Tag: Pittsburgh

State of my fellow Asians address

There are at least two new Asian families in the neighborhood.  It brings great cheer to my heart to see fellow Asians swimming in the local sea of whiteness.  The one family is championship material.  Their kindergarten son wears impossibly perfect layered clothing and appears to be loved and revered by his peers.  Grandpa walks him home.  Grandpa wears fine threads as well, and always wears a Pittsburgh Pirates hat.  Nothing says local like a “P” hat.

It’s the other family I worry about.  Every morning Mom and son wait for the school bus across the street from my house.  Mom has sonny wearing a mask, as is the custom in smoggy Asian cities:

This may not be child abuse in the strictest sense, but it’s a heartbreaking sight nonetheless.  Poor kid!  It’s a magnitude of obliviousness that is difficult for the local observer to process.  It reminds me of a time in high school when I was in much the same situation.

During homecoming spirit week, one particular day was college spirit day.  Or something like that.  Basically we were supposed to wear a University of Illinois, Notre Dame, Northwestern, Depaul, etc. shirt.  Sure a few kids wore Northern Illinois, or God forbid an Iowa Hawkeyes shirt, but they probably had good reason for their actions.  What did I wear?  The one college t-shirt I owned: The University of Western Ontario.  It was a shirt that did more than just confuse my friends.  It was simply not possible for them to process such a shirt or the existence of such an institution, or why anyone would knowingly or unknowingly wear such a shirt.

So, my fellow Asian friend, I wish you the best of luck with that smog filter.  May you find a place in this world.  If you stick around the hood, may you learn the unwritten rules of American culture.  I pray that one day you will heal, as I have, from the wounds caused by those unappreciative of your blissful ignorance.

My how we’ve grown

At the end of the most miserable day of her life, Asia left this note on her brother’s bed.  A year later, though she has outgrown her misspellings and backwards letters, her relentless spirit of hope and joy remain.

Alas, we all grow.  Know what I’ve outgrown?  Of course you don’t!  It’s like we never talk.  We’re practically strangers now!  Anyways, as I was saying…I’ve outgrown watching my kids play sporting events.  You’ve seen those annoying parents screaming and shouting from the sidelines, right?  Well it turns out that that mutant gene is in my DNA.  So rather than subject other parents to my “coaching”, I’ve taken to wandering around the neighborhood of whatever venue the boy/girl happen to be playing.  The urban settings fill me with the glorious tension of uncertainty.  The suburbs offer a different bag surprises.  In Pittsburgh, you’re never far from wilderness.  This was one block from Zach’s soccer game in an unassuming suburb:

So there’s that.

Yes, I am still working on Asia’s new room in the attic.  Thanks for asking!  Just as Portland hipsters cannot resist painting a bird on things and calling it art, I cannot resist building unnecessary bookcases to cover every HVAC duct.  Drywall goes up next week…


I once watched a film documentary on super perv, Robert Crumb.  Several elements of the film have influenced my life.  Thanks to Crumb, electrical boxes, telephone wires, and all the clutter of (sub)urban landscape now drive me nuts.  (He illustrates this clutter here.)

In one scene, Crumb is listening to 78rpm records.  And thus a seed was planted.  Dormant for 16 years, germination occurred when Zach began taking nerdy chess lessons in the same neighborhood where some kook has opened a 78rpm record shop in which most of his 20,000 records fall in the $1-$3 range.  Every week I go on a one hour shopping spree, stuffing a bag full of forgotten records.  I also dropped some cash on this state-of-the-art rig:

Snow time.

Inch after inch falls down.  Every year I resolve not to shovel for the duration of the season.  And why should I?  Our solitary stair user is the mailman with his stack of paper spam.  Long gone are the Bohemian days of Chicago, hosting daily/nightly social events.  In our new life, we average ONE visitor per quarter.  And they can trudge through the snow for all I care.  Harumph.

Adapting to a new evironment

When I first moved to downtownish Chicago, my life revolved around a sickfast sport car.  Both my car and I hated Chicago.  Potholes gnawed at its chassis.  Parallel parkers ravaged its fenders.  Cops fed it a steady diet of parking tickets.  After three years of Chicago misery, my car breathed its last.  While still in mourning, the following week I bought a bicycle.  Soon enough, my bike took me to faraway lands never before seen from the highway:  Mexico, Poland, Ukraine, Greece, Puerto Rico, and a third world African country.  Within a month I had fallen in love with the beauty of urban life, its vibrance and its decay.

Four years ago I moved to a small town just outside of Pittsburgh.  I have to drive (a minivan) everywhere.  While I slowly strangle nature, I’ve learned to soak up its beauty.  Every day I drive to Home Depot.  And this is what I see:

It’s nice.

Dude, everyone is soooo done with New York.

Last month I accepted my last rental dollar from Shut-In.  To celebrate/mourn the loss of Pittsburgh’s friendliest agoraphobe, we dined at Pho Minh.  Awaiting S.I.’s arrival, I surveyed the neighborhood’s general state of decay.  Plastered with hipster art/music advertising, the adjacent edifice appeared fit for neither habitation nor commerce.  Pondering this catalogical dilemma, I spied a hot babe unlocking the building.  “Would you like a sneak peek?”, she asked, “The gallery crawl is tonight.”  “Uh, ok”, I nodded with bovine acceptance.  After a minute of inspecting my inspection, it occurred to her that a loitering middle aged white man = perv, and that it might be wise to move me along.  Safely outside the building, H.B. resumed her sales pitch.  “20-30 storefront galleries participate in the crawl.  Some even have live music.”  Just then Shut-In arrived, leaving me to file the episode under “hmmmmm”.

Several weeks later I found myself in Burlington, Vermont, on the 2nd floor of a hipster boutique trying on $40 t-shirts.  The gentleman behind the counter lit up when he heard I was from Pittsburgh.  “Shit man”, he raved, “half my friends are moving to Pittsburgh.  The art scene there is exploding.  Pittsburgh and Miami are hot RIGHT NOW.  Dude, everyone is soooo done with New York.”  “Uh, huh”, I nodded.

So there’s that.  More hmmmm I suppose.  For what it’s worth, here in Paris (yeah I said here in Paris), no one seems to be talking about Peetsboorg.


Years of toiling in Pittsburgh have retarded my sartorial sensibilities.  This is ill-timed in light of my “move” to Paris.  I don’t want to look like a bumbling American, ya know.  Not to worry.  Bored with learning French, I’ve redirected my energy toward absorbing Parisian fashion.  It has come to my attention that Parisian men dress real gay.  This is problematic.  Not only am I not gay, gaydars tend to clock me in the hopeless/clueless range.  So…what to do, what to do.  Here’s what:  Last week I saw the gayest looking sneakers I’d ever seen.  So I bought them!  Paris here I come!  And yesterday I went to the mall!  The mall!  I haven’t shopped at a mall in 20 years.  I bought Lucky and BKE (Buckle) jeans.  Weeeeeee!  I mean Ouiiiiiiiiiiii!

In other “news”, I’m not sure what to do about my afro.  I know we don’t talk much anymore, but just so you know, I’m three months into a year-long haircut strike.  Unfortunately, follicle results appear to be sabotaging my anti-bumbling scheme.  So there’s that.

Humph. Too much going on.

I’ve often thought about moving to a shiny preassembled boom-town – Charlotte, NC, Anytown, AZ, but most of all, Austin, TX.  What would make me want to live in an oven for 7 months/year?  Free babysitting via Zach/Asia’s Aunt and Grandfather!  All that changed on January 1, 2009.  Here’s how it went down:

Have you ever watched the Dog Whisperer?  None of that dog psychology amounts to much in my book, but I do love when that dog dude “walks” his dogs by taking them on a bike-ride.  Those mutts get one exhausting workout!  And so, Zach and I took our canine for a celebratory New Year’s bike-ride in Austin, TX.  Zach, having never experienced the joys of riding bikes on a flat landscape was quick to ditch me.  No biggie.  The rendezvous point was a park at the end of the trail.  It’s not like I wouldn’t be able to find him.  Thus I took a longer route in hopes of surprising the boy.  As the park came into view, I was forced to slow down in order to cross a stream.  Scanning the horizon, Zach was nowhere to be seen.  In a mild panic, I began to call for him.  Just then, fool dog spotted a potential mate, and was off to the races.  This caused the leash and my bike chain to have a mix-up.  Down I went.  As I called for Zach while untangling the chain/leash, doggie upped the ante by crapping several feet from a white-trash family frolicking in the stream.  Out for a holiday stroll, another family appeared.  As they walked by, the dad looked at me, shook his head, and said to his kids, “Humph.  Too much going on.”  It was at that moment that I decided to live out the remainder of my days in Pittsburgh.

Sure, why not.

I’m not too cool for this sort of thing.  Mr. Neill’s Facebook list of 25 random facts:

  1. In 9th grade I had a paper route.  Each morning I’d wake up several minutes later.  This drove my mom nuts, causing her to wake up several minutes earlier to “help out”.  Eventually she was doing the entire route.  This ended early one winter morning when she slipped on a patch of ice and broke her wrist.
  2. It took me 7 1/2 years to finish my undergraduate degree.  Never at any point did I doubt I would finish.
  3. If I knew how to put my feelings into words, I would blog every day.
  4. I always wanted to be a teacher.
  5. I averaged 2-3 drinks a year up until I was 30.
  6. For all my beer snobbery, I still only drink 2-3 beers a week.
  7. I have a nephew 6 months older than me.  We’ve met just twice.  He’s a better looking, more confidant version of me.  We’re both 6’6″.
  8. I used to collect stamps, autographs, and baseball cards.  I regret having disposed of them.  All three were amazing collections.
  9. I was the youngest of 7 kids.  There is a 10 year gap between #6 and myself.  I was raised kind of like a grandchild.
  10. I’ve played in two bands.  In each band I was the weakest link.  But I can (still) write catchy pop hooks.
  11. I’ve grown to love Pittsburgh.  I wish my mom knew I lived here.  She spent the first 18 years of her life in Pittsburgh, and loved this city.  She died a year before I moved here.
  12. During college, my best friend and I would race our Datsun 240Z’s 100-140 mph on Chicago’s highways, on a daily basis.
  13. Because of the wear and tear, I would replace the alternator and/or water pump every month.
  14. I once spent a month riding a train around the U.S.  The following year I spent a month in Europe.  A year later I spent a month in the Far East.  This summer…well you know what I’m doing this summer!
  15. I once had my heart broken.  I couldn’t eat for weeks.
  16. A few weeks ago I figured out how to play drums.  Nothing beyond the basics, but still…I could probably play that Twisted Sister song!
  17. By the time I finish cooking and cleaning, I’m too tired to entertain my guests.
  18. I can juggle four balls while standing on a basketball, I can balance all sorts of things on my chin, and I can ride a unicycle.  No, I never wanted to join the circus.
  19. I can keep a hackeysack from touching the ground for so long, that you would get bored watching me.
  20. I’ve been knocked out in a boxing match.
  21. I once quit my job and spent a year studying the bible.
  22. I once scored a 3% on a Physics test.  One day I’m going to retake that class…that stuff seems simple now.  Not everything makes sense when you’re 19.
  23. Twenty years ago, my girlfriend and I were thinking about getting married and moving to Nashville.  We drove down and began to wilt.  I asked a stranger if it was usually that hot.  “No”, he said, “It’s usually hotter”.  On the drive home, we called it quits.  Unfortunately so did my Datsun 240Z.  That was the last time I saw either the girl or the car.
  24. I once accidentally started a riot.  A real one, with dozens of arrests.
  25. My ex-band once played at a basement party on Chicago’s deep south side.  We were told, “If people start fighting, keep playing.  If they start shooting, stop.”  Seconds after we finished our set, 30 cops with guns drawn kicked down the door.

Blown away vs. blows.

Last night I saw a play.  It was pretty good, you know, entertaining.  But it didn’t blow me away.  It got me thinking…over the past half decade, what has blown me away?  I can think of just 3 things.

  1. The fig appetizer at Vivo.  For added bonus, the place no longer smells like cat wiz!
  2. Barry getting the nod for prez.  My eyes well up every time I think about it.  For the first time since elementary school, I’m proud to be an American.
  3. My garage door opener.  A few months back, Shut-in and I installed one on my garage.  It changed my life.  Let me explain.  I’ve never been able to justify living in the North.  Sadism perhaps?  Winter blows!  But now…if I want to go somewhere, I go downstairs, get in my warm car, press a button, and drive merrily on my way.  Beat that!  Being cold is now optional!  If I feel like getting cold, I take old mutt for a walk.  Or I take the kids sledding.  Cold is no longer forced on me.  Did you know that snow is actually pretty?  Snow even makes our hideous “burning bush” look sexy.

So…what was worst thing to happen over the past 5 years?  Easy.  The writer’s strike of 2007.  That fool strike (re)unleashed a scourge on American society known as reality TV.  Caught in its horrific grip are my wife and daughter.  The worst of the bunch is America’s Next Top Model.  Witness the pain and devastation it has caused: