Friday, December 23, 2011

Yinzers New Years Resolutions


Eat more Pierogies!

When I first started writing this post, I was coming up with resolutions to many a Yinzer’s faux pas.  However, I quickly realized that a true yinzer would never abandon his / her true love for the city by discarding these locally accepted transgressions.  Therefore, this list is aimed at fully embracing the yinzer culture, and consequently, becoming a ‘true’ Pittsburgher.
1.   In Pittsburgh, it is absolutely socially acceptable to wear your 1996 XXL Bettis Jersey to a fancy dinner down the shore.  This is especially true if it is mid-May, and it is only halfway through the football offseason.  However, a true Yinzer needs to not only wear his / her Earl “the Hitman” Holmes to more social outings, it must also start to be considered as a part of formal wear.  Proudly wear that Woodson jersey to church, and keep it on for that Sunday dinner at some fancy restaurant.   That James Harrison jersey needs to be worn 7 days a week, social norms need not apply.
2.  Become more familiar with the local dialect.  Any time you ask a question, always cut off the first word.  Remember this simple rule by a familiar example:  ‘Are you going to eat all of that?’ becomes ‘You gonna eat all that?’  It’s really that easy!
3.  Sweatpants, sweatpants, sweatpants. Sweatpants are easily the pant of choice among the yinzers.  This is not only because they are extremely fashionable, but also because of the elastic waist line that comes in handy for Stiller tailgates.  Spill some Iron on them or need to use them to wipe ham-barbeque sauce off of your fingers so you can crack open another ice-cold Iron?  Not a problem as sweatpants can be thrown in the laundry with the rest of your Steelers jerseys, and most of the stains will come out. 
Similar adaptation of the sweatpant must be followed in accordance to the Stiller jersey.  Formal wear is sweatpants time, and remember they always look great with year-old reebok hi-tops.  (The one with the Velcro band up top, of course).
4.  Drink more local beer.  It may be impossible for a yinzer to consume more beer by volume, as any hour of the day is appropriate beer time.  This is especially true Monday morning when you’re all hung-over from the Steelers game; an ice-cold Iron kicks those blues right outta there.
However, with the advent of popularity of craft beer, a resurgence in local brewing has begun.  Of course Irons are always the staple, as they are the cheapest and most readily available.  Try some East End brews or some Duquesne pilsner.  And to the yinzer delight, they will get you drunk quicker as they have more Alcohol per volume.
5.  Continue to complain loudly and at inappropriate times about anything in general.  This includes local politicians: ‘You know that Ravenstahl is a jag,’ to traffic: “You jag you just cut me off!’ to work: ‘My jag of a boss won’t let me take Mondays off no more.” 
It is extremely important for every yinzer to voice his / her displeasure with something during any social situation, even if it has nothing to do with the topic at hand.  Just because some jagoff is talking about his recent divorce and their 5 kids doesn’t mean that it’s not the right time to question aloud ‘Why on Earth is that idiot Tomlin not runnin’ the ball more?’ 
6.  Eat more, more often.  Make sure to include plenty of Primanti’s and pierogies, as they are the foundation of a proper Yinzer diet.  Don’t worry about diabetes, hypertension, and obesity, as ‘some doctor will probably come up with some new medicine soon that will take care of that, anyways.’
7.  Grow a mustache.  If you don’t already have one, what are you waiting for?  Even Bylsma had one earlier this year, for chrissakes!  Mustaches don’t only help out in picking up hot babes, they also make a person look more distinguished and presentable.  Whether you are a janitor, high school football coach or local entrepreneur, a mustache makes anybody look more educated and handsome.  People will respect you more, and you will have more confidence.
8.  Disobey simple traffic laws.  Making the Pittsburgh left is a part of our local culture, and besides you don’t want to sit there like a jag waiting for all the cars to pass through the intersection; you’ll spend your whole life in traffic!  Remember, you are more important than the other person facing you in the intersection and you are definitely busier, so you deserve to make that left before he goes straight.  You gotta pick up your kids from grammas and stop by the distributor all before the game starts, so there is no time to lose. 
9.  Slow down before entering the Squirrel Hill tunnels.  Why wouldn’t you?  You don’t wanna run into the tunnel walls, that’ll start a pile-up!  Once you are safely inside the tunnels, then it is time to police both lanes and make sure no one crosses the center line.  If that occurs, make sure to honk and turn on your brights, then give him the finger.  This will discourage them from doing this again in the future.
10.  Go to Pirates games when they have Zambelli fireworks.  Just because the team sucks doesn’t mean you gotta miss out on the best firework show on Earth!  Like insects towards light, a Yinzer is always attracted to fireworks.  No other city in the world is as lucky as Pittsburgh to have Zambelli firework shows, so make sure to embrace it. 
This is just a short list of resolutions yinzers must make in order to have continued success.  Don’t forget to bring your family to ride the incline, as that is also a Pittsburgh highlight.  But if those kids get too loud on the car ride over, make sure to threaten them by telling them you are going to turn the car right around and go home. 
Anyways, enjoy the New Year, and go Stillers!  They better win the Super Bowl, or that Roethlisberger is really a bum. 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Black Widow to Attack Yinzers



Just when you thought Kennywood had enough swirly, jerky rides that induce vomiting another has been added, The Black Widow. It has been known for some time that the Pitfall was leaving and a new ride was going to replace it and I have to say that I am very disappointed in the ride choice. I was never a fan of the Pitfall to begin with simply because the actual ride time was less than 10 seconds, but the ominous black and gold tower did grow on me as a symbol in Lost Kennywood. With that being said, I was hoping that a replacement would be something of a throwback style ride such as my favorite the Rotor or something of that ilk. It seems as if for the last 10 years Kennywood has only been attempting to out do the previous spinning ride with changing how it spins and/or rotates. I really have no desire to try this new ride as it resembles many others. Hopefully this will be a short lived ride and Kennywood can go back to its roots and bring back a classic next time.

Move Ya Jagoff!

The new craze in da Burgh, "Move Ya Jagoff!"  This brilliant version of Maroon 5's "Moves Like Jagger" created by Pat Conway stars some jag named Nick Armstrong on his daily commute from Troy Hill to Dahntahn Picksburgh.  Enjoy!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Restaurant Reviews: The Porch


Eat'n Park Hospitality opened a new restaurant in Oakland located in Schenley Plaza named "The Porch" on November 14.  The Porch features a seasonal menu of sandwiches, salads, and a variety of brick-oven pizzas for lunch and an expanded dinner menu that includes rotisserie items such as prime rib, porchetta, roast chicken, duck legs and sauteed salmon.  The restaurant  also has a liquor license for your alcohol needs.   The restaurant has capacity for 140 people inside and outdoor seating for 40 people. 

During the first week of business, I headed over to Schenley Plaza to try it out for lunch.  Upon entrance a hostess gave me a menu and I was told to go to the register and order my food.  I ordered a House Smoked Turkey 9 sandwich that came with a salad, paid and found a table.  While waiting for my meal to arrive I had a chance to take in the surroundings.  The restaurant has a very modern look, with plenty of windows and unique light fixtures. The Porch has a green roof, with space for an urban garden where vegetables for the restaurant will be grown during the warmer months.  My food was delivered by the waitress and I ate my first meal at the new spot.  The sandwich was good; it had cranberry sauce on it which was a different taste.  I observed many customers ordering pizza and a member of my party ordered The Roasted Pig 10 sandwich.  Looking back I wish I would have tried that, it looked delicious.....maybe next time.  The only negatives were the limited menu and prices which were a bit high for a lunch.  

Overall, I was pleased with my experience at The Porch, the service was excellent and the food was served quickly after ordering.   The Porch is a nice addition to the beautiful Schenley Plaza and is a fine addition to Oakland's eateries.     

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

NHL Realignment



The NHL Board of Governors approved a realignment plan on Monday night that eliminates the current two conference, six division format and moves to a geographic four conference league. Under this plan all teams will play a home and home series against all non-conference teams and five or six games within their conference. The new conferences, unnamed to date, will be as follows:

Conference 1:
Carolina Hurricanes
New Jersey Devils
New York Islanders
New York Rangers
Philadelphia Flyers
Pittsburgh Penguins
Washington Capitals

Conference 2:
Boston Bruins
Buffalo Sabres
Florida Panthers
Montreal Canadiens
Ottawa Senators
Tampa Bay Lightning
Toronto Maple Leafs

Conference 3:
Chicago Blackhawks
Columbus Blue Jackets
Dallas Stars
Detroit Red Wings
Minnesota Wild
Nashville Predators
St. Louis Blues
Winnipeg Jets

Conference 4:
Anaheim Ducks
Calgary Flames
Colorado Avalanche
Edmonton Oilers
Los Angeles Kings
Phoenix Coyotes
San Jose Sharks
Vancouver Canucks

The playoff format will also change; the top four teams in every conference will be guaranteed a playoff spot. The first two rounds of the playoffs will consist of intraconference matchups and a proposal of whether to reseed after the second round or have predetermined pairings is still being debated by NHL officials.

My thoughts:
When I heard the original rumors of realignment that had the Penguins moving to the Northeast Division I wasn't very excited since they would leave the division with longtime rivals Philadelphia, New York, and New Jersey. The easiest thing to do in my opinion would have been just to move Nashville to the nobody-cares-sans-Washington Southeast Division and keep everything else the same. In NHL geography Tennessee is pretty southeast and for whatever reason that option was never really considered. This new conference format allows the Penguins to stay in the same "conference" with their rivals and the fans get a bonus of having Washington back where they belong. It will be nice to see the Pens play some of the western teams more. I always enjoy when they play Calgary, Edmonton, and Winnipeg.

There is a downside in this realignment of course; the secondary rivalries with teams such as Buffalo, Boston, and Montreal will only be played as one home and home series. I also wonder what will happen when some of these southern teams that nobody cares about either fold or relocate (Phoenix, Florida), will the NHL realign again?

Not sure how I feel about the new playoff format, it will be different for a while but things may even out as the truly best teams will face each other in the Stanley Cup Finals. We have seen recent Conference Finals that pair the two best teams in the NHL and the victor has an easier time with their Stanley Cup opponent. The NHL has made many poor decisions over the last 20 years such as expanding too fast and too south and lackluster rule enforcement, but I don't think this plan is among their worst. With all that being said, the Penguins should be in good shape and that is all I really care about.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Yinzer's Top 10 To Be Thankful For



Thanksgiving is here and to commemorate my favorite holiday of the year I put together a list of a Yinzer's Top 10 Things to be Thankful for. We here in the "Burgh" have a lot to be thankful for and the fact that Pittsburgh always brings people home for the holidays is just one of the many reasons why. Whether you still reside near our Three Rivers or have relocated these are 10 things that anyone with Yinzer blood should appreciate.

10. A free turkey with a minimum grocery purchase at Giant Eagle
9. Wearing an authentic Steelers jersey to Thanksgiving is considered "dressing up"
8. Fall weather and leaves of various colors
7. Primanti's gives us an excuse to take a "break" from heavy eating on Thanksgiving
6. We can say that the Pirates were accused of overpaying players (in the amateurs)
5. We are one of the most storied cities in all of sports
4. Pitt basketball will be on its way to another solid season
3. The return of Sidney Crosby to the Penguins (perfect timing don't you think?)
2. Backyard Brawl (regardless of records and WVU is trash it is a great tradition)
1. Realizing that Pittsburgh is a great place to live especially during the holidays


We here at The Blast Furnace wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Joe Paterno is not a scapegoat

Well, Paterno is out, and it's sad. It's very hard to watch news coverage of him in front of his house and not come away feeling for him as a person. He clearly is an overall good person who has the best of intentions and loves State College, Penn State and the football program. But he's not a victim and he's not a scapegoat. For better and for worse Paterno is the symbol of Penn State. For decades that meant being deified for all that there is to love about Happy Valley and now that means being held accountable as an integral part of an organizational hierarchy that didn't take seriously enough allegations of what is arguably the worst crime that can be committed.

Penn State as an organization had lost its credibility and the public's trust for the way it handled this whole mess. It just wasn't possible for anyone from within that hierarchy to remain in place without further damaging Penn State's reputation. It would have been insensitive to the victims and a tacit endorsement of the state of leadership. No matter what the individual levels of culpability prove to be, the school basically needed to push the restart button immediately, which couldn't happen with the individual who is most closely identified with the program still in place.

One of the most common sentiments I have seen among PSU supporters is that there was a mob mentality in the media that the Board of Trustees somehow succumbed to. But however distasteful self-righteousness and one-upsmanship in the media may be, there has also been a much more rational and non-emotional perspective in the dialogue and I think it is instructive that they all also come to the same conclusion that Penn State had no choice but to move on immediately. I want to share a few in particular that I think really clarified things for me:
If we can all agree that the allegations are horrendous and the organizational failing was epic, then I don't see how the football schedule should factor into the response. The news broke this week, so it needed to be dealt with this week. But I'll end on a more positive note with another Mandel column. While emotions are running high regarding Paterno's firing, eventually those emotions will begin to subside. As that happens, Paterno's legacy will evolve to be nuanced to consider both the good and the bad, which, utimately, is what he deserves:  http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2011/writers/stewart_mandel/11/09/penn-state-joe-paterno-retires/index.html

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Sad Penn State - Perspective from an alum



As a Penn State alumni, I am obiously disgusted and disturbed by what is going on.  Reading the indictment made me feel even worse.  I literally feel like I was punched in the gut while reading everything that is coming out, and I believe it is only going to get worse.

There was a video that came out tonight showing loyal supporters out on Paterno's lawn, committed to him staying with the program.  After watching this, I struggle to find how anyone could support him staying at the program.  Has everyone forgot what has happened these past few days?

Joe Paterno was alerted to allegations of sexual misconduct by Jerry Sandusky back in 2002 by Mike McQueary.  Paterno states that what McQueary reported was not immediately clear, but I can only assume that he -at the very least- was told that Sandusky was in the shower with a boy.  That should have been enough for Paterno to alert authorities.  However, he failed to do so.  Not even the most die-hard Penn State fan can give a satisfactory excuse for this lack of response.

Following this event is where things get worse, and I have a feeling these events will be exposed soon. 

Paterno had to have met with Spanier, Curley, Schultz and other top brass following this event.  At this meeting, they must have determined to keep this in house, reporting only what they needed to.  To me, this is a cover up of the most horrific degree and signals a lack of institutional control. 

Let's not forget about McQueary, who has risen the coaching ranks following this incident.  McQueary is the head scout, who goes into homes and assures parents that their children will be in good hands at Penn State.  Furthermore, he does this with the full backing of Paterno and Spanier.  This disgusts me so bad, I cannot describe it in words.

Finally, let's not forget that Spanier stated he has unconditional support for Curley and Schultz.  This statement is incomprehensible in nature, and is unforgivable. 

I feel like I was lied to and completely let down by an institution I enjoyed attending so much.  I have absolutely no trust or support for any of the characters involved in this, and will not be satisfied until the proverbial 'house is cleaned.'  Curley and Schultz have already resigned, and Paterno, Spanier and McQueary have to be next.  The longer they stay at the university shows that they care more about themselves than the university, and it is disrespectful to the students, parents of former and current students, and the alumni.

And what can we do this Saturday?  I have thought long and hard about this, and it contradicts me greatly.  My conclusion is this: I will cheer for the student-athletes on the field, because they cannot be blamed for the ignorant and reprehensible actions of their coaches and administration.  However, I will never cheer for any of the coaches involved anymore, and will be absolutely embarrassed if any of them ever sets foot on Penn State's field again.

They do not represent what Penn State told me it stands for, and if Penn State has any moral character what-so-ever, they will get rid of these individuals before they cause any more harm to the University.



Saturday, November 5, 2011

Paranormal Activity 3: Horrifyingly Terrible



In addition to seeing The Rum Diary I also recently saw with much anticipation followed by extreme disappointment, Paranormal Activity 3.

It was the week leading up to Halloween and I wanted to see this movie to finalize my preparation for one of my favorite holidays. In 2007 I saw the original Paranormal Activity and was the most scared that I had ever been in my life following a movie. The original was just that...original and scary. Even after I returned home my fears were not subdued until I checked the Internet and found out that the story was fiction. Although I missed the second installment of this series I wanted to see PA3.

Now to the movie. The plot was redundant and ridiculous. All of the gags, haunting happenings, and surprises had all been done in the first movie. The only difference was that children were involved this time. I thought that adding kids would add a new dimension to the movie and I am sure that the writers and directors did as well, but unfortunately it was not executed well. The story revolves around the daughters arguing about an imaginary friend named Toby who ends up being the phantom haunting the home. The ending was supposed to be a surprise, but it really was nonsensical and made me wonder why they added a "secret plot line" involving a nosey soon-to-be mother in law who somehow was communicating and channeling Toby to possibly take over the daughters of the home. Like I said...nonsense.

I think a movie patron said it best while we were waiting in line to enter the movie by saying, "this movie's gonna be dumb as f@#k." Well sir, you were right.

Pills rates Paranormal Activity 3 1/6 Irons.

The Rum Diary: Intoxicatingly Irresistible



A few weeks ago I was able to make my way out of a movie-going slump and see The Rum Diary starring Johnny Depp.

The Rum Diary is based on the late Hunter S. Thompson 1959 novel with the same title. The Rum Diary follows the story of former New York City journalist Paul Kemp and his move to seemingly glorious San Juan, Puerto Rico to work for the San Juan Star. Upon Kemp's arrival he finds that San Juan is not the vacation paradise that he was led to believe, but is a place where extremes exist in all respects. In the traditional and revered style of Thompson, Kemp pals up with veteran San Juan Star newsman Sala, played by Michael Rispoli and comes to rival a villainous real estate tycoon Sanderson played by Aaron Eckhart.

The movie is well acted by all those involved and incorporates great scenery, hilarious comedy, and an intelligent story line that makes this 120 minute movie fly by and leave you wanting more. Think Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas meets island paradise. This film even brings pride to the 'Burgh during one of the opening scenes as Kemp enters the San Juan Star and overhears a conversation reporting that star baseball player Roberto Clemente would be playing for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

This was a fantastic fun loving movie that always made me wonder, "what will they do next?!" I recommend this movie to all and rate The Rum Diary 6/6 Irons.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Best Bar in the Burgh......Kopy's

One evening while carousing on the South Side in our early twenties we stumbled upon a small bar off of Carson St. named Kopy's. I'm not sure whose idea it was or why we were even off the beaten path, but we decided to check it out. This turned out to be both one of the best decisions and eventual discovery that the Blast Furnace ever made.

As we walked into the dark and dingy establishment located at 80 South 12th St. we were greeted by a haze of cigarette smoke and two bar tenders, Ned and Kop', who were eager to serve us a drink from their large selection. They took our order and we were pleasantly surprised at the $2.00 we were charged for shots and beers (Note: beer prices have changed since the inaugural visit, but still great). Other than a few blue collar locals and being somewhat early for the weekend South Side crowd we practically had the entire bar to ourselves. The bar had everything that one could ask for: jukebox, dart board, pool table, pinball machine, and two TVs. We immediately filled the jukebox with dollar bills and started one of many dart games. As the night went on the crowd picked up and Blast Furnace members continued to consume cheap drinks.

Kopy's is not your typical South Side destination like Mario's or Jack's, but it captures the spirit of a hardworking blue-collar bar that Pittsburghers of yesteryear would be proud to frequent. No cheap thrills or gimmicks necessary, this is your grandfather's bar. The bartenders are always accommodating and pleasant and have even come to recognize our group after the many visits that we continue to make. Ned, Kop', and some of the regulars would always be amused when our Designated Driver Limo would pull up and a large group would suddenly pour into the inconspicuous bar. The solemn atmosphere would transform to a lively Blast Furnace fiesta in a matter of seconds. Kopy's really made a strong impression on us, one that would keep us coming back for years.

This is always our first stop of the night. An hour or so after leaving Kopy's we usually always ask ourselves why we left; the other bars being overcrowded and expensive. Whether it is mockingly chugging Old Milwaukee pounders with country music "legend" Neal McCoy's face plastered to the can or knocking back shots of Jameson, Kopy's is the place to catch up with friends. Even though we do not go there as much as we used to we still try to get there as much as possible.

A couple of years ago Ben State, Chris, Pils, Coso and I thought it would be a great idea to go for St. Patrick's Day and it may have been the best decision that we ever collectively made. Coso was the first person in the bar at approximately 10:00 am and we soon followed. For a good hour the whole bar was totally ours. Why fight the crowds at Market Square and Station Square when we had Kopy's. This may be a new Blast Furnace tradition as we followed the same plan the following year. The morning drinkers, aka alcoholics, were shocked to see a populated bar when they rolled out of bed on that fine Saturday morning. Although most may consider it a dive we consider it home.

After much deliberation I declare Kopy's the official bar of the Blast Furnace. Here's to Kopy's......the best bar in town.
Cheers!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Moneyball, a Hit

 
The Oakland Athletics were at the very bottom of Major League Baseball's salary scale and General Manager Billy Beane had to figure out a way to put a competitive product on the field given the organization's financial constraints. Beane implements a radical system of evaluating the talents of ballplayers that had been developed by the research of Bill James and statisticians to develop a roster.  Beane, played by Brad Pitt, was once a can't miss high school baseball star believed to be destined for greatness. He was drafted in the first round by the New York Mets in the 1980 draft after turning down a scholarship to Stanford University.  Billy was said to be a Five-Tool player that made baseball scouts drool. After many years toiling between the major and minor leagues Billy's career ended in 1989 never having lived up to the hype.

Moneyball, based on Michael Lewis' best seller of the same name, begins after the A’s successful 2001 season that ended in an ALDS defeat to the Yankees. The A's faced a problem; stars Jason Giambi and Jason Isringhausen were free agents that the A's could not afford to keep and Beane had a lot of work to do in order to field a winning team. Enter Peter Brand (Paul DePodesta in real life), a young Harvard educated economist played by Jonah Hill who was hired away from the Cleveland Indians to be Beane's top assistant. Brand brought his expertise of sabermetrics to the A's organization and applied new methods of assessing a ballplayer’s value to a team. Instead of focusing on traditional statistics like batting average and RBI, sabermetrics emphasizes on-base and slugging percentage.  Beane and his assistant were able to cobble together a lineup consisting of bargain basement retreads and young prospects to take the American League by storm. Conflicts arise between Billy, his scouting department and A's manager Art Howe, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman. Billy also deals with interpersonal conflicts throughout; his failure as a ballplayer and life as a divorced father. The movie goes on to capture the magical run that the A's made during the 2002 season and concludes with Billy's courtship by the Boston Red Sox.

Having read the book I was a little skeptical of a movie being made about baseball statistics, however I was pleasantly surprised and enjoyed the movie.  The movie was cast well as Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill were excellent in their roles. Art Howe was furious with Hoffman's portrayal of a clueless boob of a manager that was just along for the ride, but the role added to the against the odds theme.  The film does not go into great depth of the origination of sabermetrics and the different tools that are used to evaluate players and did not mention the 2002 draft which was a major topic of the book.  The film also focused on Beane’s relationship with his daughter which is hardly revealed if at all in Lewis’ book.  Perhaps the director wanted to give Billy more human qualities.  Criticisms I have read are that the A’s never won a World Series and the book/movie ignore the importance of the A’s terrific trio of starting pitchers Barry Zito, Mark Mulder, and Tim Hudson to the success of the team, which is true.  The point is, despite the huge salary disparity the A’s were able to have great success and found a formula that ended up changing the game of baseball.  As a Pirate fan I only wish that management had the same foresight and ingenuity to create a winning team.  I highly recommend this movie; one does not have to be a big fan of baseball to enjoy.  The Blast Furnace gives this picture 5/6 irons.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Where yinz goin to?

If you're looking ahead to potential vacation destinations for next summer, Pittsburghers might want to think about saving some cash and taking in the sights in their own fair city, as Pittsburgh was among the locations listed in National Geographic Traveler's Best of the World 2012.

The slideshow proclaims our three rivers setting as one of the most naturally beautiful in the world, touches on our rich cultural offerings, and, of course, focuses on our recent "reinvention" as reasons to visit.

The city tourism office must be be loving this most recent accolade and, in fact, already have it featured prominently on their website. But who can blame them? It's an impressive list from a renowned organization that comes with a lot of credibility.

But while you're at appreciating the art at the Warhol and the architecture of the Allegheny County Courthouse, it wouldn't be a proper trip to the 'Burgh unless you also took a ride up the Incline to get your photo on Mount Washington, followed up by a Primanti sandwich.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Springsteen, Grushecky Together Again

Grushecky and Springsteen perform in front of packed houses in Pittsburgh in 2010
Bruce Springsteen and legendary Pittsburgh musician Joe Grushecky will be performing two shows at Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall in Oakland at 7:30 p.m. November 3 and 4.  Tickets go on sale on Tuesday, October 18.  This is the second consecutive year that the 'Boss' will be performing at the intimate Pittsburgh venue with Grushecky and the Houserockers.  Last year audiences packed the hall and rocked out for over two-and-a half hours to the longtime friends commemorate the 15th anniversary of their collaborative effort "American Babylon."

Any memorable Grushecky or Springsteen shows in Pittsburgh that you've seen?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Pittsburgh Golf Courses: Grand View Golf Club

Grand View Golf Club's # 9 overlooking the Edgar Thomson Steel Works
Nestled atop the hills of North Braddock, PA sits the Grand View Golf Club. This 18 hole course is challenging to both amateur and veteran golfers alike. Grand View has quickly become the Blast Furnace's favorite Pittsburgh area golf destination. The course offers spectacular views of the first and last major steel mill in Western Pennsylvania, Edgar Thomson Steel Works, Kennywood Park, the Mon Valley, and off in the distance the skyscrapers of Downtown Pittsburgh.

The front nine features seven par 4's and two par 3's. The distance is manageable, however there are very awkward lies and narrow fairways that emphasize accuracy and careful club selection. It is very easy to drive a ball into an adjacent fairway or over a hillside. Highlights of the front 9 include the views of the Edgar Thomson steel mill and Kennywood Park as previously mentioned and the two par threes, # 5 and # 9, which require precision tee shots due to the heavily vegetated rough in front of the holes and wooded areas behind the green.
Hole # 3
The back nine overlooks the residential areas of East Pittsburgh and while the view is not as stunning as the front nine the holes are some of my favorites. The back nine consists of two par 3's and two par 5's. Hole # 14 is the most intriguing as the 154 yard distance is deceptive due to the 90 foot drop in elevation. One must play this hole like a 110 yard shot so a pitching wedge or nine iron is optimal. Golfers must make solid contact off the tee or the ball will be lost in the unplayable wooded brush in the foreground. Hole # 15 is the most beautiful hole on the course. The 350 yard par 4 is the flattest hole on the course and lies at the bottom of a valley. The green is slightly elevated with a sand trap located directly in front. The course ends with a challenging 540 yard par five. Two lakes are located to the left of the uphill fairway and the green is blind off to the left making a second shot difficult to aim and gauge distance. Make sure you choose your club carefully on your approach shot since the parking lot is behind the green. The clubhouse overlooks the 18th green and makes for a nice place to relax after a challenging round of golf. The clubhouse offers a wide variety of food and drinks and is nicer than most others in the Pittsburgh area.
Picturesque hole # 15
Grand View is affordable and comparable to other quality public courses. The greens, fairways, and tee boxes are usually in pretty good shape when we play. The greens are not overly difficult considering the landscape. Par for the course is 70 and has a rating of 67.5 (silver tee). Recommendations:
  • Bring a lot of balls with you due to the topography of the course.
  • Take a cart, I recommend not walking the hilly terrain.
  • Be very careful driving the carts, the turns are tight and paths are steep.
Grand View is a place we try to play at least once a year and seem to always have fun despite our abysmal scores. This is a must play golf course in Western PA.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Captain America: The First Avenger - Disappointing at Best


The last movie that I saw was Rise of the Planet of the Apes. It was a game time decision to see Apes or Captain America: The First Avenger. Since choosing Apes I felt as if I truly missed out on one movie that I was sure to love. I felt that I had to make it to see Captain America, but after seeing it last night at the Maxi Saver in West Mifflin I am glad that I didn't pay full price for what turned out to be a disappointing movie.

Captain America takes place during WWII as pathetic wimp Steve Rodgers (Captain America) played by Chris Evans is denied enlistment to the US Military for many physical deficiencies. This sets the stage for Rodgers to desperately seek entrance and even though he has no stunning physical characteristics, he possesses the smarts, determination, and patriotism...in other words the "intangibles" to be a great soldier. This allows him to be selected as the prototype for a new breed of super soldiers.

While the story with Rodgers is taking place we see another side of the story which introduces Johann Schmidt, Red Skull, played by Hugo Weaving conducting scientific experiments while simultaneously killing naysayers who are against his occult obsessions. Red Skull was a previous scientific experiment and his role is to also develop super soldiers based on ancient superstitions with which Nazi leader Adolf Hitler also shared a fascination.

These two stories ultimately should coincide and leave for a heart stopping action movie, but from my point of view this was never achieved. Both stories took too much time to develop and once they FINALLY came together the two main characters had a short fight sequence and then the movie ended. The movie did a horrible job bringing together why Red Skull wanted to develop his own army outside of Hitler's, how Captain America and Red Skull became enemies, and left no satisfying conclusion. The only idea that tied the two people together was one was an American soldier and the other a quasi-Nazi soldier.

In addition to the story line being so boring, it seemed like it should have been released directly after 9/11 because it seemed like a cheesy patriotism propaganda movie from the 1940's. I rarely fall asleep during movies at the theatre, but I did doze off for the last 10 - 15 minutes and missed nothing as my wife explained what happened. I was told to stay for the credits by the usher and we stayed in order to see the preview for next summer's blockbuster hopeful The Avengers which hopefully will bring some characters with small roles from Captain America together with other Marvel characters together with success.

I am glad that I saw Captain America only because it was on my list. Other than that, I do not recommend Captain America unless you have absolutely no other options.

Pills gives Captain America: The First Avenger 1/6 Irons, the lowest movie review to date.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Favorite Pittsburgh Dive Bars

I was scouring the news and came across an MSN article detailing the Nation's Best Dive Bars and thought to myself, "I have been in quite a few dive bars myself, in fact possibly even too many too remember." I came up with a top 5 list of my favorite dive bars here in Pittsburgh. As I was coming up with my list I had a hard time determining how to arrange my list. I went simply with atmosphere, drink price, and memorability. I did not take into account service, attitude of management, or how crowded the bars are.

Top 10 Favorite Dive Bars

10. Casey's Draft House - If this place did not have a midget pouring shots it would not have made the list.
9. Chief's Cafe - Just walk inside one time and order 40. This place is classic drunkenness at it's best.
8. Brillobox - Most likely purposefully a dive, this caters to hipsters and provides a great night out.
7. Slaphots - Maybe if you're lucky you'll see Mike Lange after a Penguins game.
6. Sam's Bar - Classic long bar with a mirror behind it. Reminds me of Moe's Bar on the Simpsons complete with a balding man slouched at the bar.
5. Warehouse Cafe - This is where we all got our start when drinking being home for the holidays.
4. Bar 11 - Candy necklaces, flaming Dr. Peppers, and foam squirting all over the place and who can forget the pounding of the drum?
3. Gene's Place - The type of place where everyone knows and remembers you. The legend of Good Gibbons was born here and a deep fried turkey at Thanksgiving. Words can't describe this bar.
2. Kopy's Bar - Great music, cheap drinks, locals, darts, memorable decorations and on a South Side side street.
1. Garage Door Saloon - Oakland side street, open air, loud music, cheap drinks, and memories from yesteryear. I only wish it were still Cumpie's.

What is your ranking?

For more information on Pittsburgh bars be sure to check out the Ultimate Pittsburgh Bar Crawl.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Destinations: Dodger Stadium

I was recently on assignment in Los Angeles, California to cover the Pittsburgh Pirates game against the Los Angeles Dodgers. This was my first trip to the State of California and I wanted to share my travel experiences with any baseball enthusiasts thinking of visiting Dodger Stadium.
Downtown Los Angeles as seen from the Dodger Stadium parking lot
After a day at Santa Monica Beach a noncontributing/nonreading Blast Furnace friend and I packed into our “economical” Chevy Aveo rental car and made our way to Dodger Stadium. We kept hearing about the nightmare that is Los Angeles traffic so we left for the game around 4:30 pm. The 14 mile drive from our hotel near Century City wasn’t as bad as I expected, the traffic moved along at a steady pace and we were able to exit off to Dodger Stadium in about 45 minutes. We traveled up a long winding road that brought us to a massive parking lot and there built into the hillside of Chavez Ravine Dodger Stadium appeared. Parking was easy becuase Dodger fans have a reputation of arriving late to games. The lot offered a breathtaking view of downtown LA. We had ample time before the game started so we decided to explore the stadium. First we climbed to the top of the stadium and snapped pictures of the beautiful skyline that featured palm trees and the San Gabriel Mountains. Dodger Stadium is a massive five level structure that holds 56,000 people which is the largest in Major League Baseball. The upper deck is very steep similar to the old Yankee Stadium. We made our way to the team store which was packed with Dodger apparel. I was somewhat disappointed in the team store, it lacked the knick knacks that I like to bring home as souvenirs.
View from atop Dodger Stadium
As game time approached we found our seats in the Loge Box on the first base line and were ready for the game. Our seats were very good, about seven rows behind the Pirates dugout. There were several Pirates fans there which wasn’t surprising considering Pittsburgh fans show up everywhere. Unfortunately I left my Bucco hat in the car, was ashamed at my decision, and ended up wearing the USC LA cap giveaway instead. The game started off with a bang. Struggling Pirates pitcher Ross Ohlendorf hit a three run homer that stunned Dodger fans and the Pirates took a commanding lead. While watching the game I noticed a familiar looking blond woman sitting in the front row, it looked to be Elisabeth Shue, made famous by her role as “Ali with an i” from Karate Kid and more recently in a guest staring role in Curb Your Enthusiasm. As the game went on the LA night grew chilly and what better way to warm up then eating a famous food staple: the Dodger Dog. The Dodger Dog was a little bigger than your average stadium hot dog and best topped with the condiments of relish and onions. The ‘dog' was delicious, it wasn’t an “Original” hot dog, but it was the best stadium hot dog that I have ever eaten. The rest of the food options at the concession stands were nothing to write home about. PNC Park is light years ahead of most of the other MLB parks I have attended in this aspect. Dodgers fans lived up to their reputation by arriving late to the game. The fans were not unruly and I felt safe the entire time despite warnings due to the Bryan Stow incident. After nearly blowing a big lead late in the game, the Pirates prevailed, winning 6-2.
View of the first pitch from our seats
I really enjoyed my trip to Dodger Stadium, a place I’ve always wanted to visit. The picturesque view made for a perfect backdrop for the game. I would have to rank it in my top five ballparks that I have visited alongside PNC Park, Fenway Park, Oriole Park at Camden Yards and Old Tiger Stadium (yes, it was old and rundown, but it had character). Even though the stadium is the third oldest in baseball it was still in great shape and I recommend it to any baseball fan as a must see place to watch a game.
Other Blast Furnace stadium reviews: Cleveland's Progressive Park

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Igloo: End of an Era

The Civic Arena
According to the Tribune-Review, demolition has begun on the Civic Arena today.   It marks the end of an era for a familiar Pittsburgh landmark, which has stood in the heart of downtown Pittsburgh for over 50 years.

The Arena was constructed in 1961, originally for the use of the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera.  However, it expanded its events to include many events, including the circus, concerts and of course, the Penguins.

It also was known for its retractable steel roof, the largest in the world supported by a single steel beam, which would open on certain occasions.  In fact, my parents remember attending an Alabama concert where the roof opened up, allowing a glimpse of the night sky.

The Pittsburgh Penguins were the main habitants of the Igloo, and provided many entertaining nights to yinzers far and wide.  Hockey greats like Michel Briere, Rick Kehoe, Kevin Stevens, Larry Murphy and Mario Lemieux all played and delighted Penguin fans for many years at the Igloo.  The Arena also introduced Pittsburgh to fan favorites like Slippery Rock Joey Mullen, Downtown Robbie Brown, Frankie Leroux and Zarley Zalapski.  I could list many more, but it would take too long to name them all.

Although efforts were made to save the arena by labeling it as a historic landmark, those efforts have finally been put down for good, and the arena is coming down.  Most fans will have to rely only on memories and pictures to remember the large, domed arena.

Perhaps the biggest disappointment was the announcement that the Igloo will be demolished by ball and chain, rather than implosion.  Grumblings have been heard from many moustached yinzers, who were anticipating a large tailgate party to celebrate the impending 'plosion.

The 'plosion parties have been canceled, but the Igloo is still coming down.  Goodnight, sweet prince.  Thanks for the memories.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Pittsburgh 'Sax Guy' Really Blows



Pittsburgh has it's fair share of local "celebrities" including Matrix Man and the late Lemonade Guy, but one Pittsburgh "celebrity" that seems to divide the Burgh is "The Sax Guy" or as few people know him as Hill District Native, Reggie Howzie.

According to a 2010 Post Gazette article Reggie Howzie has been playing the saxophone at local events since 1998. After learning that the esteemed Mr. Howzie has bounced from job to job it is not a surprise based on less less than amicable antics before and after sporting events. Sax Guy was seemingly a great addition to the game-day atmosphere when he began. Even though his saxophone skills are well below average his attempt to bring spirit to games was appreciated. I would always make sure to drop him some coins until a transformation took place. I remember walking to a Pirate game circa 2003 when an innocent appreciator of his tunes tossed some coins into his open sax case, but unfortunately missed thus hitting Sax Guy in the leg accidentally. Sax Guy abruptly jumped down from his Clemente bridge post ran after the guy, screamed expletives at him for "throwing something at sax guy", and then punched the man in the back. This is where Sax Guy went from being a nice addition to a game-day nuisance at best.

Since "the incident" it seems like Sax Guy does his best to annoy and intimidate the very people that he hopes to receive donations from. Sax Guy changed his role from playing some simple tunes to heckling those who pass by. You can be sure that Sax Guy will make fun of Pittsburgh teams and their fans and never miss the opportunity to rub it in if the local team losses. He also is sure to make fun of people as they walk by and the reaction is usually an uncomfortable laugh from the crows an an occasional person will drop money into his sax case because they feel pressured to do so after he calls you out and makes fun of you. What a con to make you feel guilty after being made fun of. It seems that the more he speaks the more my resentment towards him grows. Maybe, he thinks he is a comedian? Well, even comedians don't rip on the crowd unless they are heckled. Sax Guy needs to keep quiet and just play music.

Although I don't think too highly of Sax Guy there are many people he love him. Apparently the is a "I love the Saxophone Guy on the Clemente Bridge" facebook page with at least 1000 members. I guess the division that he causes is one of his charms and why people have idolized the Sax Guy.

I thought that I would close with some tips for the Sax Guy:
1. Take some sax lessons so you actually know how to play.
2. Play more than one part of a song over and over.
3. Don't heckle people, that won't help you get tips.
4. In fact, don't talk at all.
5. Support the local teams.

So, whether you like him or not, the Sax Guy is a permanent fixture at local sporting events. Enjoy, ignore, or avoid the Sax Guy that really blows.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

PSU to ACC?

Joe Paterno at a recent press conference, praising recent ACC acquisitions
Did anybody hear Penn State's press conference the other day? When Paterno was asked about the conferences realigning, he surprised everyone by basically saying, "who knows where Penn State ought to end up."

I was kind of searching the internet reading about Pitt and Syracuse moving to the ACC, and came across some articles talking about Joe Paterno's desire (and large push for) PSU's entrance into the ACC back in the 80s. The ACC was Paterno's first choice before PSU joined the Big Ten.  Basically, he wanted an ACC that would stretch the entire Atlantic coast; obviously that didnt occur at that time. Now, it has actually happened.

Penn State's Curley and Spanier immediately came out and said that Penn State is happy in the Big Ten and not leaving, shooting down what Paterno said. (And possibly showing their growing desire to push Paterno out). But you have to wonder why on earth Paterno would say such a thing. If Penn State were to move to the ACC, they would be playing the same teams they used to in the independent days -- Maryland, Pitt, 'Cuse.... and Notre Dame.

If Notre Dame goes to the ACC, I believe Penn State will be right there with them. Notre Dame's contract with NBC runs out in 2015, and if the ACC can come up with a new TV deal with NBC along with its already lucrative ESPN deal, that could be pretty convincing.

Who knows what will happen with the Big East, despite what their comissioner has been saying. If it falls, Notre Dame is left without a basketball conference, setting up its need to be invited into a conference. I do not think any conference will allow Notre Dame to enter just with its basketball team. Similarly, I believe Notre Dame would most likely go to the Big Ten if they are by themselves, but if Penn State is looking to make a move, I could see them both going to the ACC.

Geographically, it makes no sense for Penn State to be in the Big Ten. And if Paterno's thoughts reflect the administrations thoughts on the matter at all, some interesting things could be occuring.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Heinz Revolutionizes Food...Again



Just when you thought that there could be no new technology in the individual serving condiment business Heinz comes through with a winner. Heinz has developed a new single serving ketchup packet that makes it easier for you to get started eating both quicker and more cleanly. The new ketchup packet will be test run in a few fast food restaurants in order to gauge consumer response.

I for one love this idea. I always hate how it is so difficult to open a package and although I almost never eat in my car I would have to suffer with a bland condimentless meal because it was either use condiments or crash my car. Not only do I like this for that reason, but also because now my hands won't be messy simply from opening the packet. A clean squirt is all that I have wanted for years. Finally, I hope that this technology is available for all condiments because I really hate squirting my condiments on paper or the cheap place-mat and then dipping my food.

The only question that I have is: Why did it take 3 years to develop this 'technology'? The last advancements were eco-friendly bottles, the upside down clean squeeze bottle, and the infamous multi-colored ketchup.

Cheers to Heinz and another hit bringing more pride to Pittsburgh again.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

ACC Accepts Pitt and Syracuse



ACC Commissioner John Swofford announces that Pitt and Syracuse have officially been accepted by the ACC. This will be a very exciting time for the University of Pittsburgh and for fans of the program and for ACC fans. Chancellor Mark Nordenberg is very excited with the move.

One rumor that I am very happy about concerns the basketball side of the move. The ACC commented that there are talks to move the ACC Tournament to Madison Square Garden. In my opinion this solidifies that idea that convincing Pitt and Syracuse basketball was the linchpin in this deal. Keeping the NYC basketball pipeline to both programs plus adding the recruiting hot-bed of the DC Metro area and playing UNC and Duke every year will keep top recruits going to both programs. In addition, I can not wait to 'boo' both UNC and Duke as I hate both programs, especially the coaches and the thousands of fans who attended neither school, but proclaim themselves as 'die-hards'. I hope both teams tough styles dominate the hardwood and prove the supremacy of their programs over the media darlings.

On the football side I am most excited to get some top-notch programs on the schedule and visiting Heinz Field every other year. Some great road trips could also be added as I would love to see a game at Florida State, but also because many schools are drivable and close to some tourist destinations. This will hopefully add many season ticket holders from Pitt alumni, curious fans, and ACC alumni as well.

Let's see how this move will change Pitt's future and the future of NCAA football in the coming months.



Saturday, September 17, 2011

Pitt and Syracuse to ACC?



The New York Times has reported that Pitt and Syracuse are in talks to join the ACC. Following this report ESPN has reported that at least 10 schools have approached the ACC to join the conference. It seems like it was just a matter of time before Super Conferences were created and because football is king, basketball schools will be left in the cold.

The ACC currently has 12 members which include the former Big East schools Virginia Tech, Boston College, and Miami. From a purely Pitt perspective I see this move as necessary rather than hoped for considering the present and future landscape of college football. From a football only perspective this move is great. The Big East was clearly one of the weaker football conferences so this will help secure that Pitt has a strong in-conference schedule and could keep rivalries with Big East schools such as West Virginia if both sides want to.

The basketball perspective is where I am disappointed. The Big East is clearly THE BEST basketball conference in the country with classic schools and rivalries, the hot new teams, and nothing compares to the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden. The ACC is a step below the Big East, but I am sure that coaches Jamie Dixon and Jim Boeheim were consulted and decided to go in together as a package deal for ACC basketball. This will be fun to see Duke and North Carolina every year and Pitt and Syracuse could dominate ACC basketball as all four programs are neck and neck as perennial powers. Big East basketball will take over the ACC just as Big East football took over ACC football when VT, Miami, and BC jumped ship a few years ago.

This plan is definitely a positive for Pitt and Syracuse football, but basketball will never be the same. It is clear that football is king and it was just a matter of time before Pitt would have to make their move. Let's see how this story develops in the coming days.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Prediction time: NFL!

It's a week late on this post, just enough time for odd ball stuff to happen and make everyone crazily overreact and bias your picks. The Steelers got their butt kicked, Peyton Manning is paralyzed or something, and Washington, Detroit and Buffalo all looked good in opening wins. So, without further ado, let's make some predictions. Here's mine, leave yours in the comments. We'll revisit at the end of the season to declare a winner.

AFC North: Steelers (too easy to say the Steelers are done at this point)
AFC South: Texans (without Peyton, I don't see who else can win this divison)
AFC East: Patriots (fuckers)
AFC West: Chargers (11-5, #3 seed, lose 1st round playoff game sound right?)
AFC WC: Ravens (my chalk picks are getting on my own nerves)
AFC WC: Jets (if I had balls, I'd pick Oakland here. Campbell is as good as Sanchez)
NFC North: Packers (you know, they didn't even win their division last year)
NFC South: Saints (I hate picking them as much as I hate picking the Patriots.)
NFC East: Eagles (Vick, Vick, Vick, Vick, Vick, Vick, Vick, Vick)
NFC West: Rams (gotta nuke something)
NFC WC: Falcons (despite my disdain for Matty Ice, I gotta think that, like the Steelers, their early loss was just a speedbump on way to playoffs)
NFC WC: Lions (I've got Stafford on both my fantasy teams, so I'm willing them to the playoffs)
AFC Champs: Patriots (boooooo!)
NFC Champs: Eagles (Vick rules, you all suck)
Super Bowl Champs: Eagles (Did I mention that I like Vick? I think he passes for 300, rushes for 150 in Super Bowl)

MVP: Michael Vick
Offensive POY: Ray Rice
Defensive POY: Ndamukong Suh

I hate my own picks. No way 8 of 12 playoff teams from last year go again this year. Someone is going to surprise us, but I can't figure out who it is. All I know is that I fully expect Vick to have that one perfect season at some point, win the Super Bowl and go down in history for one of those years that almost no one ever matches. If it's going to happen, why not this year?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

I think I'd just keep this to myself

If this had happened to me, I would just go home and hope nobody found out about it. For all you guys downtown, if you happen to see someone who matches this description, make sure you let the police know:

Police were searching for a one-legged man in a wheelchair who they said attacked and tried to rob another man early this morning near the Greyhound bus station Downtown.

Read more at the Post-Gazette.

Update: Sleep easy, city dwellers. The one-legged bandit has been arrested. I hope they didn't confuse him with any other one-legged, 21-year-old man who hangs out at the bus station.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

A Small Private School Celebrates

Winchester Thurston School celebrates it's 125th Anniversary this school year.  In 1887, Alice Maud Thurston founded Thurston School and Mary Graham Mitchell founded Winchester School in 1902.  The two schools merged in 1935 and was named Winchester Thurston School.  Winchester Thurston is located on Morewood Ave in Shadyside and provides education to 650 pre-kindergarten through 12th grade students.  There is also a North Hills campus that houses 100 pre-k - fifth grade students.  Winchester Thurston's annual tuition ranges from $7,200 for pre-kindergarten to $24,600 for high school
Namesakes? No, but...M*A*S*H's Major Charles Emerson Winchester III and Gilligan's Island's Thurston B. Howell, III
Why is the Blast Furnace writing about Winchester Thurston School you ask?  Well it all goes back to the spring of 1999 when BF members were late-night dining in the South Park Eat'n Park when a high school acquaintance walked in dressed in a tuxedo.  Anyone who walks into an Eat'n Park dressed this formally deserves immediate attention so naturally we ask this gentleman why he is so dressed up.  In his best WASPy Boston Brahmin accent he tells us, "I just came from the prom at Winchester Thurston, it's a small private school.  You've probably never heard of it."  Well, excuse us!  He was right that we had never heard of it; we obviously were not a part of Pittsburgh's high society in his mind.  And here we thought our school district was pretty good, but we were obviously mistaken.  Whatever happened to this WASP, you wonder?  He apparently spews conservative rhetoric on facebook.  I'm not sure where he works but I'm sure he is in the upper crust laughing at all the rest of us.  He did give us a good laugh and fond memories because every time we drive by the Winchester Thurston campus we do our best impression of the conversation from that memorable night.


Disclaimer:  This article has no intention of denigrating Winchester Thurston School, students or donors.  It is a very fine school with a rich tradition of academic excellence that Pittsburgh is lucky to have.  The gentleman described above was never a student and had no affiliation with the school.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Pittsburgh RibFest Underwhelms and Infuriates


Pittsburgh is replete with traditions.  For instance, native Pittsburghers view the city skyline from Mount Washington approximately every 15 years or so with their visiting out-of-town relatives.  And who can forget never shopping in the North Hills if you are from the South Hills? Why do we continue these traditions?  The only reason most of us can think of is that we do them because we have always done them that way.  Worthwhile or not, we will continue to do things because it is our tradition.  I guess that explains the existence of the Pittsburgh Ribfest.
You may never have attended the Pittsburgh RibFest before due to your busy schedule filled with more important activities.  For instance, you may have just painted your bedroom and needed to watch the paint dry.  For those “not in the know”, and by this I mean “in the know”, the Pittsburgh RibFest is held annually over the Labor Day weekend and is located next to Heinz Field.   The festival, and I use that word loosely, is comprised primarily of food booths where you can sample surprisingly expensive barbecue fare after you have stood in line for the better part of your lifetime.  
One of the best parts of the RibFest, other than leaving it, is getting snarled in a sea of sweaty human bodies trying to move through the gauntlet of closely placed booths.  You often hear the word “bottleneck” to describe a narrow passageway, or a stage in a process where progress is impeded.  To call the Ribfest a “bottleneck” would be like calling the neighborhood of Shadyside “mostly white”.  If you are attending the Rib fest with children, it is best to equip them with flare guns so they will be able to signal you after they inevitably become separated from you.
RibFests, and other fests of their ilk, have large towering signage on the front of their food booths, most likely to entice potential customers with their fanciful designs in that post-tornado/hurricane style.  Booths boast of blue ribbon barbecue recipes and their illustrious winnings in so-called taste tests and competitions which are most likely in every way actually real.  I am sure the “folksy” nature of these booths is all well and good in the South or on the NASCAR circuit where these rib fests originated, but as a native Pittsburgher, I found it to be just a little bit too cerebral.


To avoid annoyingly long waits for food on an empty stomach, it is best to eat at home before you make your way to the RibFest.   When you do decide to stand in line for food, I suggest that you guess blindly at where you are supposed to wait to place your order.  When you do arrive at the front of the line and are ready to order, you may wish to first shave off your old-man beard, and then enjoy your front-row view as you watch a large number of people working feverishly preparing barbecue, none of whom seem to have any sense of urgency to take your order or make eye contact with you.  I hope you brought your wallet with you, because this kind of service and cuisine does not come cheap.  Yes, they do take money.


In addition to the food, the RibFest also offers booths to tempt shopaholics.  In addition to the Shopahol booth, visitors can purchase $10 sunglasses and sign up for unlimited texting with T-Mobile.  In other words, the shopping possibilities have very real and obvious limits.  But who needs shopping when you can simply come to a dead stop in the middle of a crowded sidewalk?


The Ribfest will undoubtedly continue to be an annual tradition, like it or not.  But we shouldn’t waste time and energy hoping for more widely spaced out booths, or more area for pedestrian traffic.  We should just enjoy it and take advantage of the opportunity to spend some quality time with our family and friends at home.