Sunday, June 30, 2013

RIP PIG - 6/30/13

Guys. I am sad.

This is the first setback I've had to experience in my 30s. The trade of Tyler Kennedy to the Sharks is upsetting - for me - and maybe only me. I don't know when I came to love Tyler Kennedy so much, but it happened. I've become proud, in a way, that my love of Tyler Kennedy has made the whole "Pig" thing kind of a thing! When I'm at the Consol and Kennedy scores, it's kind of crazy how many people turn and shout "PIGGGGY" at me.

I am kind of devastated! But, I'm trying to rationalize this whole trade. He's at least in the West, so I don't have to deal with it in a conflicted way as much as if he were int he East. And, he didn't end up in the Pens' division. Even better, he didn't end up on the Bruins. That would have been unbearable.

It still sucks, but all good things come to and end. To send him across country to the west, here are are some great Piggy moments to remember.

Sigh. I'm sad to see him go. Good luck in San Jose, TK.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Canada Road Trip: Underground in Diefenbunker

Before we returned to actual civilization, we headed underground. But, considering we were going to Diefenbunker, it was like a reintroduction to civilization in the event of the Cold War. Diefenbunker was built by a guy named Diefenbaker. He was the Prime Minister of Canada during the Cold War. The bunker was built to protect the Canadian government from a nuclear attack. It's now a museum detailing the Cold War and Canada's involvement. (Totally normal summer vacation activity.)

To enter the bunker, we walked down a very long, cold tunnel. This is the tunnel is THE TUNNEL that would protect some good Canadians from nuclear bad stuff.

Many of the rooms were set up as they were during the time the bunker was operational. There was never an attack, so it was never used for its original purpose.

Other rooms were set up as a museum to the Cold War.

I'm giving credit where credit is due. Rob is the one who said, regarding the poster above, "This is what Winnipeg is now." (But maybe it's gotten better! The Jets are back!)


Keeping Canada safe!

Rob sat at the Prime Minister's desk. We aren't really sure if he was allowed.

Here is PGH-related content! Looks like the Northside is safe from a nuclear attack. The rest of the city? Including me sitting here in the East End? We're in trouble. (If for some reason someone drops a nuclear bomb on Washington, PA.)

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Canada Road Trip: The Pig's Town and Bug Hell

When we left Sudbury, the sun was going down. It didn't take too long before we were driving through complete darkness again. Even during the day, these drives were extremely monotonous. At night, it was hard to tell if you were actually moving or maybe just standing still in the middle of the road. Worried we would run out of gas before hitting Sault Ste. Marie, we stopped at a "trading post," which is what you get when you're no longer on the main highway. (That's a good indicator of how insignificant these towns were that we were visiting - we were relegated to secondary roads.) During our brief chat with the Canucks hat-wearing cashier, we learned that things like moose, bears and wolves crossed the road all willy-nilly round those parts. Which pretty much terrified me right before I was to take over driving duties.

But, we made it to our hotel in Sault Ste. Marie in one piece. But, sadly, it was a bit too late to go gallivanting around town. See, the reason we were in Sault Ste. Marie was to see if we could see Tyler Kennedy, aka Piggy.

TK - if you ever see this, I do truly enjoy you and cheer for you in earnest.

Okay. I'll admit to this only being my reason. Rob is just a good friend who goes along with my crazy sometimes. Our plan was to each wear TK t-shirts to a bar. Then magically TK would appear. But, by the time we pulled into the parking lot, I wasn't even willing to muster the energy to go out, even for some pig hunting.

Skip ahead to 1:10 to watch what made me choose Tyler Kennedy as my favorite Penguin. Adorable.

The next morning though, we did both don those Kennedy t-shirts and set out like a couple of real weirdos to explore a charming little stretch in downtown Sault Ste. Marie. After wandering for way too many blocks, I was starting to get hungry-cranky again. We passed the town's mall, and being that it had both an ATM and a Tim Horton's, we made our way inside. Apparently we were late to the party, because I think maybe all people from all of Sault Ste. Marie were already there.

I propose a change to this! Take out "naturally gifted"; sub in "where it's really nice."

There was a large table.

So we sat at it and drank our Tim Horton's.

Hello, America! (Our phones actually worked in Sault Ste. Marie cause we were so so close!)

We drove away from Sault Ste. Marie, where it's really nice, a little farther north, to Lake Ivanhoe, where we'd be camping that night. I love camping. I love sleeping in a tent. I love campfires. I love camp food. I like getting a little dirty and waking up with the sun. Rob...not so much. He was a real trooper though, especially when we learned that camping right next to a lake in northern Ontario would not be the most pleasant experience. There were more mosquitoes out than I have ever encountered. We had to retreat inside the tent well before the sun went down, because even with the fire and two citronella candles going, as well as bug spray reapplied an unhealthy number of times, we were getting attacked.

One of the trading posts we stopped into felt quite like home.

This is like Final Destination: Canada...

Here is Rob, in his "bug hell" attire, at Lake Ivanhoe.

Grilled cheese for dinner.

Beautiful, but also buggy as hell.

Why I love camping with Rob. Last year it was the Spaghetti Man dance, this year it was roasting two marshmallows on a candy stick. 

I woke up near 5:30 the next morning and forced Rob awake so we could escape bug hell. Our drive the next day was the opposite of exciting. We stopped in Timmins - Home of Shania Twain! - but mostly drove through (our only reason to be there was for only for coffee, donuts, free wifi, and gas - which would become a semi-ritual on this trip). We didn't bother stopping in Swastika, we just took pictures of the sign from the car. We found the World's Largest Hockey Puck. We set up camp at Algonquin Provincial Park, which had way fewer bugs.

Rough name, 'lil northern Canadian town.

We cannot be sure this is the world's largest, because it was quite underwhelming. The nickel was like four times this size.

We had another night of camping ahead, before it was back to civilization, onward to Ottawa.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Canada Road Trip: Turning 30 On the Road and into Ontario

The sojourn into Ontario was partly (mostly) in celebration of my 30th birthday. This trip had several itineraries in its planning stages. We went from biking throughout Europe to biking through, like, Luxembourg and Belgium because - guess what! - Europe is bigger than you think. Then we were going to bike to Ontario, via some trail I found on the internet one day. We could never work out the logistics of how we would get started from somewhere other than Pittsburgh or how we would get the bikes home without having to track back.

Finally we decided a road trip was in order. And through Canada is where we make the best road trips. See, we have been up there in the north for road trips before. After crossing Canada by train in the summer of 2008, Rob and I have made several trips up there to drive around. Idiotically, they've mostly been during the winter. You know what it does in Canada in the winter? It snows. We did our first winter trip to the Maritimes - starting in Halifax, driving to Moncton and St. John's during the day, and then continuing the trip with a basically death-defying nighttime drive to Prince Edward Island. We honestly sat there in the car, listening to the last songs we would want to listen to ever, because we were both really uncertain if we could get to our hotel safely. We've done a winter trip to Newfoundland, because that's really intelligent. Then we took some spring trips. Like starting in Winnipeg (I sincerely hope the return of the Jets has helped the denizens of that city get back to something slightly less zombie-like) and driving through Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta - three states our waiter at my birthday steak dinner referred to as "The Gap."

I'm getting off topic. And anyone who came here to read about Pittsburgh is probably seriously confused.

Basically, I celebrated by 30th birthday by going to some places in Canada I have never been before. Sure, there also were normal and previously visited places places - Ottawa, Toronto, Niagara Falls. But that was the back end of the trip. Our first couple days? Small towns with absolutely ridiculous reasons to stop in them.

But, of important note, this drive straight north started directly at the end of the Japandroids show at Mr. Smalls.

I'm Brian. That's David.

These guys. No better way to start the beginning of my birthday celebration than watching these nice Canadians be loud and fun and awesome. At the end of the show, we jumped in the car and were off. I was two hours from thirty.

By the time we got to our Howard Johnson's room in Hamilton, Ontario [please go back and reread that for full effect], I had been in my thirties for three and a half hours. When we pulled up to our classy lodgings for the night, we noticed it was attached to a Yuk Yuks as well as a Hooters. Happy Birthday to Me!

Click for a closer look. It's Hamilton, Ontario!

We slept a few hours, and then it was quickly to the ORIGINAL Tim Horton's, where I had my birthday donuts. I have been to this Tim Horton's location every year for the past three years. There is seriously something wrong with me. Then a day of driving hell began. From Hamilton we drove to Owen Sound, where my objective was to obtain an Owen Sound Attack t-shirt. (Owen is one of my favorite musicians, so this was a legit thing I needed to have.) We bought the shirt, stuck our hand in Lake Huron, and then got back on the road. We stopped off for gas in Peary Sound and stretched our legs walking up a pier.

This was supposed to be six donuts with five candles in each, but this did me perfectly fine after a long night of driving.

First dino sighting.
Canada is such a darling place.

My new plan? Buy a summer place in Parry Sound.

I have a tradition of having a good steak dinner on my birthday. We got to Sudbury, and we couldn't find the steak place we'd looked up online. When I get hungry, I get cranky and impatient. So I made Rob pull into a Super 8, where we went and asked the lady working the front desk about it. She basically told us we were making a mistake for going there for a steak dinner, and she pointed us in the direction of a place called The Keg.

Well, thank you Claire from Super 8 in Sudbury, because this meal was a major highlight of the week. We had the most earnest and happy waiter named Mark, who I think was pretty dumbfounded by our trip. When he learned we had driven there from Pittsburgh, his reaction was "Jesus, what the hell are you doing here?" The steak was good, there was beer, and they gave us free cake, which was actually ice cream in the shape of cake.

Mark's first question to us when he learned we were in Sudbury as "tourists" was, "Have you seen the nickel?!" Seriously. Question mark and exclamation point. We hadn't yet, but it was on our list of things to do in Sudbury. (1. Eat steak; 2. See the World's Largest Nickel.) We got there just as the sun was going down. The sunset looks lovely, which apparently it does every night in Sudbury, because there is so much pollution released into the air by nearby factories!

Dead bugs/beautiful sunset.

Oh, and there was a dinosaur at the nickel, which, brought the total count of dinosaur sightings on my 30th birthday tally to two.

From the nickel it was onward to our next accommodations Sault Ste. Marie.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Home Is Where My Heart Is, And That's Always Pittsburgh

The week's worth of travels now behind me.

This morning I woke up in Canada.

I fiddled with my seventh different shower set-up in seven days, striving to strike the right balance between scalding hot water and chilling ice water. After twenty minutes, I had to give up and just get in and get out regardless of comfort level. I've never ever missed my own shower before like I did this morning. I also missed my own bed. And my cats. And my bike. And Pittsburgh, of course.

The past seven days were completely awesome. We spent them driving throughout Ontario, going to familiar places, new places, and places that even the Canadians we met didn't understand why we went to them. (Upon learning we had driven to Sudbury from Pittsburgh, our waiter at our fancy steak dinner - Mark - said, "Jesus, what the hell are you doing here?") I've been in towns this week with populations under 6,500 people. I slept next to a mosquito-infested lake in the literal middle-of-nowhere. I ingested so much Tim Hortons. Not only because it is delicious, but to two American travelers, the free and reliable wifi was essential to keeping up with the world. I plan to pepper in posts about my travels over the next several weeks. I won't inundate you with all Canada all the time. And there's a good reason for that! This is a blog about living in Pittsburgh.

But, in order to get re-excited about living in Pittsburgh, I needed an escape. I needed a break from my normal everyday life to appreciate my normal everyday life again. You see, I'm a big advocate for vacation. I think it's necessary to step away from what's always right in front of me to make sure it's still what I want to have right in front of me. I don't foresee ever wanting something other than Pittsburgh. But even though I know work is going to be absolute hell this week playing catch-up and also making good on all the promises I made to people before I left, I still can't wait to wake up tomorrow and get on my bike and fly down Penn Ave. I can't wait to sit up in my office in PPG One and look out on my city and feel at home. Cause home is where my heart is, and that's always Pittsburgh.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Mysteries of Pittsburgh in the Summer

Lately my heart has been overflowing with love for my city. Which is not unusual in the slightest. I wouldn't have a blog dedicated to Pittsburgh if this feeling wasn't the norm. I'm sure that the onset of summer is cause for the recent surge of pride and love. Summer + PGH = favorite time. No matter what, whenever I'm in Pittsburgh in the summer, I feel like a kid again. I want to be out with friends. I want to ride bikes. I want to dance. I want to see the sun come up. There's hope and courage and reckless abandon that comes with every Pittsburgh summer.

This morning, while killing time before setting out for the day, I came across this video, which I'm sure has already made the official PGH-blog rounds, but I'm sharing here now because it's just so awesome and not to be missed:

I'm not ashamed to say that I started to get a tad misty-eyed toward the end. The tears started welling up at the scene of soccer-playing at the Point. That's from the (very terrible) adaptation of one of my most favorite books, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh. When that movie came out, I was living in Boston and was incredibly homesick. I saw it by myself in a Cambridge theater because I couldn't subject anyone I knew to a) a movie I knew would be terrible and b) the crying I knew would happen because I missed my home so so much. It was the soccer-playing scene that cued the waterworks then, so it's only fitting that's what did it for me this morning too.

Every summer I make it a point to reread The Mysteries of Pittsburgh. That annual tradition will begin today, when I take my signed, dogeared, underlined copy down to the Arts Festival. After four long years of being dormant, the fountain is back on - and it's glorious! Several hours today shall be spent sitting near its wonder, feeling its mist when the wind shifts, and soaking in the best thing: Pittsburgh in the summer.

"When I remember that dizzy summer, that dull, stupid, lovely, dire summer, it seems that in those days I ate my lunches, smelled another's skin, noticed a shade of yellow, even simply sat, with greater lust and hopefulness--and that I lusted with greater faith, hoped with greater abandon. The people I loved were celebrities, surrounded by rumor and fanfare; the places I sat with them, movie lots and monuments. No doubt all of this is not true remembrance, but the ruinous work of nostalgia, which obliterates the past, and no doubt, as usual, I have exaggerated everything." - m. chabon

Friday, June 7, 2013

Sweep. :/

Well. That did not go according to plan.

Like at all.

Should I be more upset? Maybe. But, getting completely walloped has the benefit of never getting one's hopes up.

This past week has been a lot of putting things in perspective. It doesn't matter that we lost (I mean, of course it matters a bit and would have been awesome to win!), because I still get to turn 30 next week. I still get to spend next weekend celebrating with friends in all manner of ways. I still get to go on vacation! Right now a week away is exactly what I need. I have been working nonstop since getting back from Australia in November. I love my job. I'm not allowed to go into detail about what I do in a public forum, but it's stressful and sometimes very depressing - but when everything works out it's totally rewarding and extremely awesome. It's hard to really lose sleep over the Penguins when there's a ton of other things to lose sleep about. I guess what I'm saying is that I love hockey, but it can't be everything anymore.

That said: Go Chicago.