the most vocal, most loyal of his followers will bite on that bait like a bluegill on a nightcrawler. He tells them that cases of the virus will be down to zero soon, that the heat of April will take care of it and that “We have it very much under control in this country” and “It’s going to disappear. One day — it’s like a miracle — it will disappear.” The virus, though, begins to spread, more people get sick, people start dying. He still refuses to respect the

BY CHARLIE DEITCH - PITTSBURGH CURRENT EDITOR CHARLIE@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM

Protesters took to the streets to demand that Gov. Wolf "Reopen Pennsylvania. (Pittsburgh Current Photos by Jake Mysliwczyk)

killer in front of him because his best interests trump everything else. He begins claiming to be an authority on viruses and he knows what will help, anti-malaria drugs. They don’t. Governors, mayors and other officials begin taking their own precautions. Pennsylvania shuts down schools, cancels large gatherings and issue stay-at-home orders. Oher states due the same and the economy that this leader prided himself on

was tanking fast and growing worse by the hour. The leader calls the battle with the pandemic as a war and every war needs foot soldiers. But these aren’t your classic military soldiers, these folks don’t take any orders that infringe upon their many FREEDOMS!!! So the word comes down, keeping businesses closed and people out of work, ordering you to put on a mask so you don’t get sick is telling

you what to do with their bodies. Their marching orders are simple: demand the reopening of Pennsylvania (and the country) and show state leaders that know the score. The virus is a giant hoax used to take away your liberties. When you go out in public don’t wear a mask, violate social distancing orders and play the “oppressed protester card CONTINUED ON PAGE 6

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NEWS CONTINUED FROM PAGE 5

whenever possible. Just like soldiers going into a war zone, the leader knows he’s going to lose some of his ranks. Many will get COVID-19 and some will die, but the disruptions and literal white noise will move the needle toward reopening the country significantly sooner than we should. But that’s OK, the leader runs this gambit because you need an open America so you can hold rallies and whip your base up into a frenzy before November. Much to the leader’s liking, his group, like sheep fall into place and they show up en masse. It doesn’t even matter that most of them don’t even know what they are fighting

for. Or that they’ve come to a rally organized by out-of-state protesters. A lot of signs just lament freedom lost, or support for right-wing causes like the right to strap on semiautomatic weapons, go downtown to support their right to bear arms. They scream and yell, they sneeze and cough, they spit when they talk. They believe their leader when he says it’s a hoax. The rest of us, those who don’t want to die from catching COVID19, are sheep the right-winger says for believing the lies spun by the media and liberals in power. But the leader knows the truth. He’s the one controlling the sheep. They’ll buy into any interesting story as long as it explains why their lives

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aren't going well or why they can’t get ahead in this country. They’re in the same situation as the rest of us, but they are controlled tightly by a promise of a return to greatness, even if they weren’t even there in the first place. They are the sheep, easily led around by the neck, giving up their wool whenever their leader needs to insulate himself from the problems he’s created. The “protest” that took place on Monday in Pittsburgh wasn’t a protest, it was an organized pageant with funny costumes starring unwitting crisis actors.” That they didn’t realize they were starring in this feature is of no consequence. If they

thought about it long enough with common sense, they’d realize the pandemic and its dangers are very real. The only hoax currently going on is the one they are unknowingly helping to perpetuate. The plan wasn’t hard to pull off. The leader knew his followers, as they’ve done many times before, would go along because they feel better thinking something bigger is making their lives miserable and not the leadership of the man they blindly follow. They have been played by an oranger, dumber Keyser Sose. Yes there is a hoax being perpetrated, but it’s not the virus. The people who refuse to wear masks or practice social distancing are the ones who’ve been fooled.


NEWS BRADDOCK RESTAURANT OWNER MOCKS PA. HEALTH SECRETARY ON SOCIAL MEDIA, BACKLASH ENSUES BY CHARLIE DEITCH -PITTSBURGH CURRENT EDITOR CHARLIE@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM

Originally unrepentant, a Braddock restaurant owner has removed Facebook posts that mock and some say bullied the Pa. Department of Health Secretary, Dr. Rachel Levine, who is a trans woman. Robert Portogallo, owner of Portogallo’s Peppers N’at in Braddock, posted several photos and videos last week of him wearing a wig and pretending to be Levine. He was lauded for the act by friends who also made transphobic content. However, a lot of others were disgusted by the display and took to social media to take on Portogallo’s rhetoric, as the Current first reported Sunday night. “I will never return to Portogallo’s because of some recent bigoted posts made by Robert Portogallo on his personal page,” wrote vocalist and artist Phat Man Dee (also known as Mandy Kivowitz) “As a musician, I know how important it is to accept and celebrate people for who they are, and not insist they change to fit my limited understanding of the world. I am sorry the owner doesn’t feel the same way. I will absolutely not be returning until he makes a public apology to Dr. Levine and the trans community.” Even more people spoke out against the comments once the Current’s story ran. “We’re not going to deal with Pittsburgh Jagoffs like Robert Portogallo! We are not going to support his business, we also would appreciate if our allies do not support this disgusting human or Portogallo Peppers N'AT who thinks it’s funny to be transphobic, a time our trans communities are suffering the most!!” wrote Ciora Thomas, President of the Lgbtqia+ Advisory Council of Pittsburgh. “Dr. Levine

Robert Portogallo from hi Faebook posts

is literally saving our lives and it makes me so proud to be an out transwoman in Pittsburgh also attempting to do things to help change lives! She is the example of the kind of leaders we should be following, trusting and more importantly protecting!” Portogallo, the owner of Portogallo’s Peppers N’at, has a number of posts in which he dresses in a blonde wig and pretends to be Dr. Rachel Levine. One includes sideby-side photos of Portogallo and Dr. Levine. Over one of the posts, Portogallo marks his status as “feeling amused.” Others are videos of Portagallo wearing the wig and dancing around his store. The posts were made Friday on Portogallo’s personal Facebook Page which is public. As of Sunday night, the posts were still up, but by the next morning, the posts were taken down and he issued this statement: “I have removed all of the Dr. Levine posts on my Facebook page and personal page. My intent was not to upset anyone but to get a laugh out of the situation. If

people found my humor to be in poor-tasted I apologize to those individuals I am sorry if I offended anyone with these posts.” However, a lot of people found the apology to be hollow. “In other words, he's frantically trying to save his business from a self-inflicted wound caused by his bigotry and stupidity,” wrote Nancy Ott on Facebook. "I am sorry IF..." isn't an apology,” wrote Cindy Duch. It’s hard for many to take Portogallo’s apology sincerely. Because he was called out several times while he was posting and he continually stated that he didn’t care about the complaints or what other people thought. “I am going to be myself and stay true to myself. That’s my sense of humor, not trying to hurt anybody but if they don’t like it, they don’t have the choice to stay away from my place and that’s fine,” Portogallo wrote to a commenter who suggested at the very least, such posts weren’t good for business.” To another, he writes: I’ll be fine

and I don’t care. I’m not politically correct and not ashamed to be so.” Braddock resident and educator Janet Wilson Carter wrote: “Poor form…poor taste. And this is not the first time this person has made highly offensive and even, racially charged comments. I, for one, will never spend a dime in this ‘establishment’ and I certainly wouldn’t recommend any of my friends, acquaintances, or family members spend their money there, either. Braddock is a lovely town, but all it takes is one rotten apple to halt positive movement.” The Current also reached out to Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, who not only works directly with Dr. Levine, but is the former mayor of Braddock. “I have the daily honor and privilege of serving with Dr. Levine. We are lucky to have her in our service. Her actions have undoubtedly saved many lives in PA.,” Fetterman wrote. “Mocking a person’s self-identity is deeply harmful and should have no place in a civil society.” Jerry Dickinson, a candidate for the 18th Congressional District, released the following statement: “Robert Portogallo’s online bullying of Dr. Rachel Levine is disgraceful. This behavior is unacceptable and must not be tolerated. It’s really important that we be careful in the language we use, lest it leads to profiling of individuals associated with the crisis. This is just something we need all to avoid. As a community, we must denounce transphobia and always strive to be stronger than hate.” T WA S M E A N T T O S I G N A L H O P E , I T WA S

PITTSBURGH CURRENT | APRIL 21, 2020 | 7


NEWS WOLF WANTSGRADUAL REOPENING

THE CURRENT PLAN CALLS FOR THE STATE TO BEGIN REOPENING ON MAY 8, SOME LIQUOR STORES BEGAN CURBSIDE PICKUP MONDAY BY STEPHEN CARUSO & HANNAH MCDONALD - FOR THE PITTSBURGH CURRENT

A

INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM

fter six weeks of business closings and social distancing efforts, Gov. Tom Wolf announced plans Monday to gradually reopen the state starting on May 8. Speaking to journalists Monday during an online news conference, Wolf said his administration will use an “evidence-based,” region by region to approach the reopening. The announcement came as thousands of people, protesting the administration’s monthold shutdown order and the economic hardship that it’s caused, protested at the Capitol. Wolf clarified that during the reopening process, “strict” social distancing guidelines will remain in place. “We cannot relax,” Wolf said. “We still do not have a vaccine.” Through midday Monday, the state had confirmed 33,232 cases of COVID-19 in all 67 counties, with 1,204 known fatalities. While protesters occupied the Capitol steps in Harrisburg Monday morning, Wolf sympathized with the sacrifices Pennsylvanians have made to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. “It hasn’t been easy, but it has paid off,” Wolf said, adding that the state’s COVID-19 cases have “stabilized.” Wolf encouraged protesters to “stay safe,” asking them to adhere to social distancing efforts while exercising their right to peacefully assemble. “We also need to have hope,” Wolf said. “We can get through this, we will get through this.” Wolf also announced the following easement of restrictions

Vehicle Sales May Be Conducted Online

The governor will sign Senate Bill 841 later today that approves qualified Pennsylvania notaries public to perform remote online notarizations, which will allow auto dealerships to conducted limited car sales and leasing operations through online sales, as a notary is required to complete the transaction.

Auto dealerships may continue to remain open for certain activities, such as repairs to passenger and commercial vehicles and sales of auto parts, but in-person car sales or leases are still considered non-life sustaining and remain prohibited at this time.

Construction With Strict Guidelines Resumes May 8

Public and private residential and non-residential construction may resume statewide starting Friday, May 8, in accordance with safety guidance that will be issued by the administration shortly. Construction projects already deemed life-sustaining may continue while adhering to social distancing, personnel limits and other guidance as announced by the administration.

Curbside Liquor Pickup Select Pennsylvania liquor stores started offering curbside pickup on Monday. After being closed for four weeks, 106 Fine Wine & Good Spirits Premium Collection stores and 70 standard stores out of the more than 600 state-owned liquor and wine stores will be open in this limited capacity across Pennsylvania. In order to shop, customers must: Call between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. to place an order. Purchase no more than six bottles. Pay by credit card over the phone. “Initially, each store will accept the first 50 to 100 orders placed each day,” Elizabeth Brassell, a spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, said. “We believe offering curbside pickup service in a controlled, limited manner will allow us to maintain public health best practices while growing our ability to serve customers who want access to wines and spirits,” the board’s chairman, Tim Holden, said in a statement. The regulatory agency added that

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“all sales and service of on-premises consumption” at Pennsylvania’s 600 state-owned stores “is prohibited until further notice.” The limited reopening comes a month after Gov. Tom Wolf ordered thousands of non-essential businesses, including the state stores, shuttered. The state offered wine and liquor sales online to consumers. Pennsylvanians could continue to purchase alcohol at grocery stores and beer distributors, as well as independent breweries and micro-distillers who remained open during the shutdown. As curbside service at the state stores begins, “We’ll closely monitor to see if this can be more widespread, not just in stores, but in the supply chain,” Wolf said Monday.

For retail licensees and suppliers, the PLCB is reopening “its “Special Order program, which offers items not stocked by the PLCB, in a limited capacity,” the board said. On April 22, wine expanded permit holders will be able to order special orders without limitations, said the board, and pick up from designated PLCB locations beginning Friday, April 24. A complete list of stores with curbside service, their address and telephone number can be found on the PLCB website. Stephen Caruso and Hannah McDonald report for the Pennsylvania Capital-Star where this story first appeared.


NEWS

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OPINION RACHEL CARSON LISTENED TO SCIENCE, WHY CAN'T WE? BY LARRY J. SCHWEIGER - PITTSBURGH CURRENT COLUMNIST INFO@PITTSBURGH CURRENT.COM

On this the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, Rachel Carson stands out among all the many incredible environmental leaders. When she wrote Silent Spring about DDT's impact on birdlife, Rachel had no idea how big the wave of activism she would stir because she died from breast cancer six years before the first Earth Day. Silent Spring created an upwelling of needed alarm about persistent pesticides that were bio-accumulating in fat tissues. Through the evidence of science, Rachel triggered the first Earth Day, particularly among young women of the baby-boom generation. This Earth Day milestone provides an opportunity to reflect on the relevance of her scientific findings and the overriding environmental and health challenges of our own time. Most remember Rachel Carson for her famous book Silent Spring; however, our collective memory of Rachel's contribution, including her early warnings about the now fast approaching climate crisis. Forever listening to scientists who were watching the movements of fish and wildlife, Rachel discovered that much of nature was shifting from their historic ranges all over the world and moving quite strikingly and consistently toward the poles. In her second and hugely successful book published in 1951 entitled The Sea Around Us, Rachel wrote a chapter entitled "The Global Thermostat," detailing the changes seen in nature, concluding with, "now in our own lifetime we are witnessing a startling alteration of climate‌" Because Rachel was listening to scientists, she was able to record fish and bird migratory changes,

Rachel Carson and Bob Hines conducting research off the Atlantic coast in 1952

melting glaciers, and rightfully associated them with a warming climate. Rachel amplified her observations when she wrote her third book, The Edge of the Sea, published in 1955. She wrote, "This new distribution is, of course, related to the widespread change of climate that seems to have set in about the beginning of the century and is well recognized." By tracking nature's many

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responses to climate forcing changes, Rachel unknowingly pegged the beginning of the global warming pattern to the rise of carbon-based industries of the late 19th and early 20th century. She also accurately described its progression from poles to the equator. Rachel's efforts to get the government to regulate the use of DDT made her an immediate target of those whose profits

would be at risk if DDT production was restricted. The parallels between the attacks against Rachel and those launched against Dr. Anthony Fauci are revealing. While the urgency for an Earth Day rally is more significant than ever, we face a deadly pandemic that has shut down all in-person Earth Day events. Out of an abundance of caution, Earth Day event planners have wisely decided to follow the


NEWS CDC's guidance and urged all who trust science to stay home. In response to sound science, there will be no Earth Day rallies, but there will be rallies of another kind. Wealthy ideologues have long ago rejected science or ethics from their libertarian arguments. They apparently value a vibrant economy over the lives of others. Trump-aligned funders are paying to AstroTurf and promote anti-government rebels, gun advocates, white nationalists and the ill-informed to rally at state capitols. They gather in crowds challenging the best science recommendation for safe distancing, face masks, and stay-at-home orders. Some of the leaders have misapplied the theory of herd immunity by encouraging protestors to ignore the science. How will that work two weeks from now? Many protesters claim to be pro-life Christians seeking freedom to go to church. The supposed pro-life party is making a bargain with the Devil by recklessly opening the economy even if the elderly and vulnerable may die. How can anyone take actions that will force a societal retreat in the middle of a pandemic and possibly kill tens of thousands of lives for the sake of prematurely reopening the economy? There is a legitimate question about when should we reopen? Foodbank lines are miles long in many cities. People are desperate and asking if Walmart, Target, Lowes, and Home Depot can be open with safety protocols, why can't small businesses and restaurants? They have a point. The argument goes, "those at high risk, or decide it is too dangerous to go to work should just stay home, that is their choice." A cautiously managed reopening our economy is desirable. Still, it must be better timing based on sound medical science. We must build response capac-

Despite the best science and advice, some still choose to ignore it, like these protesters Downtown Monday. (Current Photo by Jake Mysliwczyk)

ity and the supplies to do more extensive viral and antibody testing, develop better isolation measures, and rapid case-tracking before we reopen. Most importantly, we desperately need stable leadership from the top. While the US leads the world with over 756,000 cases, Trump is not focused on advancing PPE and more aggressive testing to save lives and protect health-care and other essential workers, but on his re-election prospects. He seeks to recover the stock market and restore jobs. In an appalling retweet, Trump fueled discontent by promoting “Fire Fauci.� Trump ignores the fact that Dr. Anthony Fauci is a trusted health scientist who has served six Presidents on domestic and global health issues. Jennifer Shukaitis, an Outpatient Specialist at Lehigh Valley Hospital, sums it up, "I am sickened by the leadership of this country during a so-called wartime crisis... Over 41,000 American souls have been lost to a highly contagious respira-

tory viral infection less than two months, with no known way to stop or treat it. Instead of moving forward with dignity and purpose to prevent further mass catastrophe, there continues to be one ploy after another to waste time, blaming others, lying about vital information, and putting so many more lives at risk." Instead of ramping up testing and developing a sound national strategy for better resourcing hospitals, states, and local governments, through his dangerous tweets, Trump is now inciting his base (funded by ideologically extreme billionaires) to pressure premature openings with inadequate planning and inadequate testing resources. Why are protestors in Michigan carrying assault rifles and wearing military-style camouflage during their protests? It turns out that protest groups campaigning in key electoral swing states to reopen their states' economies have domain names created on the same day by the same entity. All are using

the same descriptions, and all sites are owned by gun rights groups and funded by several far-right funders, including Koch, and the DeVos family. This targeted campaign was funded and organized to build support for Trump in key states and as a stratagem to reopen the country so Trump can claim that the people demanded it. In Harrisburg, a rally drawing unprotected protestors from all corners of the state gathered at the State Capitol. This manufactured rally is aimed at pressuring Governor Wolf, who has been following the best scientific advice, to sign a terrible Republican bill to force the reopening of the economy. This demand ignores the continued increases in cases and deaths in Pennsylvania. If the Governor falls for this targeted Astroturfing, Trump will again accept no responsibility and instead will blame Wolf, Cuomo, and the other Democratic governors when a second spike occurs, and many get sick and die. Shukaitis sums her dep concerns, "I praise our brave and steadfast Governors who have risen above the ignorance of a man who seems to want to send them to war without the proper battle gear, and then "bail" them out and try and blame them for failing at what can only be deemed as his own ineptitude or outright sabotage‌ We have no idea who is infected. It is not just the elderly who become gravely ill from this virus. Hospital systems cannot be overwhelmed. Until we develop a comprehensive testing program to protect all Americans and find an effective treatment regimen that passes the clinical trials, we need to stay the course that is working, continuing to be strong and protect one another. I am staying home to protect my parents, my grandmother, my friends, and my neighbors. Who do you care about?"

PITTSBURGH CURRENT | APRIL 21, 2020 | 11


ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

THE SHOW W

CULTURAL TRUST REMAINS OPTI

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he ghost light is one of the many superstitions of theater. Consisting of a single bulb that shines in the dark, it’s left on at the end of the night when patrons go home and staff close up shop. Yes, it’s to make sure that people don’t fall off the stage when returning for the next day’s work, but it’s also believed to keep theater-inhabiting ghosts happy and content. Given the many theater closures due to the pandemic, the ghost lights are hard at work. But not to worry, so is the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, reworking its programming for its non-spectral patrons. Being in the business of mass gatherings, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust suspended all events through June 14 in response to the COVID-19 virus. However, like other arts organizations in town, the Trust has begun to shift to more online offerings. “We're attempting to ramp up our digital footprint, on social media, through blogs, and different educational classroom arts teaching that our teaching artists are doing. We're getting good feedback, but, you know, we are mostly in the forefront of bringing people together for shared experiences,” says J. Kevin McMahon, Pittsburgh Cultural Trust president & CEO. These include expanding its education programming with an online program called Creative Connections, and turning the Three Rivers Arts Festival into a digital fair. Designed for multiple age levels, Creative Connections utilizes the Trust’s 50 rostered teaching artists to create 10-minute long, interactive videos for parents to use at home. Creative Curriculums, an arts integrated extension of Pennsylvania education standards, are designed for teachers and are in PDF format for those struggling with video barriers. “We're taking that same essence to our programming and putting it on to the digital platform and encouraging

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BY AMANDA REED - PITTSBURGH C INFO@PITTSBURG


ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

WILL GO ON

IMISTIC DURING INTERMISSION

CURRENT CONTRIBUTING WRITER GHCURRENT.COM

parents to do that as well, that these are a way to freshen up what’s happening at home,” says Seth Laidlaw, senior program manager for the Trust’s Arts Education Department. With the outdoor fest cancelled, The Three Rivers Arts Festival is in the early stages of transitioning its programming to digital, allowing the artists and performers — who often rely on the June festival to earn income — to showcase their work. Sarah Aziz, director of Three Rivers Arts Festival, is already seeing some silver linings for the future. “I'm hoping that this will sort of train our audience and give us some opportunities to not just have the program and the schedule online but actually have programming online that will hopefully, compliment in the future real life programming,” she says. The Trust has begun to announce its programming for next year, despite projections that the United States will need to practice social distancing into 2022. According to McMahon, although he doesn’t have a crystal ball to see into the future, he knows that people will want to come together when it’s safe — although it may look different when it happens. On April 20, the Pittsburgh CLO canceled its Summer 2020 season but announced its 2021 summer season, its 25th. Among the shows scheduled are Jersey Boys, Kinky Boots, A Chorus Line, The Drowsy Chaperone, Sister Act and Godspell. “Our most important objectives is to not only make sure that currently we do all the right things to keep safe and to to follow all the governmental guidelines and prescriptions, but also to make sure that we are ready and thinking about the future and be ready to reopen when we're given that green light,” he says. But, the green light won’t mean all of the Trust’s worries will be solved, he says. “We're gonna we're gonna have to

take a look at some things that were sort of almost unthinkable in the past. Just in terms of, ‘how do we reopen once we reopen? What's the community, public reaction going to be? How are people going to respond?’ We don't have that fully formulated yet, but we are thinking about it,” McMahon says. According to McMahon, the Trust has been a “carefully managed business” since its inception in 1984, and wants the organization to come out as strong as possible when able. Future social distancing guidelines, however, will affect how much ticket revenue the Trust brings in, which adjusts its business model. “It’s going to be challenging to figure out how to do a major Broadway performance at the Benedum Center if we don't have 3000 people in the house, I mean, having every other row filled with someone or every sixth seat empty. Having 500 people in the

auditorium, certainly we can do that. But the economics that is going to be very difficult to do,” he says. Additionally, the Trust needs to raise $10 to $12 million each year through philanthropic means, which is difficult when companies and people may not have extra to give. With its lean business management, according to McMahon, it’s been “so far, so good.” “We have, relatively speaking, a strong financial balance sheet and we've been watching our dollars very, very carefully,” he says. So far, the Trust has only laid off events-related personnel and provided assistance when those employees applied for unemployment. The Trust’s full-time staff is currently working from home. It’s uncertain whether more layoffs or any pay cuts will occur. According to McMahon, the Trust is accessing financial scenario planning until December, which is the

end of the Trust’s fiscal year. “Nevertheless, there's been a lot of shuffling and we're trying to do our best for both our employees and maintaining our facilities,” he said. “We're looking at all different options and scenarios and talking with our colleagues to try to figure out what's the best way to balance all of those needs that we have.” Despite the setbacks caused by COVID-19, things are looking up for the next season, according to McMahon. He says both ticket sales and fundraising remain strong — some areas even surpassing where they were last year — despite the pandemic and uncertainty it brings. “People in some cases are actually, you know, making their confirmations right there on the phone with us, using their credit card and saying, ‘look, we're all going through a lot, but I want to show my support for what you're doing. I want you to be there and to be strong for the reopening,’” he says. McMahon believes that there should be an entertainment industry bailout, since organizations are completely shut down and have always been fragile. “We are a very important economic generator for our communities. I don't mean to minimize the difficulties of maintaining basic necessities of life. But in my book, I think arts and culture and entertainment provide for people a sense of why life is worth living. And we do provide people with hope and inspiration and joy, and we all know that these are very important as well,” he says. According to McMahon, the ghost light is on, but the stage lights at Cultural Trust venues will return. “We know that in the long run — whatever ‘long run’ means and how we define it — that we're going to come out of this at the other end of the tunnel. And it's going to be a bright future,” he says.

PITTSBURGH CURRENT | APRIL 21, 2020 | 13


ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT PITTSBURGH CURRENT ALBUM REVIEWS NEW MUSIC FROM STARS OF DISASTER, BENEFITS AND LAIKA, THE ASTRI-HOUND BY MARGARET WELSH AND MIKE SHANLEY - PITTSBURGH CURRENT MUSIC EDITOR MARGARET@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM

Molasses Barge A Grayer Dawn [Argonauta Records] Molassesbarge.bandcamp.com Molasses Barge is a band I've always considered reliable, knowing that a live performance will rattle my internal organs and draw my head into a slow rhythmic nod. Any recording, I expect, will sound rich, heavy and competent. And A Grayer Dawn does not disappoint, kicking off with a low, swampy groove. As a vocalist, Brian “Butch” Balich should be considered a local treasure, with a potential for bombast that is tempered by a rough edge which matches Justin Gizzi and Barry Mull’s tastefully grimy guitar tones. The aesthetic brings to mind a stonier version of the downtuned drama of 1980s doom (Candlemass and St. Vitus are some very obvious comparisons), and the production of A Grayer Dawn reminds me a bit of those early records as well: Sharp drum beats pop out from under grainy haze, and even as each component clicks into place, a loneliness pervades. In its moodier moments, Molasses Barge dips into shoegaze-y sludge akin to slightly more modern acts like SubRosa, or “stoned-gaze” originators True Widow. “Holding Patterns,” on which Dave Wheeler of Outsideinside shares the mic and plays lead guitar, is the most emotionally affecting example of this, blending melancholy atmospheric gloom with grungy hard-rock vocals.

Molasses Barge has done it’s part expanding on Pittsburgh’s doom-metal history -- Balich, for one, also sang in the influential and beloved ’80s doom band Penance. But the formation of Molasses Barge in 2008 (initially as a casual side-project for the members) also anticipated a wave of ’70s stoner rock and vintage heavy-metal in the local scene. A Grayer Dawn, which follows 2017’s self-titled release, continues along that righteous path. Not every track pops -- though maybe there are sleepers waiting to emerge with

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continued listening -- but the band wisely doesn’t over-indulge in unwieldy jams. If you’re not totally feeling the current moment, there’s a shift right around the corner. Joy Ike All the Time in the World [Self-released] www.joyike.com If you’re in search of some soul-soothing, lend your ear to Joy Ike. More than a decade into her musical career, this singer-songwriter -- who is from

Pittsburgh and now lives in Philadelphia -- has sharpened her craft into something that has the potential to cut right through your chest, sometimes tugging at your heart, sometimes caressing it. Her new quarantine-inspired single, “All the Time in the World,” puts a positive spin on being stuck in one place. “I’ve got all the time in the world to talk to you,” she sings over big, bright piano chords and an optimistic drum beat. “I can’t do my life in the same way, gonna talk to you … Even though it feels like we’re in hiding, gonna talk to you.” Ike has a knack for dealing honestly with pain, acknowledging struggle while


ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT On,” assuring that “It's not what you want, but your hope is coming/ come on girl, hold on.” It’s highly polished, radio-ready pop which in some ways follows in the footsteps of adult contemporary super-hitmakers like Des’ree or Natasha Bedingfield, but also brings to mind current indie pop artists like Bedouine. VARIOUS ARTISTS "A Lonely Impulse of Delight: Music from Quarantine " [Self-released] alonelyimpulseofdelight. bandcamp.com For many, this stretch of isolation has been a time to indulge -- or maybe force -their creativity. Hence the new compilation, A Lonely Impulse of Delight: Music From Quarantine. “Socially distanced from our bands,” writes project producer Anthony Schiappa on the bandcamp page, “we’re having to figure out new ways of expression.” He adds that he’s been using this time to work

encouraging some kind of forward movement. “All the Time in the World” gently invites us to accept the slow-down and use it to maintain connection with the people we love. If you want more, check out 2018’s Bigger Than Your Box. The record shows Ike’s range as a vocalist, as well as her sturdy pop-songwriting chops, and she makes both look (or sound) effortless. The brief, anthemic “You Betta,” gets endorphins pumping with a stomping chorus and gospel-choir vocals, then goes right into the sleek, melancholy resolve of “Last Time,” then offers some baldfaced inspiration with “Hold

on neglected material, and has found that his fellow musicians are doing the same. This lovely little collection of home-recording experimentation is an inspiring example of what can be accomplished while staying home. Offered here is a little of the bizarre (Kevin Vespaziani’s “The Star Spangled Banner/ Evidently Chickentown” is half haunted merry-go-round, half robot GibbyHaynes); futuristic dance pop (Leah Simon’s “Lemon” is an eerie, disjointed disco delight); warm lo-fi alt-rock with lyrical sting (Mike Ferraro & the Young Republican’s “Evil Days” and Anthony Schiappa’s “Cataract”), evocative instrumentals (The Creedmoors, “Spin Out on a Lonely Star” and myopic, “Borisov (Gone Forever)), and playful, punky indie-rock (The Dumplings, “Shock Treatment”). The comp is free, though naturally listeners are invited to contribute to individual artists. Give it a listen, but beware: you may be inspired to spend your stimulus check on a new guitar.

THE CAN'T MISS BY EMERSON ANDREWS PITTSBURGH CURRENT CONTRIBUTING WRITER INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT. COM

APRIL 21 Pittsburgh CLO invites one and all to contribute to the very first Google Doc Musical. Writers, composers and lyricists of any or no experience level can come together in the attempt to write a one-act, five-actor musical via a shared document. Those interested can submit and vote on the story parameters before getting to work on the book and music. 9 a.m. Free. pittsburghclo.org/spark/google-doc-musical Girl Scouts Western Pennsylvania Girl Program Specialist Tia Vaught hosts a live Virtual Patch Program on Emergency Preparedness. Parents can find a list of materials their kids will need to complete the program, which is free for all whether or not they’re a girl scout. Patches can be mailed to participants’ homes for a $1.25 fee after completing the order form. 1 p.m. Free. gswpa.org/patchprograms

APRIL 22 Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium hosts a Virtual Wild Earth Day to celebrate the holiday’s 50th anniversary. Participants can watch educational videos, download activities and more while they stay safe at home. 10 a.m. Free. pittsburghzoo.org/ event-wild-earth-day PITTSBURGH CURRENT | APRIL 21, 2020 | 15


ART & ENTERTAINMENT Row House Cinema hosts a virtual screening of the documentary Earth, an NYTimes Critics Pick. 50% of the proceeds from ticket sales will support Row House Cinema during their temporary closure. 8 a.m. $12. vimeo.com/ondemand/ earthrowhousecinema Elyse Zorn Karlin, curator of Maker & Muse: Women and Early Twentieth Century Art Jewelry, records her lecture on the history of art jewelry for The Frick Pittsburgh. The lecture is free, though pre-registration is required to receive the link. 7 p.m. Free. tickets.thefrickpittsburgh.org

APRIL 23 Pittsburgh Public Theater continues their Virtual Playtime series on Apr. 23 and Apr. 24. One work, either from the classics or by Pittsburgh playwrights, is divided into two parts to be read live over the two days. The event is free, though donations are encouraged to help support the program and performers. 7 p.m. Free. ppt.org/playtime Celebrate National Poetry Month with White Whale Bookstore and Pretty Owl Poetry. The virtual reading features Lucia Lotempio, Charlie Lefever, Kara Knickerbocker, Malcolm Friend, and other local poets, and those interested in listening in must pre-register to receive the Zoom link. Tickets are free or pay-what-you-can. 7 p.m. Free. whitewhalebookstore.com/ events

APRIL 24 Trivia fans can form household teams to compete for prizes with Virtual Trivia Friday hosted by Pittsburgh Gaelic Athletic Association. A portion of

ticket sales will be awarded to 1st, 2nd and 3rd place teams at the end of the broadcast. Tickets can be purchased through Venmo or PayPal. 8 p.m. $20 per team. facebook.com/ events/170994540713893

APRIL 25 Steel City Shakespeare Center streams their performance of As You Like It as part of the Week of Will to celebrate the Bard’s 456th birthday. The performance is free to view, though donations are being accepted to support the West View Hub food pantry. This event is part of a week-long celebration including a Happy Hour, trivia night and more from Apr. 20 through Apr. 26. 7 p.m. Free. facebook.com/ events/244652233381978 or pittsburghshakespeare.com

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Pittsburgh Playhouse Living Room Cabaret unites Point Park University students and professionals in a weekly virtual event sharing performances from their living rooms, directed by Playhouse Artistic Director, Steven Breese. 7 p.m. Free. facebook. com/pittsburgh.playhouse

APRIL 26 Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra offers pre-recorded programming for kids ages 3 to 8 with their Make Time for Music with Fiddlesticks! series. Middle and High School instrumental students can receive their own instruction with the pre-recorded Practice! Practice! Practice! series, which shares tips and techniques from the PSO. The programs are free and available

as long as the PSO’s Extraordinary Measures programming lasts, though donations to support the arts are appreciated. Available all day. Free. pittsburghsymphony.org/pso_home/ web/extraordinary-measures/ educational-offerings

APRIL 27 Allegheny County Conservation District hosts a free webinar on Streams, Stormwater and Flooding. Registration is required to receive the webinar link. 3 p.m. Free. facebook.com/ events/555886872013238 VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System hosts a weekly Mindful Monday. The ten-minute sessions promote connection and balance. The sessions are free with the access code 685412322. 9 a.m. Free. 1-844-376-0278


FOOD & DRINK PSO STILL ACTIVE DURING COVID-19 PANDEMIC BY AMANDA REED - PITTSBURGH CURRENT MUSIC EDITOR MARGARET@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM

D

espite canceling all of its concerts through May 21, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra is still making music. “We have 80- to 90-some musicians at home and they want to be able to participate and still do something to help the organization and stay in touch with our fans and our friends,” says Melia Tourangeau, president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. “Extraordinary Measures,” which began streaming online the week of March 23, brings together new music, music from the season and music for educating at home presented throughout the orchestra’s digital spaces, including its social media channels and website. “I think this is really just going to be the launching pad for a lot more activity that our organization hasn't had the ability to do,” she says. The initiative was created as a way for the orchestra to continue providing to the community online during the COVID-19 public health crisis. “Over the coming days, we want to stay connected with you in the way that we know best: by making music,” PSO Music Director Manfred Honeck said in a video. Along with Friday night concerts of past PSO performances, the "Extraordinary Measures" initiative includes regular “Bright Spot” videos that feature a musical selection from a PSO musician and digital versions of the orchestra’s ongoing educational support initiatives. These include “Make Time for Music with Fiddlesticks,” videos and music education activities for children ages 3 to 8 and their families, and “Practice! Practice! Practice!” tips and techniques from PSO musicians for middle and high school instrumental students. “At least two thirds of the orchestra has either their own private studio or is adjunct faculty at the uni-

versities. Teaching is a very much a part of their DNA,” Tourangeau says. “It's been a great way to help inspire kids and adults alike.” According to Tourangeau, PSO’s digital programming has given audiences an opportunity to get to know the musicians onstage in a way they haven’t been able to before. “As well as being amazing artists, they're amazing people, and it's great to be able to share that,” she says. Micah Wilkinson, principal trumpet with the PSO, has found new ways to perform during COVID-19. He’s performed evening concerts at 5 p.m. for the neighborhood and recorded a “Bright Spots” segment as part of the “Extraordinary Measures” initiative. Recording and producing online content is a first for Wilkinson, who recorded his segment using his phone, with help from his wife. “Any material that I've been a part of has always been produced by other people. Any recording that I've been a part of has sound engineers who have their own microphones and they have all their gear. The same thing with video. I've never done anything like this on my own,” he says. Although the online offerings bring the symphony experience home, nothing beats the power of live performance, according to Wilkinson. “That five o'clock concert, like, that's my saving grace. I've gotten emails and text messages, I even got a letter in the mail, from houses that I can't even see from my porch. But they can hear my trumpet,” he says. “And they've heard through the grapevine that it's me playing and they have reached out to say how it's lifted their spirits. And that just goes to show that's what live performance does.”

Pittsburgh Symphony Cellist Karissa Shivone and her husband, bass-baritone, Thomas Shivone perform "O Solo Mio" during the PSO's "Bright Spot" series (video screenshot)

PITTSBURGH CURRENT | APRIL 21, 2020 | 17


EXTRA

Savage Love Love | sex | relationships BY DAN SAVAGE MAIL@SAVAGELOVE.NET

I was raised in a religious home and didn’t lose my virginity until the embarrassing age of 26. I was told by the church to save it for marriage and I was a virgin until I met the woman who would become my wife at a party. I said to hell with it, we had a onenight stand, and we’ve been together now for eight years. I’m tall and slim and my wife is short and heavy. Like an idiot I believed it’s what’s on the inside that matters. My wife is the sweetest, most thoughtful person I’ve ever met, I love spending time with her, but I have absolutely no sexual attraction to her. As a result, I’ve all but stopped initiating sex and on the rare occasion when we do make love I make her come twice while I’m struggling just to get off. I know it’s shallow and I know beauty is only skin deep but what am I supposed to do when seeing my wife naked sends me into an anxiety attack? When I’m helping out with laundry, I get bummed because there’s nothing in her wardrobe I find attractive on her. Even when I look at old pictures of us together I get extremely depressed because I know this is the best she’s ever going to look. It doesn’t help that she finds me handsome and regularly tells me so. It’s gotten to the point where I find any woman who isn’t my wife desirable. (Including, but not limited to, her family and friends.) I should also mention that she has no interest in having an open relationship or threesome because she prefers having

me “all to herself.” I don’t want to ask her to change because she’s perfectly happy with herself but I’m becoming increasingly resentful. What do I do? How do I tell her? And is there any way I can come out of this a good husband? In The Shallows I was so relieved to get all the way to end of your letter without learning you had kids. Because that means I can advise you—with a clear conscience—to file for divorce and move the fuck out just as soon as it’s possible to do so. Not for your own sake, ITS, but for your wife’s sake. She deserves better. You say you’re growing increasingly resentful. I hope your resentment is directed at all of the people who victimized you. Your wife isn’t one of them. It’s your parents you should resent, ITS, as well as all the sex-phobic bullshit artists out there masquerading as “faith leaders.” You should be angry with yourself too. While I know from personal experience how a religious upbringing can put the zap on a kid’s head, you were a grown-ass man when you met your wife at that party. You couldn’t have slept with her that night—you couldn’t have lost your virginity in a onenight stand—if you hadn’t already rejected nearly everything you’d been taught about sex. If you were capable of having premarital sex, you were capable of refraining from marrying the first person you slept with. Your wife is gonna want to know why you’re leaving her—of course she is—but you’re not going to tell her the real reason. You’re going to make something up. You want kids and she doesn’t (or vice-versa), you married too young (which is true),

18 | APRIL 21, 2020 | PITTSBURGH CURRENT

you have unresolved childhood issues (and don’t we all). While you won’t be able to spare your wife the pain of a breakup, ITS, you can spare her the pain of learning the person she’s been sleeping with for eight years is repulsed by her body. You can’t be a good husband to her, ITS, but you can be decent ex-husband. And to do that—to be her decent and loving and supportive ex—you can’t set her self-esteem on fire on your way out the door. And your wife’s body isn’t repulsive. She’s not someone you’re attracted to, ITS, and you’re not obligated to find short and round women sexually appealing. But while “tall and slim” are more closely associated with conventional concepts of attractiveness, ITS, not everyone’s into tall and slim. There are people who are into short and round and people out there who are attracted to all body types and people who are are utterly indifferent to bodies. Your wife deserves the chance to find someone who’s sincerely attracted to her. Even being alone would be better than spending decades with someone who recoils from her touch. For the record: What’s on the inside does count. It matters. If you met a woman who was more conventionally attractive—if you were with someone who was your idea of hot—and over time she revealed herself to be an asshole (if she was rude to waiters, if she was emotionally abusive, if she was a Trump supporter, etc.), your attraction to her would wither away. What you want—not what you’ll get, ITS, but the best you can hope for—is some combo of hot on the outside (subjective and personal) and good on the inside. And the longer you’re with someone, ITS, the more important good on the inside becomes. Time is a motherfucking meat grinder and it makes hamburger out of us all. If you prioritize you’re idea of hot over all other qualities, you run the very real risk of spending decades with a person who has aged out of hot and was never nice.

Long time reader asking for advice. I’m a med student, I came to the US when I was 18 in order to go to college, and I’m still in the US. I’m 25 now and I’ve been dating my boyfriend for about three years now. We’re somewhat monogamous and been living together for two years. I’m out as a gay man where we live but my parents and family back in Brazil have zero idea. As you may know, Brazil has a weird relationship with sexuality. We’re seen and for the most part are very open but our culture is also very homophobic. My BF has been pressuring me to come out but I’ve been apprehensive considering how important family is to me. Fears A Massive Implosion Likely, Yet… Gay men don't come out to our families because they’re unimportant to us. We come out to our families because they are important to us. Family is important to you and you’re worried you might lose yours if you come out to them. But you’re definitely gonna lose them if you don’t. Because to keep your life a secret from them—to hide your boyfriend from them—you’re going to have to cut them out of your life. It'll be little things at first, FAM, but over time the amount of things you have to keep from them grows. Lies pile up on top of lies and the distance between you and your family grows. Before you know it, they don’t know you at all anymore and you don’t know them. Because you can’t risk letting them know you. So to avoid their possible rejection, you will have rejected them. You will have lost your family. I know, I know: It’s scary. I came out to my very Catholic family when I was a teenager. I was scared to death. But if they couldn’t accept me for who I am—if I couldn’t rely on their love and support—what was the point of having them in my life at all? mail@savagelove.net Follow Dan on Twitter @ FakeDanSavage


ESSAY THE CON MAN BY MATTHEW WALLENSTEIN - PITTSBURGH CURRENT CONTRIBUTING WRITER INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM

My friend is a mostly-reformed con man. He and I spoke today, he was buying a drawing from me. He is out west and settled into a job that seems to be keeping him happy, though because of the quarantine he spends his time hiking through the desert and cooking himself meals, the way he used to. A ways back I lived above a paint factory in an industrial area of Brooklyn. It had been converted into illegal housing. I lived with ten people and we built the place up with tools we stole from Home Depot, and wood from the lumber store down the street. We would compete, see who could carry the most two-by-fours back to our place. Some mornings I would wake up with these awful headaches from the paint fumes. My room didn’t have walls which the girl I was seeing didn’t like, but it was cheap and we could do anything we wanted there, and did. The con man was in town. He had this car he had taken from a guy who owed him money, who had taken it from someone else. He had driven it to New York from the other side of the country. He asked me if I wanted to take the car out for a ride. I followed him down to the street. It was night, summer, hot. Sweat stuck my t-shirt to my back. We went around the side of the building. The car was parked on the corner of what we had all come to call “Poop Street.” There was some sort of facility that ran the length of that block, it packed meat or did something with meat. There were always these thick, oily puddles along the sidewalk that smelled like rot. Often there was blood. It smelled awful year-round but summer

was the worst. For a reason that I never understood, “Poop Street” was a popular spot for sex workers to go with men. I had witnessed their activities more than a few times on my way back from the subway or walking around late at night when I couldn’t sleep. Once I had heard noises coming from under a semi-truck parked next to the building. They must have heard me walking and got

scared because a man rolled out from under it and took off hopping down the street pulling up his pants, the streetlights illuminating his bare ass. The woman crawled out second and just stood next to me and watched him go. All I could think about after that was how bad it must have smelled laying next to those puddles. The con man and I opened the doors of the car and got in. You had to start the thing with a screwdriver. He explained this to me as he did it. It groaned and turned on. He started driving. In the summer, heat gets trapped in the city and just sits there all night, immutable and mean. I rolled the window down, but the air coming in was hot and it stunk. “Where should we go?” Asked the con man. “I don’t care,” I said. “Let’s just crash it.” “Okay,” He said. It was sometime after midnight, I remember that. We drove a few blocks past the train tracks where A. had thrown that Molotov cocktail a few weeks before. It was dark. You had to go into Queens to see stars. There was only one streetlight on either end of the street. Potholes were everywhere, some deep enough to swallow half your legs if you stood in them. First he drove it into a stop sign. The impact was harder than I thought it would be. He reversed it, there were all these dragging squealing sounds of metal pulling itself off of metal. This kept on with me pointing out walls or signs or trash cans and him seeing how fast he could hit them. After a few minutes I was surprised the car was still going. For some reason there was a tractor tire on the side of the street leaning at about a 45-degree angle against some rolled up fence and broken pallets. With effort we stood it up and

rolled it into the middle of the street. We hit it hard. A few guys working the night shift came out of one of the buildings and started yelling at us. The con man slammed into another stop sign, bending it over. We took off and headed back to “Poop Street.” He pulled into a spot. The sound of sirens was getting louder. We bent down behind the row of cars parked there and jogged back to my building and up the stairs. A few days later the con man and A. drove the car down to Richmond where another group of friends of ours were living in a large warehouse. They took turns shooting the car with handguns before using an angle grinder to cut the top off turning it into a convertible. I have no idea what happened to the car after Richmond. I remember one morning coming down and finding an ice cream truck wrapped around a telephone pole on the corner of “Poop Street.” It had been set on fire. Its paint was charred and bubbled, and its inside was black. It was there two weeks before it disappeared. But a few months after that I went outside and saw that the city had planted trees on the sidewalk. I knew then that the neighborhood was done. That was over a decade ago. People still live in that factory building. Only one knows who I am. All of us who used to live there moved on. Now there are coffee shops and condos where all that mess used to be, where all those fights and fireworks and car wrecks used to be. They probably don’t even have potholes anymore.

PITTSBURGH CURRENT | APRIL 21, 2020 | 19


PA R T I N G S H OT

PITTSBURGH CURRENT PHOTO BY JAKE MYSLIWCZYK

PITTSBURGH CURRENT | APRIL 21, 2020 | 20

Profile for pittsburghcurrent

April 21. Volume #, Issue 10  

Restaurant owner takes heat for transphobic comments, Pittsburgh XYmphony, Pittsburgh Cultural Trust

April 21. Volume #, Issue 10  

Restaurant owner takes heat for transphobic comments, Pittsburgh XYmphony, Pittsburgh Cultural Trust

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