Wednesday, February 29, 2012

PGH Book #2: Building a Better Robot

The second book in my 2012 Pittsburgh canon was an exciting purchase. It's about a subculture based in music (my favorite kind of nonfiction). It's about Pittsburgh, and a place I'd been! And, perhaps most important, it was written by a friend, Andy Mulkerin.

Go! Andy!

Any semblance of good musical taste that I may have is thanks to a boy I dated when I was in high school. He made me mixtapes (yes - actual tapes!) that were full of songs and sounds I'd never heard before, but that I quickly fell in love with. On occasion I'd go with him to shows, which is how I'd been to the Mr. Roboto Project before. He came over to pick me up, and when my parents asked him where he was taking me he said, "Wilkinsburg." Their faces turned white, but they let me go anyway - and thank goodness, because that night I was introduced to a band that is still one of my most favorite bands. (There was even a story about that Weakerthans show included in the oral history section.)

This was a really great read. I loved learning more about a place I only knew on the surface. Of getting a glimpse into what was going on behind the scenes. I saw only a handful of shows there, but for others this place was a home. It's a great little subset of Pittsburgh.

"People often focused on what you couldn't do there. I think they missed the point of what you could do there. You could form your own band and book your own shows there. You could run for the board of directors. It was an empty room that you could create something in if you chose."

The end of the book listed all of the documented/known Mr. Roboto Project shows over the course of the first ten years. I'd like to highlight a few.

9/22/2000: My first introduction to The Weakerthans. Also still listen to Elliott quite often.

2/23/2001: Was definitely at this show.

This one is for Boston friends. I was always very proud of the whole Girl Talk is from Pittsburgh thing.

So, another month is coming to a close. Let's check in and see how I'm doing with my other resolutions...

Sadly, I did not volunteer this month. But I did get in touch with BikePGH regarding Bike to Work Day in May.

But I have been going gangbusters on my third resolution to try new things! Just off the top of my head, the following were firsts for me in February: high tea service at The Inn on Negley, South Side Soup Contest, Construction Junction (post to come, I think), Screen printing!, hosted my first proper dance night (Confetti w/ Cousin Mike), celebrated Phil Collins Day properly, went to the new Mr. Roboto Project location, and probably some other things I'm forgetting. I'm making progress!

I announced my fourth resolution, to finish something, at the end of January. I'm happy to report that a few days ago I surpassed both 300 miles biked and $300 raised! Pedal for Pennies is something I'm really excited about. I've been planning ways to celebrate throughout the year with friends and family. If you'd like to learn more or make a pledge, please visit Pedal for Pennies.

February was not my most productive month blog-wise, but I expect that with March will come slightly better weather and increasingly longer days. During the time I haven't been adventuring, I have been creating, and will hopefully be re-launching my stitching/crafting side-project in the spring. Exciting things are coming. Soon, there will be green.

Happy Leap Day!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

PGH Beautiful: Murals, February 2012

A couple murals. The winter hasn't been too bad, but exploring has been drastically reduced. I really cannot wait for warmer temps and the ability to spend entire days adventuring around town.

From along the Eliza Furnace Trail.

At the intersection at Penn and the 16th Street Bridge. I see this every morning riding into downtown on my bike.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Malkamania: Penguins 8, Tampa Bay 1

On Saturday, I joined my dad at the Consol Energy Center for an afternoon Pens game against the Tampa Bay Lightning. My dad has season tickets to the Pens; right in the very last row of Section 227. We love it - a great view, we can stand the whole time, and direct access to the upper concourse. It's the kind of place where a small community can form, and that is exactly what has happened. We don't just stand there alone during the game. We have "hockey friends" come and go throughout the game. Sometimes they stay for just the intermission. Other times they join us for whole periods; in some cases they've stayed for entire games. Our beer guy - the same beer vendor who has been selling my dad beer at Steelers and Pens games since my dad was MY AGE - knows us by name, calls at us from halfway around the arena, and has even once given me a beer on credit and another time left his case with me while he ran a quick errand. I've learned a lot about hockey from listening to my dad talk to these "hockey friends," to the point where I can even hang in there a little myself in those conversations. This is all to say that going to Pens games frequently because of these season tickets, has made a hockey game less of an event, and more of a gathering for me.

But every now and then you see an explosively awesome game. And it is once again an event. That's what Saturday's game was like. Explosively awesome. It wasn't dramatic or suspenseful; the Pens were never in the hole against Carolina and the final score was 8-1. Malkin scored three goals - A HAT TRICK! - in stunning displays of hockey ability. Staal got a short-hander and a power play goal. This was a fun game to watch, and I'm really glad that on one of the only crappy winter days we've had in this city, I was up there in the last row of the arena, cheering with my dad and our "hockey friends."

Awesome Sign: Hat Trick!

Awesome Building; Sad Sight: The deconstruction of the Igloo.
(We sat in the last row of that building, too.)

Monday, February 20, 2012

Too Much of a New Thing: The South Side Soup Contest

I have always been a picky eater. I can't remember being any other way. I try my hardest to eat like an adult, but that often means trying new things, which has always been an oddly terrifying thing for me. So far this year, I've really made an effort to try new foods when they are presented to me.

My first big foray into trying to overcome this strange fear was during Pittsburgh's first-ever Restaurant Week. I went to Habitat with friends Kate and Zack, where my options for dinner were limited, so I couldn't just fall back on the safest option. I had oxtail. It wasn't bad.

My next attempt came at Carrie's 28th Birthday Tea at the Inn on Negley. I ate every bit of every scone, sammich, and sweet that was set in front of me, and enjoyed every bit of everything.

So, with two overall positive experiences under my belt, I ordered tickets to the South Side's Soup Contest.

Let me first say that this was a really great event. After a somewhat negative experience at the overly packed Bakery Square Bake-Off a few weeks ago, the organized and well though-out Soup Contest was really fun. If I were a foodie, I would have loved it, I'm sure. But, I'm still making baby steps toward being a well-rounded eater.

The first soup we tried actually ended up being my absolute favorite of the ones I tried. It was the Charred Tomato Basil with Baby Grilled Cheese Croutons from Local Bar + Kitchen served up at Delanie's Coffee. When we started the day, we were both excited to try new soups and eagerly walked between locations or waited patiently in line. But, after trying MANY new things in a VERY short period of time (including things that I already know I don't like - like bacon or onion), I started to feel a little less eager and a lot less patient (and also kinda like my hands had frozen).

The second soup we tried that day. A Lentil Soup from Stagioni picked up at the Milkshake Factory.

Fortunately Allie started to feel the same, and so we hatched a new plan: buy slices of cheesecake and take them to Big Dog Coffee for nice hot pick-me-ups.

I learned a really valuable lesson, and it's something I'll keep in mind so long as it's 2012 and I'm trying new things: new things in moderation. I was a little ambitious thinking I would be able to stomach so many new things at once. Though I'm glad I tried, because that's a lot more than I ever would have done.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Love Stinks! And Inks! Making Valentines at Commonwealth Press

Screen printing and letterpress are two means of making things that I've always been fascinated by and have admired, but I had never given either a go with my own two hands. When I saw a tweet from Commonwealth Press announcing their Love Stinks Valentines card printing party, I was immediately interested. After trying to find a buddy to sign up with me, I decided to buy a ticket regardless of whether or not anyone came with me. This is 2012! I'm trying new things and if I have to try them alone, well, that is something I'm going to try and do.

Cards sitting out to dry in the Commonwealth Press warehouse.

I arrived and was greeted almost immediately by Dan, owner of Commonwealth Press. We talked for a bit while waiting for the fashionably late and he answered my questions about his shop/store and screen printing. Though I felt a little nervous and anxious having shown up without a pal, Dan was really welcoming - as were the guys and gals stationed around the warehouse to help with screen printing and letterpress. After the initial nerves subsided, I was bouncing from station to station chatting and creating. Because I am an excellent journalist/blogger, I took a couple very fuzzy photos of the warehouse.

Dan (in red plaid), owner of Commonwealth Press, and Lisa (also in red plaid, but with hat), owner of Sapling Press.

I had a blast learning how to use the screen printing and letterpress stuff. I got to drink some beer, have a few cookies, and make a ton of awesome Valentines (that I still haven't given out, so - friends - expect me to use these throughout the year for your birthdays). Here are some of my favorites that I am proud to have made with my own two hands:

(Kate, Zack, and Mullen: those are your Christmas presents in the background. Just FYI.)

When I left, I said goodbye to Dan and thanked him for hosting a fun and creative night like this. I also hinted at wanting a similar party for Halloween. Not enough people are giving each other Halloween cards, and that is a problem we really should fix.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


Listen. I love few things in the world as much as I love Pittsburgh. One of those things: Phil Collins. I can't really explain it except to tell you that I grew up listening to the We Can't Dance album in my backyard and would act out the songs (not lip-sync, I'm talking full-on reenactments) while my mom watched me in a complete state of horror.

I love Phil Collins.

Today is Phil Collins Day! A great day to celebrate and also to find out what happens when you google "Phil Collins Pittsburgh."

You. Are. Welcome.

Obviously, that article is only loosely based on fact. Because I don't know who ever would say that "Sussudio" sucks!

Enjoy some Phil Collins today. And every other day!

Want more awesome, but slightly higher-brow, Phil Collins? Listen to This American Life's The Break-Up.

Every I hear the key change in this song, I hear my dad saying "key change!" in my head. And if he's nearby, that's what he always says.

It is my dream - in life - to sing "Easy Lover" with Phil Collins at karaoke. But I wanna sing the Phil Collins part!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day: 14 Things I Love (re: Pittsburgh)

With just about four hours to go until Valentine's Day is over, and the really awesome holiday begins (check back tomorrow!), I thought I'd share 14 things I love about Pittsburgh, or have loved throughout the past year.

1. I love this man who lives on Penn Ave. I hope he stays there forever, but, if not, I'll enjoy him for as long as I can.

2. I love everything about this quote. It's a child describing how watching Mr. Roger's Neighborhood makes him feel.

3. I love how many different views of Pittsburgh there are, and how many I've been able to see since I've been back.

4. I love all the color. All of it.

5. I love my creative friends, without whom I would be lost.

6. I love that in this mural in East Liberty that there are crazy-looking wolves running around unleashed! East Liberty is scary! (Not really, but in this version, look out!)

7. I love Panther Hollow. Such a good place when you need to get away.

8. I love that we have a dino in our airport. For real, this makes me excited every time I come home.

9. I absolutely love that this photo exists.

10. I love how worn the stairs in the Carnegie Library in Oakland are. So much use by so many generations of Pittsburgh.

11. I love this quilt. Simply amazing.

12. I love the Bloomfield Halloween Parade. And I loved that this kid broke a board in front of where I was standing this year. How many days till Bloomfield Halloween Parade 2012??

13. I've really loved spending time with my dad.

14. And I loved saying goodbye to 2011, and saying hello to 2012 by taking a quick dip in the Mon, bright and early on New Year's Day.

Happy Valentine's Day.

Friday, February 10, 2012

PGH Beautiful: Awesome Signs, February 2012

A couple signs found on Butler Street in Lawrenceville.

All awesome signs should use skulls and bones.

Endless giggles were the result of this sign.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Riding the Furnace: Graffiti Along the Eliza Furnace Trail

The other day, it was beautiful out. It was February 1, 2012, and I had the day off work. So I took a bike ride. Because it had rained the day before and that morning, I knew I had to stay off the limestone trails along the North Shore. I went up and down the South Side trail and then crossed over via the Smithfield Street bridge onto the Eliza Furnace Trail. One of my favorite things about this trail is the strings of graffiti along the wall that keeps 376 away. So, I thought I'd share (since the trail was empty and I had the room, I shot a video while riding - woo!):

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Happy Birthday Tea: Celebrating Carrie's 28th at the Inn on Negley

My very good friend Carrie turned 28 a week ago. We celebrated by making reservations for high tea at the Inn on Negley. I had been to only one high tea service before, at the Four Seasons in Boston, but this really blew that experience out of the water. We walked from Carrie's to the Inn on Negley in beautifully mild weather. When we arrived, our third guest, Emily, had not yet arrived, so we waited in the parlor (it felt very high-society to be waiting in a parlor) and flipped through a book on Pittsburgh buildings and architecture.

Everything was delicious. The teas were wonderful and hot and the food was so so so good. You may recall that I am a picky eater, so I went into this knowing I would probably have food in front of me that I would normally ignore. But, this being 2012, and this being the year I try new things, I told myself I would eat everything offered. Which I did, and which I enjoyed thoroughly. The scones (a vanilla cream and a lemon poppyseed), the sandwiches (egg salad with avocado, hummus, and chicken salad), and the desserts (pear tart, cupcake, cookie) were all so delicious. Not a single complaint.

After tea we walked through the Inn to see the rooms that were open. The Inn on Negley is beautiful, and it's like stepping back in time.

All three of us left happy and satisfied with the afternoon. It was such a lovely way to spend time with friends, and I look forward to doing it again soon.

Walking around sans-jackets in February. Yes!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Penn Ave for the Newly in Town: Unblurred February 2012

A couple weeks ago, my good friend Pam asked me if I would act as a PGH Ambassador and take a few of her friends around - one of whom had just moved here. I was tickled to have been considered a worthy PGH guide and happily accepted. Fortunately, the planning of activities for Friday night was super easy as it was the first Friday of the month, meaning Unblurred was happening just up the street. Free art, free beer, and a Spak pizza or two were undoubtedly in our future.

Our first stop, as my Unblurred experiences tend to always go, was at Modern Formations. The new show, "The Word Made Flesh" was right up my alley. Skeletons and internal organs painted/printed onto old Bible pages adorned the walls. I was instantly jealous and started to brainstorm a way to make the skeletons a reality in my apartment somewhere.

After a quick stop at Most Wanted Fine Art (where Mr. Eric Lidji's Reading Allowed event happens on February 22!) we entered Assemble for a fun and interactive show ¡CREAR Y COMUNICAR! where we drew self-portraits, made a flag, and sketched out our favorite things to do every day.

My self-portrait. On the back of which, I was instructed to write down a wish.

Funny and true!

One of my guests drew the one on blue paper.

This one made me smile.

The last activity we did we made a flag, for what would presumably my country? An orange stripe, a dinosaur, and a bike. That's about all a country needs to be successful.

There is no limit to the amount of pleasure I get from charming art like this.

I believe my guests for the evening enjoyed the event, and came away with a nice little impression of one of my favorite regular Pittsburgh events.