Archive for the ‘Libations’ Category

Last night I arrived in Pittsburgh for a long-overdue visit with Mr. TR, and today I had the disconcerting experience of being treated like a tourist.

First, Mr. TR and I went by the insurance office to finalize our homeowners’ policy for the house we’ll be closing on next month. I had commented myself when we got dressed this morning – he in his Fleury jersey and I in my Clemente t-shirt – that anywhere else we’d look like we were trying too hard, but in the ‘Burgh we just look normal, so I was taken aback when the receptionist (who didn’t seem to have great people skills anyway, for a receptionist) remarked, “You’re really getting into the relocation thing, aren’t you?” Not entirely sure how to respond to that, I opted for the direct route. “We’re moving back,” was my only explanation, which satisfied her. 

Stranger still was lunch at Primanti, which went fine until I ordered my I.C. Light (yeah, go ahead, laugh) and the waitress asked for my ID. I handed over my Texas driver’s license, which was met with suspicion. After a long minute of looking back and forth between me and the license (which admittedly resembles more a frequent shoe-shopper card from DSW than a form of legal identification), she finally said she’d have to show it to her manager.


I guess my out-of-state identification was satisfactory to the manager, because the server did return with beer, along with a slight sense of mistrust. Had we been there before?, she wanted to know. Did we need our sandwiches explained to us? We’re okay, we reassured her – Mr. TR even ordered his sandwich with egg, which did seem to break the ice a bit. By the end of the meal, it seems the Texas ID debacle was forgotten, and we were treated with the same benign neglect one expects from any normal visit to Primanti’s. 

Perhaps we seemed too normal to really be from Texas.

I was struck, however, by the strength of my reaction to being viewed as an outsider. I almost desperately wanted to explain myself, why I belong here, why you’d be wrong to make judgments about me based on my driver’s license. But I didn’t. It’s easier to show people than tell them – I’m no Primanti virgin.


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Save Our… Products


(old publicity photo I saved from some news outlet)

(old publicity photo I saved from some news outlet)


If I could have one Pittsburgh-related wish (okay, provided the city’s financial woes were taken care of and the mayor were de-attention-whore-ed and the Bucs had a winning season…), it would be to bring back the Iron City aluminum bottle. Those were awesome.

I know a smart engineering student at Bucknell University technically proved that beer doesn’t really stay colder longer in the aluminum bottle, but it was just so unique and different that I loved it. And now Budweiser has an aluminum bottle and we don’t and Budweiser looks cutting edge and Iron City just looks bankrupt (when only one of those is actually true).

We have displayed two aluminum bottles in our kitchen window here in Oz-tin for 3 years, and now that we’re packing up I’ve taken them down and boxed them up. I had forgotten that we nostalgically labeled them with the occasion on which we drank them:



Plus, call me crazy, but I really rather liked the Save Our City campaign that accompanied the launch of the bottle. I know it was ill-fated and silly and shame on Pittsburgh Brewing Company (may it rest in peace) for launching a concept aimed at revitalizing the city and increasing reliance on local products when they couldn’t even pay their water bill, but there are already more than enough people to point out what Pittsburgh and its ancestral industries are doing wrong.

When the Save Our City billboards went up in fall 2004 before the aluminum bottle was launched, Professor Madison at Pittsblog 1.0 ripped them apart, and rightly so I guess. But it’s never been my style to join that chorus – not just since I started blogging but ever. I don’t really have it in me to be deep-down cynical about Pittsburgh. Not that I can’t smell the crap – the flowers just smell stronger. So anyway, I felt that the Save Our City campaign had its heart in the right place and it resonated with me. I even bought a t-shirt.

It still could do us some good to remember what it was all about. From a 2004 PG article about the aluminum bottle:

On the back of the bottle is a “Save Our City” message from [former Pittsburgh Brewing Company Vice Chairman Joseph] Piccirilli. It’s part of an advertising campaign sponsored by the brewery aimed at generating ideas for reviving Pittsburgh, which faces a budget crisis and other tough issues. 

The aluminum bottle was gimmicky, but it was cool and clever and it was manufactured in the region, proving that even if the old brewery had the business sense of a Blow-Pop it was always willing to put its money where its mouth – and its family – was. If we want to Save Our City, we’d do well to keep that spirit in mind. 

And I swear it really did keep my beer colder.


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Hip sexy wine bar, Austin, TX, Friday February 6:


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Most of everything that needs to be said about Super Bowl XLIII has already been said, by people who write a lot better than I do.  I recommend Peter King’s analysis here at SI, which – dare I say? – lovingly profiles the Steelers and their brotherhood and what they mean to each other and how that helped them win the game. Or, also from SI, a story that could be a profile of the city of Pittsburgh as much as the champion Steelers, by Don Banks.

They’ve never been afraid of hard work, or of stepping up when the moment demands. Some would say they don’t really know any other way.

Or enjoy this analysis from Gene Wojciechowski at ESPN which points out that even though the Steelers aren’t “America’s Team,” they’re the team that we all respect. 

This is why the Steelers are unlike any other professional sports franchise. They win in ways you can respect. They beat the Arizona Cardinals 27-23 in arguably the best Super Bowl game ever, and the Steelers spend the postgame complimenting the other team as much as they compliment their own.

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger found Cardinals QB Kurt Warner on the field and told him, “It was an honor to play against you.”

The national media coverage of this Steeler team and the amazing game they won yesterday has a feeling to it that I’m very used to in my own experience, but I’m not accustomed to seeing in the people who talk about sports for a living. It’s tenderness. It seems that at least for today, everyone is seeing our Steelers the way we do.


Just a few things to share about my own Super Bowl:

1. About The Harrison’s penalty. That penalty. It was dumb and crazy and violent and… funny. Funny as hell. I can’t explain why, and it probably reveals a very dark part of us, but Mrs. PF and PCC and I were rolling our eyes about the “unnecessary roughness” call because we were expecting just some dopey accidental tripping over someone like those calls often are, then when they replayed the beat-down we just dissolved laughing. It was just so unexpected. Like, YES, now THAT’S some roughness!

2. Clearly, The Troy and I have an unexplained cosmic connection. I can tell, because I had to scramble around to find a missing contact lens too. Mr. PF poked me square in the eye during a missed hug/high-five type move and out popped my lens onto the floor. The disembodied spirit of The Troy helped me find it. I know it.

3. I fully believe that the lack of Iron City at my house was singlehandedly responsible for the Cardinals’ fourth quarter comeback. You hear that, Vintage Cellar?! Your fault! We almost lost because of you!

4. Last night was one of the most wonderful, beautiful, affirming times I’ve had. (No, it doesn’t compete with my wedding. Mr. PF got in a little trouble with the Mrs. for leaving out that disclaimer yesterday…) I unabashedly cried through the whole last drive. I cried again in the car on the way to work listening to radio analysis. ESPN’s post-game conversation with The Ben moved me to sermonize about how perfect he is for us, how I don’t care that he’s a big oafish helmet-less lug, how he carries that team on his shoulders and never gives up, and how I’m glad he’s ours.

I’m glad they’re ours.

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An Arn-free Super Bowl


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.


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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Post-Gazette photo 


Post-Gazette photo




Unlike these lucky sons-of-guns, we couldn’t travel home to see the game in person. So we draped the living room in Terrible Towels, acquired beer and hot wings, and settled in on the couch. And by “settled in,” I mean jumped up and down, paced, galloped around, clutched each others’ arms, and swung our towels violently. 

The PF’s arrived just in time for the field goal on the opening drive – they had tickets to Jesus Christ Superstar in San Antonio yesterday afternoon, and for reasons that I can’t begin to fathom, Mrs. PF made them go (Mr. PF has referred to her as a Steeler fan by marriage). Mr. PF drove the speed of sound to get back for the game, and they knocked on the door just as The Jeff was trotting onto the field.

In our little four-person suburb (only 1,413 miles from Heinz Field, Google Maps tells me), we watched The Santonio – who has earned his “The” back – turn The Ben’s pointless throw-away into a stellar 65 yard touchdown reception; the Birdies nearly come back with two touchdowns, both set up by end-zone pass interference; Limas Sweed look like the fourth Stooge; The Troy in his imitable fashion just be right where he needed to be to get his first post-season TD; Willis McGahee get administered a hit by The Ryan that looked like it could have ended more than just the Birdies’ possession (career? life?) and Frontal Lobe Disorder Lewis pretend for like 5 minutes that he cares about human life; and Dan Rooney hold the Lamar Hunt Trophy.

It was such good stuff that I had to rush from the room coughing and wheezing when I got so worked up over The Troy’s interception that I suffered as asthma attack – he literally takes my breath away [rimshot]. And it was such good stuff that Mrs. PF admitted at the end that she liked it as much as the musical.


P.S. Even more than I’m glad he has a nice long off-season to recover, starting now, I hope that McGahee will be alright. That was quite a hit. I hear he’s doing okay – join me in hoping that’s true.

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I like change. I think it’s good, and I seek it often. But I find myself upset by changes that happen back home when I’m not there. It’s one thing to experience the changes, to roll with them, to be able to say goodbye when necessary. It’s quite another to read about change on the internet, and to come back and find things different.

Things I’m not ready for just yet:

  • Replacement of signage on the Parkway West designating the whole length I-376, scheduled to begin in January. But I like seeing signs telling me I’m traveling south on I-279, when I’m clearly driving northwest. It’s fun explaining that to tourists.
  • The abandonment of the historic Penn Brewery on the Nor’side. Yes I know the beer will still be available. No it won’t be the same.
  • The new and improved Boulevard of the Allies. I’ll be working in Oakland, like I always have – the drive into the heart of it is as automatic to me as filing my nails. The new route is likely to result in near-death experiences every day for the first two months I’m home.
  • Tiffany’s at Ross Park Mall. Why? Why was this necessary? Had the Tiffany’s people never actually been to Ross Park before they planned this? Nordstrom I’m okay with – they sell my bra size. TMI, sorry.
  • Drink tax. Enough said.
  • Pittsburgh’s premier concert venue moving to Sandcastle. Seriously? Sandcastle? Chevy Amphitheatre (née IC Light Amphitheatre) wasn’t the most awesome venue on earth or anything, but I saw the Pixies there. Come on. Don’t move it out of town. The suckiness of this move is, of course, compounded by the fact that they haven’t even reopened yet.

Post script:  Consol Energy Center, eh? Okay, sure, why not.

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