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Archive for January, 2009

So, obviously, I haven’t been in on this Pittsburgh new media thing long enough, because R2P only just brought to my attention the rantings of disgruntled boomerang journalist Bill Steigerwald. This guy has about three things to say about his-hometown-and-mine, all nasty, and repeated again and again with only minimal change in syntax such that anything he writes about Pittsburgh sounds like it comes from the new magnetic poetry® set “local hatefulness.”* Yesterday he got out the “deindustrialized economy,” “religion of Steelerism,” and “inevitable decline into depression” phrase magnets and wrote a piece for newgeography.com accusing us of rearranging Terrible Towels on the deck of the Titanic:

Sunday’s Super Bowl game between the mighty Steelers and the upstart Arizona Cardinals – teams representing regions going in exactly opposite socioeconomic directions since 1950 – has eclipsed all non-sports news coming from Pittsburgh.

Pro football, which Pittsburgh continues to excel at despite 60 years of economic decline, brutal population loss and criminally inept public sector mismanagement, is a seasonal religion every fall no matter how well the Steelers do. But when the Steelers make it to the Super Bowl, as they did this year for an NFL record seventh time, the region and its 2.3 million people are paralyzed by a religious fervor that can be culturally embarrassing.

This isn’t the meanest thing he’s ever said about the ‘Burgh though. Not by a long shot. 

He got a lot of mileage on his assertion that Pittsburgh deserved a sympathy card instead of a birthday card for its 250th anniversary. He must have thought it was a clever little joke, since he used it twice – once for NewGeography and again for his day job at the Trib. Yes, they’re two different articles, but yes, they do both use the same little magnetic sound bites. He closes out the Trib column thusly:

But let’s face it: As our misgoverned core city turns 250, we Pittsburghers don’t have a whole lot to celebrate or look forward to — except maybe three or four Stanley Cups [sic] wins for the Penguins and the grand opening of the Port Authority’s half-billion-dollar North Shore Connector to Nowhere.

So instead of a 250th birthday card, on Tuesday someone probably should send Pittsburgh a sympathy card: “Sorry to hear of your long, slow socioeconomic death. Here’s hoping your next century is better.”

Now look here. I generally frown on the use of the perpetual ultimatum leveled at those who gripe about where they live – “Well why don’t you just leave [insert geographic location here] if you hate it so much?” – most recently worn out by suggesting anti-patriotism in anyone who questioned wiretaps or torture (“Why don’t you just go to Iran since you hate America?”). But seriously. He moved back to Pittsburgh. From Hollywood. I can’t think of anything worth saying except that tired old ultimatum (which, it appears, is the natural opposite of, “If you love Pittsburgh so much, why don’t you marry it?”, a phrase which I have often felt people in Austin stopped just short of saying to me for fear of looking immature). 

Of course, Mr. Steigerwald is entitled to his superior little opinion and his series of cue cards that represent it. And he’s entitled to spin things that aren’t really negative as egregious downsides – an economy that’s these days based in health care, higher education, and the public sector; or slow steady real estate growth instead of a bubble – like a school-yard bully who picks on whatever he sees first even if there’s nothing actually wrong with it.

But if he would just happen to like to pack up all that gloom and take it back to sunny Los Angeles, well, that would be pretty much fine with me.

 

*not real

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Brian O’Neill of the Post-Gazette took on an impressive duty today – to be Pittsburgh’s ambassador to the Arizona reading public, to explain what it is to be us, and therefore what it is to be a Steeler fan. He did a lovely job. His Arizona Republic counterpart, E.J. Montini, wrote a similar epistle from Phoenix to Pittsburgh – interestingly, it’s a letter home. Mr. Montini is part of the diaspora.

Mr. O’Neill perceptively speaks of “the Pittsburgh of the mind” to describe the way that Pittsburgh is bigger than its actual size, greater than the sum of its neighborhoods, and it’s a term that resonates. He’s right. Pittsburgh isn’t just literally bigger, encompassing a whole Western Pennsylvania culture and way of life as well as the vast diaspora of the Steeler Nation. It’s figuratively bigger too. It means something more than just an old city built where the rivers made it convenient. For people like me who want to return, and people like E.J. Montini who seemingly don’t, and people like Brian O’Neill who are already there, it is a framework within us on which to hang every experience. Everything is measured against an undying reality: we are Pittsburghers.

It is as unfortunate as it is fitting that many fewer Arizonans are likely to read the two columns than Pittsburghers. The PG has both stories at the top on their webpage, in the Super Bowl box they have been running for two weeks. The Republic required me to tunnel through many links and wrong turns to find the essays there, where the first reader moved to comment spat that Mr. Montini should “go back to Pittsburgh so you can root for your Steelers.” 

He’s already here. In the Pittsburgh of the mind.

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An Arn-free Super Bowl

ironcity

We tried.

We tried so hard.

Iron City gave up all distribution in Texas shortly after we moved here, so for over two years we’ve only had what we could smuggle back on the plane from trips home. We’ve long since finished the last bottle from our most recent visit, and have been on a long dry spell.

But we just had to find a way to have Iron City for the Super Bowl.

This was a difficult proposition. According to the Iron City website (which is malfunctioning right now, or I’d link to it), the closest place to directly purchase a case is Oklahoma City. And don’t think I didn’t consider actually driving to Oklahoma City, because I did. I just couldn’t get the time off work to make the mother of all beer runs.

Next option – mail order. Mr. TR was thrilled to discover Vintage Cellar’s website which ships beers nationwide from Blacksburg, VA (except, according to their site, Kentucky, Tennessee, Maryland, Indiana, Utah, and Massachusetts). We placed our order, cringing at the $60 shipping cost but willing to sacrifice.

Well.

Like the surprise twist ending of The Crying Game, there was a surprise ending to our beer order.

They won’t ship to Texas either. Why that’s not part of the list of no-no states is anyone’s guess.

So, now it’s too late. No Iron City for the Super Bowl. We’ll be settling for the glass lined tanks of Old Latrobe New Jersey.

Gentlemen, start your superstitions.

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The Storm of the Century

As seen from my BlackBerry: 

img00006-20090128-1016

Go ahead, chuckle. I did.

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Careful what I wish for

As my one and a half year-old nephew would say, uh… oh.

That winter weather I’ve been dreaming of? The steaming cocoa, the crackling fire, the cozy handknit blanket drawn up around my shoulders? Let’s get real. Actual winter in Texas turns Texans into helpless incompetents, sliding all over the road, calling in to workplaces two miles from their houses because they can’t safely get down their driveways. Feast your eyes on the high drama of a Central Texas winter storm warning (from kvue.com’s weather center):

 Winter Storm Warning  Statement as of 3:49 PM CST on January 27, 2009

… Winter Storm Warning remains in effect until 11 am CST
Wednesday…

A Winter Storm Warning remains in effect until 11 am CST
Wednesday.

Subfreezing temperatures will be met this evening and continue to slowly fall through the night. Hours of light freezing rain will result in ice accumulations up to one quarter inch on bridges and overpasses. Temperatures should climb above 32 degrees by late Wednesday morning.

A Winter Storm Warning means accumulations of snow… sleet…  freezing rain or freezing drizzle are expected or occurring. This will cause considerable travel problems and may pose a threat to life and property.

First, accumulations of snow? I should be so effing lucky. No, it will be ice, or it will be nothing but a little windchill and a lot of panic.

And “a threat to life and property?” Okay, Captain Hysteria.

Then again, Austin’s response to hazardous driving conditions during the ice storm of 2007 was to throw sand on the interstate skating rink. I don’t know how little gypsum ball-bearings are supposed to help make icy roads safer, so perhaps “up to a quarter inch” of ice accumulation really will become the Storm of the Century.

I’ll let you know if I pull through.

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Read this! (Woy is hosting surprise guest blogger PittGirl – aka Jane Pitt – this week) (Why are you still reading this?) (Though it’s hard to escape noticing that for someone who wanted to disappear from public view, PittGirl has had a lot of surprise reappearances…) (She should just come back permanently. Stop taunting us, PittGirl!) 

Or read this! (Cat is even more cutting with her advice-seekers than usual – fun!)

Or read this! (Weird but satisfactory “post-game analysis” of the Madden 09 simulated Super Bowl XLIII played last week by some computer)

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First of all, it has recently come to my attention that Professor Madison has included me under his heading entitled “Pittsburgh Arts and Culture,” a huge honor which I am trying mightily to live up to. I think that means I should probably quit blithering about football all the time. And I will. After the Super Bowl.

Now that I have two dozen black and gold Smiley Cookies winging their sweet, delicious way toward me, I feel better able to handle this last week before the Big Game in enemy territory while remaining cultured and poised.

I have found myself surprised by the degree to which this feels like “enemy territory” all of a sudden. It’s not as if Austin is crawling with Cardinals fans, and up until about ten days ago I didn’t think it was rife with Steeler haters either, even accounting for the predominance of Cowboys fans here. They’re all out of the woodwork now, though, jeering at the Steelers lanyard I use to hang my nametag around my neck at work (which, for the record, I’ve worn every day since I moved here and up until now has only been a conversation piece and a welcome sign that I have a little personality in a largely personality-less industry) and taunting me about bad punting.

I try to maintain a zen-like placidity over the whole thing. I figure the only thing more infuriating than having to interact with someone whose neckwear embodies the knowledge that your team is a bunch of losers and her team is cruising for its sixth ring is not being able to provoke her into an argument about punting.

“I cannot control the Steelers’ punting. I can only control my reaction to the Steelers’ punting. Om.”

And if I can’t have zen-like placidity at all times, at least I can have cookies.

Om.

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