Tuesday, August 30, 2011

PGH Heart Sticker

I love my bike. My friends can attest to that. I caught the biking bug in a major way in late 2010, and there has been no turning back. I don't have a car. And I kind of hate having to rely on the bus. So, biking has been my main mode of transportation for the past year. Biking Pittsburgh is great, even with the hills, which become less of a hassle as your muscles get used to them. I used to shudder at the bottom of Penn Ave every evening after work, but now, I'm up the hill in under ten minutes and I'm no longer a panting, exhausted mess at the top.

Thanks to The Cotton Factory, I picked up my bike's first decoration at August's Unblurred. I took my first ride with the great PGH-themed sticker adhered to my bike this morning, and it's great to look down and see PGH <3, because that is how I feel pretty much all of the time.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Pull Up a Seat: Bloomfield's Sandwich Shop

For as long as I've lived in Bloomfield, The Sandwich Shop on Liberty has been a bit of a mystery to me. I've passed by it hundreds of times, but never went in. A couple Thursday nights ago, after drinking and dancing to new wave at Brillobox, I was in desperate need of another "d" word: DINNER. It was finally time to pay The Sandwich Shop, which lucky for us keeps awesomely late hours on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.

The outside might be unassuming, but inside the place was simply jovial. The guys running the place looked like they made their way to Pittsburgh straight from Woodstock. The walls were bright yellow and covered in bric-a-brac, posters, and art. We sat at the counter and ordered grilled cheeses, mozzarella sticks, and eggs. While one of the proprietors manned the grill a few feet from us, we grabbed a box of crayons and went to town with our placemats.

The food was hot and yummy, and exactly what we needed at 1 a.m. on a Thursday night. Now that I've finally been, I predict The Sandwich Shop will fill our needs for late-night food within walking distance on many more nights to come.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Living in the Meantime Wait and See: J. Pitts Hip Hop Podcast

The other night I joined my friend Chris for a taping of J. Pitts Show Hip Hop Podcast. Normally, the podcast features hip hop (duh), which isn't exactly my normal cup of tea. But for this episode, Chris was curating a Best of the '90s: Anything But Rap Edition. And that, friends, is exactly my cup of tea. I have been anxiously awaiting the return of the '90s for the past few years, and I feel it will be upon us soon.

Chris focused on '90s indie rock in a few different sets. The first was your standard '90s indie bands: Pavement, Dinosaur Jr., etc. The second set was more pop-punk influenced, and the Angus soundtrack was featured heavily. The third set was grungier and the fourth set was shoe-gazer hits. He ended with Spacehog's "In the Meantime" and it's been stuck in my head ever since.

It was a great way to spend a Saturday night: Sitting around, listening to great music, drinking beers, and talking about the music, our memories, and other ridiculous things. It felt like college, and that's never ever a bad thing.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Here There Be Dragons: The Undiscovered West End

This is an illustrated map from the City Paper's City Guide.
I loved that the West End is demarcated with a fire-breather and the caption "Here There Be Dragons." The West End does feel like an uncharted mystery in the Pittsburgh landscape, but Eric and I have ventured there, and plan to make a return visit soon, for Pedestrian Pittsburgh.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Why Not? - Biking Pittsburgh at Night with Flock of Cycles

Somewhere along the way, I became a biking advocate. I gave up on the idea of owning a car long ago; a mix of cost and the fact that I could be the world's worst driver has pretty much left me relying on my own two feet to get around since I graduated college. After a five-day trip to Berlin with a friend in 2007, I realized the unique value of biking in a city after a day spent zipping around on a couple rented bikes. I bought a bike and started navigating the unwieldy streets of Boston and Cambridge. I biked enough in Boston, but I never relied on my bike like I do now. For me, in Pittsburgh, it's the quickest way between two places. It's taken me on adventures and it's certainly gotten me into what is probably the best shape of my life.

Corey and I decided to take our bikes on an adventure a couple Fridays ago when we took part in Flock With Lights, a BikeFest ride through the city - starting at midnight.

The ride started from the BikeFest kickoff party, held in the Strip at the Pittsburgh Opera Building. Around midnight, we rolled out of the cavernous parking garage onto the streets with our lights flashing. The ride was sponsored by Flock of Cycles, who also provided some tunes along the way with this speaker system hitched onto the back of a bike.

The ride first took us downtown and across the Warhol Bridge to the North Side. We circled around Allegheny Commons, past PNC Park, and then we were back downtown after crossing the Clemente Bridge.

My favorite part of the ride was overtaking Market Square and then circling around the plaza at PPG Place. We went round and round and round until a security guard came out of one of the buildings and gave us some bad news: "No bikes in the plaza! No biking in the plaza!" We reluctantly ended our dizzying antics and continued onward through the Armstrong Tunnel and across the 10th Street Bridge to the South Side.

We turned left onto E. Carson Street probably around 12:45 a.m., and it was most definitely a Friday night in the South Side. We were greeted with a mix of heckling from drunken dudes, some cheering, and a few passer-bys had questions about what we were all doing on these bikes at night. One woman got my attention while I was waiting for a light to turn green and asked, "Why are you guys doing this?"

"Why not?" I responded.

Once the craziness of E. Carson Street subsided, the streets felt incredibly empty. We biked through the South Side Works and came upon some people milling about outside of the Hofbrauhaus. We crossed the Hot Metal Bridge and took to the Eliza Furnace Trail. After a short pitstop in the parking lot for the trail, we resumed our ride, which was nearing its end, but not before the lights from our bikes glowed as we navigated a very dark and very cool Panther Hollow.

Once everyone reached the top of S. Neville, we all disbanded and made our ways home. Corey and I took Ellsworth and I enjoyed the space the wide and empty road provided to let go of the handlebars and just glide most the back toward Bloomfield. By the time I was home, it was 2 a.m. I fell into my bed, exhausted. I was asleep in minutes, dreaming of my next Pittsburgh adventure.

Friday, August 19, 2011

I Will Buy This - Steeltown Anthem: The Printed Version #01

One of my favorite Pittsburgh blogs is Steeltown Anthem. Now, it's available IN PRINT.

Definitely making a mental note to swing by Wildcard very soon to pick up a copy!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Oh, Hai!! I'm Your Pittsburgh Grasshopper.

I went out onto my balcony the other morning to water my plants, and this guy had taken up residence on my basil. There must be a family of grasshoppers living nearby, because a couple weeks ago, I found a baby grasshopper in my bed!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

This Used to Be Our Playground: South Oakland on Summer Night

I had a horrible day at work. My computer was completely busted, and it was taking me four times longer to do everything as a result. I had already taken a day off that week, so feeling behind and feeling extremely frustrated, I basically fell apart and had the worst day. As I packed up my stuff for the ride home, I asked myself, "What would make me feel better?" After batting away the many thoughts of different ice cream places I could go to, I decided to return to Oakland, where I had biked past some pretty nifty murals, street art, and graffiti earlier in the week on my way to my doctor's office.

It ended up being a wise decision.

I invited Corey with me, so we took our bikes and rode through Bloomfield and North Oakland and through the Carnegie Museum's parking lot (so much fun to zoom around with no cars in the lot). We locked up in Sennot Square and started our walk. When I say it was the most perfect summer night, I am not exaggerating.

Corey says Warhol looks like a '90s female talk show host. No one in particular. Just your run-of-the-mill '90s female talk show host.

I went to college here. I spent four years walking these streets. I'm sure this was there then. How did I miss it? Now, it's the first thing I see. What a difference five or six years makes.

What I love about Pittsburgh (because I'm almost always a pedestrian): Louisa Street in Oakland turns into a stairway halfway through.

Groceria Mercante. Everything about this sign is great. The font of "MEATBALLS" might entertain me for days.

This is a rocket, but I also see a butt.

Rocketeer with a paintcan on a dumpster.

Kind of grammatically awkward and incorrect, but at least it's pleasant.

Ghost Bikes make me incredibly sad.

Another reason I love Pittsburgh: murals in unexpected places. I wouldn't exactly pin the wall of Gene's Place off of Louisa Street in South Oakland as the prime spot for this display. But it works, so well.

I've only been in Gene's Place a couple times, but walking by made me want to plan a night of South Oakland bar crawling, before the students get back, of course.

I dont think it's meant to look like this pig with wings and a crown(?) is pooping, but that speck is sure in a great place to assume that is what's happening.

The bike ride, the walk, the sights, and the company were enough to rid me of the bad mood that hovered over me all day. I was feeling so good by the time we'd biked back to Bloomfield, that I decided to make chocolate chip pancakes for dinner.

It ended up being a wise decision.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Monday, August 15, 2011

Holy, Batman, Batman! - Pittsburgh as Gotham City

I get crazy passionate or obsessed with bits of pop culture, places, or people. Sometimes, things in my life work out, and these things I get crazy passionate and obsessed about join together to make an Uber-Allison Explosion of Awesome. (I should probably trademark that.) For example: Owen covers the Velvet Underground song "Femme Fatale," supposedly about Edie Sedgwick.

Right now, Batman (Christian Bale) is filming in the best place (Pittsburgh). Batman! Christian Bale! Pittsburgh! This is Uber-Allison Explosion of Awesome times about a billion.

They've finished filming in Oakland, though before they did, Corey and I took a bike ride down to the Mellon Institute, a.k.a. Gotham City Hall, to see what we could see. We didn't see too too much, but there was fake snow and we know we saw at least one shot. One thing we were sure we saw was Anne Hathaway being driven off set in a shiny black SUV. She had on sunglasses and was trying to hide her face. It was so very Hollywood. But in Pittsburgh. It's kinda cool.

But wait: there's more! My friends Corey, Carrie, Cunningham and I signed up to be extras for the Heinz Field scene, which required us to get there at 6:15 a.m. and stay in the hot sun until 7:30 p.m. In winter jackets. Yikes. But, a stroke of luck came our way when my dad, who works for Chrysler, was able to hook us and my brother up with VIP access to filming during the day. Basically, our deal was getting there at 8:15 a.m., sitting in an air-conditioned press box to watch filming, getting a free lunch, and being out of there by 2 p.m. On the surface, that was too good to pass up. But then, we got to do and see so so so much more.

Cunningham, me, Carrie, Corey, and my brother Jeff (can you see the family resemblance?).
Oh, yeah, we were nerds and made themed t-shirts.
(And another note: I never look short in photos. This is great!!)

We weren't allowed to keep these awesome passes after the day was over, but it was pretty great to receive one with my name on it. Why Magnus Rex? Apparently, Christopher Nolan gives his movies codenames based on his kid's names. His youngest son, Magnus, loves dinosaurs. Hopefully Mr. Nolan brought Magnus with him to Pittsburgh, because we love our dinosaurs too!

We technically weren't supposed to take any pictures, but these are way less harmful than anything they've shown on the local news.

After lunch, we went to check out the Chrysler cars on display and were going to catch a shuttle back to Market Square, but then we decided to take a chance and see if our handler from Warner Bros. could get us onto the field. Glad we asked, cause he could! He had a friend of his get us right onto the field, right as they were setting up the explosions all over the field and filming the crown reaction sequences. We were on Heinz Field! Never really thought I'd have the opportunity to do that.

Oh, and there is one awesome bit of info I should share: I WAS TEN FEET AWAY FROM CHRISTIAN BALE FOR 15 MINUTES. Granted, we were separated by a pane of glass (he was in one press box, I was in another), but he looked my way once and now that means we're married. (Right? That's what that means, right?) Afterward, I was shaking and giddy, because I am a person who gets crazy passionate and obsessed with bits of pop culture, places and people. In front of me was Christian Bale. In Pittsburgh. At Heinz Field. Batman. Patrick Bateman. Jack Kelly. Uber-Allison Explosion of Awesome times a billion. Indeed.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Penn Ave Come to Life - Unblurred August

In my opinion, I couldn't live in a better area of Pittsburgh. When I was figuring out what neighborhood I would call home upon my return, I thought about Lawrenceville, Friendship, Regent Square, Squirrel Hill (only for a fleeting moment), and Bloomfield. Ultimately, I decided on a place in Bloomfield, and I couldn't be happier. I am five minutes from the beautiful mansions of Friendship. I am five minutes from yummy food on Liberty Ave. And I am five minutes from Penn Ave, a street that comes to life the first Friday of every month for Unblurred.

This past Friday was the first Friday of August. I'd missed the past couple Unblurreds for various reasons, so I was excited to have a free night for a stroll down Penn, ducking into galleries, enjoying free beer, and taking in some interesting sights.

I met my friend Dan at my place, and we decided to walk down Coral and avoid much of Penn until we got to The Cotton Factory, where awesome t-shirts, free East End Brewery beers, and Franktuary hot dogs were promised.

We each picked up $5 t-shirts. I wanted all of the t-shirts. Seriously. All of them. Especially the ferris wheel, powerlines, dinos, and ghosts ones. Oh, when will I be wildly wealthy?

Fun fact: On this day, I had Franktuary for lunch AND dinner. And it was great.

As we walked down Penn, I stopped often to take pictures of things. This might be my new favorite street art. But, I think that all the time. There's just so much to see and fall in love with on these streets.

During our Unblurred excursion, I was most interested in stopping into Assemble, a new space on Penn that I am very excited about. Their show, With What They Left, was great. It looked like someone ransacked a bunch of abandoned houses and recycled their finds as great installations and creations. I especially loved the back room, which you entered and felt like you were inside of somewhere about to crumble to bits. Wallpaper was stripped and handing from the walls and ceiling. The floor was littered with pages of a book, ripped out and strewn all over.

We also stopped into the new Mr. Roboto Project, which is now right up the street from me. It looks like they still have plenty of work left to go, but it's great to see the new location coming together.

We also ventured into Most Wanted Fine Art, and the picture above comes from there. We also popped into Garfield Artworks and Modern Formations. Once we were all cultured out, Dan and I strolled back toward my place, where we ended up joining some friends for a beer on a balcony. From there, I headed to Silky's on Liberty for a mini high school reunion.

That's the thing I love about being back in Pittsburgh. My night can be full of loud, interesting art, then go to a quiet gathering three stories above a main street, and then end sitting outside of a neighborhood bar, drinking beers and laughing about things past and present. A great end to a semi-stressful week.