Tag: Pittsburgh


I was accosted by an octogenarian while browsing the library stacks.  I’d have shushed him, but his sparky blue eyes and tough-guy barrel chest thwarted my snap judgmental dismissive instincts.  During our three minute conversation (soliloquy really…my side of the conversation amounted to me saying uh-huh twice), Mr. 81 unveiled/shouted two noteworthy items.

  1. On a “wild and crazy” (his words) week-long Ocean City family vacation, all three of his daughters got pregnant.
  2. As a teenager, a ne’er-do-well soured his taste for basketball.  The offending character was famed for bending down, mid-rebound, and pulling out his opponent’s leg hairs.

I do not know what to make of these things. 

Twenty minutes later I checked out one of the greatest novels I have ever read – A House for Mr Biswas.  Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul effectively recorded my life, changed the setting and dates, then jumped into a time machine and publish his findings (1961).  Alas, for all my raves I can’t think of a single person for whom I would recommend the book.  My dad, maybe.  It was ultimately written for me alone.  In 2001 Mr. Naipaul won the Nobel Prize, largely on the strength of this book.  Perhaps I’m not the only one who has enjoyed this book.

New neighbors.

I have great hope for the future of this house:

It sold recently, which means I’ll be getting a new neighbor.  I’m so excited I could pee.  It’s like opening a present on your 10th birthday.  What’s inside?  Could be that awesome Atari 2600 you’ve dreamed of owning.  More likely it’s another hideous sweater from Grandma.

Once our neighbors take occupancy, I shall shower them with snooty beer and stinky cheese.  Later we’ll set up playdates for the kids, complain about traffic noise, and feign outrage at $500/month heating bills.  Oh the times we’ll have!

Or maybe I’ll play it cool.  Shorty after we moved to Pittsburgh, our backyard neighbor invited us over for an impromptu (sausages on the grill) dinner.  Caught in the enthusiasm of the moment, I upped the ante.  “Great!”, I said, “I just bought some strip steaks…you can grill them too.”  During dinner our host asked, “What do you think of this beer?”  Excited to display my grand beer palate with a fellow beer enthusiast (alas he was not), I went into detail as to the multidimensional failings of his chosen brew.  I believe that was our last conversation.  A lesson for the socially retarded:  Neither upstage a man’s meat, nor insult his beer.

Life in the suburban grandstand…the soccer years.

While pushing my daughter on the swings, I observed a man attempting to ride a unicycle over a sea of woodchips.  I watched with morbid curiosity as his blood-loss and bruise-count mounted.  Part of me longed to reach out to this lost soul.  Clearly he was starved for attention.  At the very least I could have taught him how to ride that nerdicycle.  (Oh the useless skills I possess…)  But no, I left the poor cretin, and wandered over to the bleachers to watch Zach play soccer.  Having lost his audience, our character got bored, tossed his unicycle under the bleachers, and joined the other parents.  Bang!  A gunshot!  The shattering of suburban innocence?  The ultimate angry sports parent?  No.  The dude’s untouched unicycle tire had inexplicably blown up.  Weirdness.  The next day I saw our strange bird carving a chess piece (a bishop) out of a random stick with a giant bowie knife.  I kept my distance for the reminder of soccer camp.

 Dear unicycle/bowie knife eccentric dude,

I’m sorry I judged you.  In high school I preferred friendlessness over hanging with geeks and weirdoes.  20 years later, I have not evolved.  I thought about you today, and have seen the error of my ways.  You will eventually read this.  Such is life in our small town.  Maybe we could hang out.  But no Dungeons and Dragons, comic books, Anime, or whatever nerds are into these days.  You probably brew your own beer…maybe we could sample your latest batch.  Until then…

-Old Man Neill



“Sad, no Hondas”. That’s my favorite palindrome.

Admit it, you love a good palindrome.  Three more items to keep you wondering why you continue to read this crap:

  1. As advertised, last Saturday I endured that silly Math Praxis exam.  Thanks to everyone who wished me good luck.  Oh wait, nobody did.  Jerks.  No matter…I’m confident that I barely passed.
  2. An entire isle of my local grocery store is devoted to Depends.  That may be the single most damning commentary on my neighborhood.  Indeed, I share the road with an army of slow moving Buicks and Oldsmobiles.
  3. Yesterday I saw a 4th grader flailing his arms, screaming “FREEEEEEEEEEEEDOM” as he bolted from the school building.  Now that’s livin’!  When I revert back to childhood and join the ranks of the Dependers, I’m gonna be THAT KID.

The “Most Interesting Shopper” contest…

Today I shopped at the ugly people grocery store.  Hoping to lighten the drudgery, I imagined myself as head judge of the “Most Interesting Shopper” contest.  There were no shortage of qualified contestants.  The winner sported a camouflage cowboy hat.  Mumbling curses at no one, his head shook angrily while struggling to open an airplane/travel sized bottle of vodka.  I was careful not to bump his cart.

Four and a half years later…

On a crisp June morning, Millennium Park buzzed with wide-eyed baseball clad Chicagoans exploring their city’s new crown jewel.  Later that afternoon the Cubs would host their cross-town rivals, the White Sox.  Amid the chaos, Mr. Uwe Ommer snapped a Neill family photo.

Four and a half years later, the Neills moved to Pittsburgh, lost interest in baseball, bought a dog, and went Goth.

Hill talk.

Earlier today I snapped this picture while walking the beast.  Four thoughts ensued:

1. Dumb dog and I walk 30-60 minutes every day.  We go up those wretched hills and down again.  If my knees don’t quit, I’ll probably live to be 140.

2. I’m amazed at the number of fatties in the neighborhood.  They’ve got 24/7 access to a world class Stairmaster – the sidewalk.

3. Early in my migration from urban flatland to hilly sprawl, I was obsessed with the idea of building a zip-line.  I’d pay large dollars to ride a local zip-line.  Like $3.  Or $4.

4. The hills are not bike friendly.  I’m tired of riding around the driveway.

Ridin’ bikes.