Archive for February, 2009

Dateline: Mudville

I was all set to come here and gloat a little. I was all excited to declare the score My Life 1, Real World 0. I spent some quality time playing a Spring Training game on my PlayStation 3 this afternoon, in my happy little computer world where my animated Buccos beat the Reds 5-3 on a walk-off 2-run home run by Jose Bautista in the 13th inning, complete with 17 hits by the Bucs, one hit through 6 innings by Zach Duke, and a solo home run by Jason Bay in the bottom of the 9th to send the game into extra innings.

See, I have the 2007 version of MLB The Show, and I have about as much interest in updating my game to reflect the current roster as I have in gouging my eyeballs out with Burgh Baby‘s titanium hyperspork. I run my computer Bucs the way I wanna, got it? 

But the real world surprised me a little bit today. The real, actual Pirates, playing grapefruit ball at the Red Sox in Ft. Myers, came back in the 9th inning to beat the Sox. Cute, yes?

I don’t expect great things. Despite my video game’s evidence to the contrary, I do live in the real world where a couple of wins in Spring Training, even against the team that picked up the jewel that we stupidly threw away, are utterly irrelevant. But still. It kinda feels good.

And when it stops feeling good, I’ve got 2007.


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Just got my cholesterol test results today. Verdict: not too bad, you know, for a Pittsburgher. We have lots of reasons to fear those digits, not least of which is coming up right around the corner.

Today is Mardi Gras, which means one wonderful thing. Fish sandwiches. Six weeks of deep-fried, golden, crispy deliciousness, starting tomorrow. Now, full disclosure: I am not Catholic, and I have never given up anything for Lent (except my wisdom teeth when I was 16, but I didn’t get them back after Easter). But as the Trib pointed out a couple years ago, one needn’t be Catholic to get in on the fishy excitement.

This is totally a regional phenomenon. I currently live in a predominantly Catholic area and I have had no luck at all finding the kind of neighborhood fish-fry down at the firehouse that is so prevalent in Pittsburgh. Yeah, we can go to a restaurant that fries things all year and get some gulf shrimp, but it’s just not the same.

So add that to the ever-growing list of reasons that I’ll be so happy to be visiting next week – I won’t miss out on fish. You don’t miss out either – get your fix in your neighborhood: KDKA’s Fish Fry Finder.

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Explain something to me

Explain to me… the decorative fireplace. If you have never lived anywhere but Pittsburgh, you may never have thought about what a ragingly stupid concept this is. So think of it now: it’s 19-0-whatever, you’re building a drafty brick Victorian house in a part of the country that’s under snow for 4 months of the year – do you build a fake fireplace that doesn’t have a chimney, doesn’t burn any wood, and doesn’t provide any warmth? Do you build seven of them?? In the same house??!

fireplace1Mr. TR and I are madly house-hunting, combing real estate websites, trying to use Google StreetView as a substitute for actually driving by properties and checking for crazy neighbors or sewage smells, and a good number of the houses in the neighborhoods we’re searching are plagued with an infestation of superfluous fake fireplaces. Some are flagrantly fake, like the one to the left – just a wooden mantel glued to the wall. Others are slightly better replicas – the type that actually has a small bricked-up indentation in the wall with a mantel over it. Still others appear to be actual fireplaces that have just had their flues bricked closed… until you look at the outside views of the house and see no chimney.

fireplace2Wait, did I say “chimney?” Because I meant “chimneys.” Because these decorative fireplaces travel in packs. If a house has one, it has five. There are phony fireplaces in the living room, the dining room, the master bedroom, the kids’ rooms, the bathrooms, anywhere someone might need a little extra heat and be longing for a warm crackling fire – you’ll find a mocking reminder that there will be no warm crackling fire.

fireplace3I cannot understand what these early 20th century architect people were thinking. Were they thinking, “The radiators and coal heaters already provide so much reliable heat, a woodburning fireplace would just be overkill?” Were they thinking, “No one around here can afford wood, but that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve a beautiful useless fireplace?” Or were they thinking, “Oh shit, we forgot to build five chimneys, what do we do now?”

fireplace4People. I think there are more working fireplaces in Oz-tin than there are in Pittsburgh. I don’t have to tell you how pathetic that is. Texas needs fireplaces like it needs a hole in the head. I know there are charms to Pittsburgh architecture, but at least the Pittsburgh potty has some utility. Decorative fireplaces? That’s just a tease.

Photos from actual properties for sale at http://pittsburghmoves.com/default.aspx.

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Jim Wexell is a freelance writer who has covered the Steelers for ages, and now publishes SteelCityInsider.com. And he’s had an experience that inspires one specific emotion in Steeler fans.


Deep, profound, unadulterated envy for Wex’s journey across the country for the Steelers’ entire road schedule in 2007, going to Steeler bars all over America, tailgating, attending games, and hanging out with the ultimate Steelers insiders – the players’ friends and family.

Lucky bastard.

Wex documents his odyssey in the book Steeler Nation, a fantasy travelogue that the rest of us can only daydream about. It’s eye-opening for ex-pats to see how very many of us there are out here, and how we find each other and come together everywhere. And it’s exceptionally engaging for the diaspora in that it meets us where we are, highlighting how much of our Pittsburgh identity we carry to wherever we land. And it also acknowledges the many ways that Steeler fans can be made instead of born – so many people grew to love what the Steelers have represented over the years, no matter where they are.

But the book is for all fans, in and out of Pittsburgh, because of the unbelievable fantasy-camp quality of Wex’s journey. For one thing, he gets to go to Hawaii – the ultimate dead-of-winter daydream for Pittsburghers. But more than that, he meets the families and friends of The Troy, The Harrison, The Ben, The Hamp, The Hines, and many more of our current icons. His interviews turn those larger-than-life personalities into people like us, with high school buddies and childhood mischief and triumphs and tragedies and heartache.

Some of the boys had golden childhoods full of love and fun and some had more pain and struggle than any child deserves. Either way, the book opens a window into the real lives of the men we so enthusiastically cheer on, and begins to make  some sense of the personalities that we see peeking through on the field. And at least for me, it makes it harder to judge them when they act stupid or do wrong. I think it’s pretty healthy to be reminded that under every persona, there’s a person, just trying to do the best he can with the tools he’s been given.

All in all, it’s a dream trip with a good message that the whole Steeler Nation can appreciate. Plus, Hawaii!

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It has come to my attention that if one is called upon to make up a name for oneself, one should be smart enough to pick one that is spell-able and pronounce-able to people not currently enrolled in French I. 

Sometimes I am too nerdy for my own good, and for that, I hope you will forgive me.

I also hope you will indulge my brief flashes of creativity, inspired by my name revision.

By way of explanation: if you have seen me down at Facebook, you will know how silly my profile looked when it thought my first name was “Mme.” With a little help from my friends, I found a suitable first name, and the more I thought about it, the more I liked it.

Then last night when Robin Williams called Austin “the land of Oz,” I knew the universe (or at the very least, a hairy coked-up comic) was telling me something. 

I’m happy to reintroduce myself, Dorothee in the Land of Oz-tin, and I hope you’ll continue to enjoy my adventures on the yellow-brick road back to Pittsburgh.

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1. No, no, no, no, and no. That is all.

2. Spring training is underway, and if you care, follow the analyses here, here, or here. This is the bestest time of year. Almost time for baseball joy, but no actual sucking yet.

You guys, I love baseball. I don’t know if I’ve emphasized that enough. I would anticipate a lot of never shutting up about it very soon.

3. Uh, sorry neighbors. Cleveland is number 4 on Forbes’ 10 most miserable cities in 2009. That’s higher than Flint, MI. Michael Moore made a whole movie about how miserable Flint is.

4. So, Mr. TR and I are looking for a new house (anyone wanna buy a little Cape Cod?), and one of the big pluses noted by a real estate agent about a house we were considering was its proximity to a new retail development. I was mildly annoyed by it (see the rant I just wrote about mixed-use neo-urban development), until I realized two things: a) this is an actual old urban building, the Nabisco plant; and b) we’d be so close to a gym, I might actually go.


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“Just like Penn Mac!”

Quipped my husband as I put my head in my hands and slowly shook it, not believing the ridiculousness around me. This is it, friends. This is the ultimate symbol of why Austin is bullshit and Pittsburgh is not. I snapped this BlackBerry shot while we ate at an Italian place yesterday:


Note the handpainted-looking signage, the shaped ceiling, the exposed brick, and the delectable array of hanging meats and cheeses.

It’s all fake. Fake fake fake fake.

The ceiling is green molded composite, that map looks like a placemat, and the meats and cheeses are plastic. PLASTIC. 

That place has been open for probably two years. It’s in one of the ubiquitous mixed-use properties in Austin, built to look old and urban, with shabby-chic overpriced pseudocasual restaurants and boutiques on the first floor and faux vintage brick veneer condos on top.

It’s part of this stupid place.

This is running dangerously close to not being funny anymore. Stop treating me like I’m an idiot, Austin. I know The Triangle isn’t vintage urban loft space, and I know those prosciutti are plastic.

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