Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Twas the night before...

... the night before. Tomorrow is Christmas Eve. All is right with my world. I hope the same for you. Merry Christmas!

Pants 'n'at

Drew has really enlarged his vocabulary the last few weeks. Unfortunately, for the last few days, he's concentrated on a few that I wish he wouldn't. Today, he held court in the back of the van; a toddler Shecky Green; the pre-K George Carlin; a diaper-wearing Dane Cook. His routine is simple. He likes to stick with the classics.

"Mr. Stinkerpants!" then he laughs uncontrollably. "Poopie pants!" He laughs. Clay laughs. He has won over his audience. "Poopie poopie". The two little goofballs are rolling on the floor (*they're safely in their government mandated child safety seats and not really ROTFL-ing). He makes his big finish, "Hello Mr. Stinker-Poopie pants!" Finally, I've had enough.

"Alright, alright. Drew, knock it off!" Nancy says, "Just ignore him. Clay stop laughing at him". Drew tries a few encore "Poopie pants", but fails to get the ovation he wanted. Finally, thankfully, we sit quietly listening to Christmas music when Clay says, "Well, at least now he knows how to say the word pants".

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Amazing Mr. Claus

On Sunday, we had Christmas: Part I. Part I is "Baba and Gigi Christmas". If you don't know, Baba and Gigi is the anglicized way of saying Grandma and Grandpa in Ukrainian. We also have "Home Christmas" (Part II), ""Uncle Pete & Aunt Karen Christmas (Part III), "Papa Duke and Grandma Rose Christmas" (Part III, which is usually actually December 25th), and "Gran Christmas (Part IV). By December 27th, I'm usually ready for some Easter eggs. I'm Christmas-ed out. Not to say I don't enjoy every minute of it. I just goes on longer than my self proclaimed "Mike's Birthday Week Celebration", which comes around every fourth week of September or so.

Anyway... after Christmas Pt. I, we decided to go look at some Christmas lights. As we were heading out of my parent's driveway, I heard the local fire trucks blaring their sirens. I knew that it was Santa's night to ride the truck. We drove over a block pulled over, and waited for St. Nick to drive by. It was 14°. It was windy. He was riding on top of the fire truck. For a guy who lives at the North Pole, he looked pretty damned cold. The kids loved it as he drove by and they waved and screamed. What could be better; fire trucks, sirens, flashing lights and Santa.

We decided we'd check out the local Griswald house and drove to the other side of town, which took all of four minutes; maybe. You can find it because the amount of electricity it uses make an audible hum as you get within four or five blocks. We've driven past this place before; in previous years and earlier this year. The kids were excited and we slowly drove up the the house. Then a very un-Christmasy thought went through my head. "Oh, shit! It's Santa! ...and Mrs. Claus!"

Yes, as we pulled up in front of the house Santa himself and the lovely Mrs. Claus came up to great us. I immediately hear the gears turning in Clay's head, "Hey how did he get here so fast? Where's the fire truck? Why wasn't she with him on the truck? Why doesn't he have glasses like he did four minutes ago?!?"

Quickly, I jump out and say, "Santa! Wow, those firemen really got you here quickly!" Santa looks at me like, "Dude, have you had too much eggnog tonight? Should you really be driving?" Before he can say anything I say, "Man, we just saw you riding on the fire truck on the other end of town and you beat us here!" Santa suddenly remembered that he had just arrived. I also reminded him that he needed to drop off the boys' presents in Virginia. Luckily, he regained his memory about that too.

That Santa, a little forgetful but awful fast.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Adieu, MacWorld

".... and I want to go to MacWorld in New York." April 1999. That was the final request I made when negotiating for my new position at work. I was pretty happy. I received a raise; I got to work in a funny looking five-sided building; I was being paid to buy cool stuff and play with it and tell someone what I thought; but best of all, I was going to MacWorld. For someone like me this was a dream come true. It was my Haj; my pilgrimage to Lourdes; my quest for the Northwest Passage.

For three days the Jacob Javitts Center would be turned into Apple Xanadu; a glass domed Macintosh pleasure palace, full of wonders. Printers. Scanners. Graphics cards. Free stuff! Ahhh, free stuff. My reward for my journey through the maze of Microsoft reps, software vendors, magazine subscriptions and electronics vendors.

After making my way towards the giant Apple "Think Different" banners; there she was. Her siren's song as powerful as those who called out to Jason and Odysseus. She, in her white Apple polo shirt, beckoned me to hear her seductive song. "Would you like an Apple sticker?" she sang. This was the song I had waited so long to hear.

I was struck dumb. She blinked then finally, I replied, "C-c-can I have two?"


It was like I found the Holy Grail, The Ark of the Covenant, and the Golden Fleece all at once. What more could I possibly ask for? Wait! "Where did you get that cool orange digital clock?" I asked.

"Over at the EarthLink booth, aisle 6, I think. They have a whole box full and their giving them away."

"There's more stuff? Free!?!"

That's when my quest for free stuff at MacWorld really started. I got pens, pencils, clocks, stickers, books, silly putty, cups, lanyards, candy, food, calendars and every other piece of wonderful Apple-related crap you could think of. Every night I would take my treasures back to my hotel room, lay them out of the bed and gaze upon them. This was the best job ever!

2001 was the pinnacle of my free stuff orgy. In addition to all the normal booty, Apple gave away a free mouse to everyone at the keynote speech. This same keynote, that through some clerical error, I was given a VIP badge and was allowed to sit right up front to worship at the altar of Steve. Steve's keynote speeches were part rock concert, part liturgy, and part Christmas morning. If you've never been to one, you'd never really understand.

It got even better when later that day as I was on my quest for free stuff, Steve himself walked right toward me on the exhibition floor. As he passed he game me that little knowing "Get the f*@# out of my way!" look. I did. The air was electric for a moment and was then gone as he went on to be annoyed by the several thousand others who were in his way. It was the best day ever!*

(*of course not including our wedding day, birth of children, romantic dinners or other days my wife would be upset about)

My last Macworld was 2002. It was cancelled in New York soon after. And now, 2009 might be the last MacWorld in San Francisco. Nancy and I thought it might give us an excuse to visit San Fran in the next year or two, but it looks like now the Bay Area can only entice us with mild weather, good food, beautiful scenery, and cable car rides.

It's the end of an era. I still have lots of pens, posters, a few stickers, my orange EarthLink clock and even an egg or two of Microsoft's silly putty. But a world without MacWorld will be a little emptier, at least for me.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

How WTAE Stole Christmas

Christmastime is here and there's nothing better than sitting around the old HD LCD and watching family Christmas programs. I especially like the classics; "A Charlie Brown Christmas", "Rudolph TRNR" (which is kind of disturbing on many levels) and "How the Grinch Stole Christmas". Through the Christmas magic that is the FiOS Digital Video Recorder, we can even watch them a second or third time. Joy to the World!

The other night "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" (HTGSC) was on our local Pittsburgh ABC affiliate, WTAE. The story is a little hard to follow for a 5 year old and impossible for a 2 year old; especially since ABC cuts to a commercial every two and a half minutes. That's not WTAE's fault, but I'd rather have someone sponsor the show with limited commercial interruptions. However, WTAE does control their news tease; you know the "Snow's coming, the world is doomed; film at 11" thing.

We watch as the Grinch starts stealing the Who's; not The Who's; Christmas. (If he tried to steal The Who's Christmas, Pete Townshend would beat him over the head with his guitar and Roger Daltrey would kick his Grinch-ass six ways to New Year; but that's a different story). So during a commercial break, Clay asks why the Grinch is doing this and all the other million questions a 5 year old has at Christmas. The commercials end and we turn our attention back to the screen. But first, channel 4's Wendy Bell comes on with a very important new tease: "Santa's Helper mugged outside a local mall, film at 11", she says almost cheerfully. Try explaining that to a five year old.

It's already bad enough that I can't watch a football game with Clay without him singing "Viva Viagra", but what were the people at WTAE thinking? I wrote them an email asking exactly that question. So far, no reply. Tonight we watch "Santa Claus is coming to Town". What will they tease tonight? "Local man bags 12 point Rudolph, film at 11". "Police crack down on Ho Ho Hos in Hill District, film at 11." "Global warming melts North Pole, 247 elves unaccounted for; presumed dead, film at 11". Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Goodbye PittGirl

After living in Virginia for 22 years, I was really excited to move back to Pittsburgh last year. Even though we came back to visit several times a year, Pittsburgh had changed a lot since I left. Where was Joe DeNardo? What the hell happened to nighttime radio on KDKA? The Parkway North?!? My wife saying she was going to work on Liberty Avenue would have had a whole different meaning 25 years ago. And don't even get me started on the Pirates; the Buccos of Succitude. How was I, a stay-at-home dad, going to rediscover my hometown?

Then Nancy discovered a local blogger. She was funny, smart, hip and she made us see Pittsburgh through her eyes. We'd get on the phone and the first thing we'd say was, "Did you read PittGirl today?" Her's became one of our favorite sites to visit. I shared her hatred of pigeons, her love of local media and her hope that this would be the year the Pirates would finally have a winning season.

A couple of weeks ago, she had to quit abruptly. She had her reasons and we respect them, but are still sad. But I'm glad that we had a friend to show us what a great place the 'Burgh is, even if for a short time. Thanks PittGirl! We'll miss you!

Monday, November 10, 2008


We've had a very nice stretch of Aboriginal American Summer (P.C. for Indian Summer) here in western Pennsylvania. But the last few days have started to feel more like November is supposed to. This morning we woke up to our first snow. Actually it was more like a light dusting; enough to frost the roofs of houses and whiten the mulched planting beds.

But when the boys looked out the window, they acted like it was the Great Blizzard of November 10th. They jumped up and down yelling, "Snow, Snow Snoooooooooowwww!!!", until their throats were raw. I could see the wheels turning in Clay's head; "Can we go sledding? Can we build a snow man? Where is my scarf and gloves?" Drew had a look like he was thinking, "Does that stuff taste like ice cream? I can't wait to try it! Where are my crayons? I want to color on daddy's iPhone; again."

Nancy even looked at me said, "Do you think there might be a school delay?" Even after being here for most of last winter, old Virginia habits are hard to break. In the Old Dominion, a "storm" like this would elicit at least a 2 hour delay, if not a day off. In Virginia the threat of snow is enough to cancel school.

As I write this approaching 10 AM, the snow is starting to melt away. Actually it's more like it is evaporating. By the time we pick up Clay from Kindergarden, it will most likely be gone. No sledding; no snowmen; no snowball fights with the neighbor. Not today, but soon.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A New Hope

I'll warn you this post will be kind of geeky, so if you don't know where Tatooine is or the name of the bounty hunter who was shot by Han Solo, (Greedo), or the difference between Bantha and a Dewback you may want to stop reading now. This morning Clay woke up sick. It screwed up our plans for our usual "Election Day Breakfast" which has become a tradition for us. Alas, it was not to be. One of the things I promised him was that we'd watch "Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope" or as I like to call it, "Star Wars".

Clay has been on a huge Star Wars kick ever since we rented Episode 1 or as Clay calls it, "The Jar-Jar Binks Movie." Bleeeaaack! He also got "Lego Star Wars" for the Wii and he and his friend beat the crap out of each other in the back yard with their Lightsabers. That was the extent of his knowledge of Star Wars. So I thought it's time to introduce him to what Star Wars was before George Lucas lost his marbles. (See this post). I put in the DVD, read him the opening credits and settled in for the movie. Immediately the questions started, "Is that Earth?"; "Who's that guy?"; "Why did Darth Vader throw that guy against the wall?"; "Who's that girl?" "How does C3PO understand what R2D2 is saying?"; "How many eyes does that guy have?" "Hey, look it's like the place in Lego Star Wars!"

I never realized how boring the first 80 minutes of the movie might be to a 5 year old. Lots of talking, not much shooting, no Jar-Jar Binks. But he really started to get into it during the lightsaber battle between Darth Vader and Ben Kenobi and was shocked when Ben was killed. "Is he dead? Is he coming back?!?" I told him he'd have to wait until the next movie. But what really got him was the climactic Battle of Yavin. He stood up and was glued to the TV for the 15 minutes of the battle. He was mesmerized! That's when I started getting choked up watching him watch the movie I saw over 31 years ago as a kid; getting drawn into the action as I did; wishing he had his own X-Wing fighter as I did. After it was over he said, "That was cool! When can we watch the next movie?!"

Hah! Take that Jar-Jar Binks!


Last Friday was Halloween. I've never been a big fan of Halloween and I wasn't looking forward to it. The first costume I remember wearing was "Casper the Friendly Ghost" when I was 5 or 6. Trick-or-treating in my hometown was a little different. There was about a one block area I was allowed to roam around in near my parents' bar. This included about 15 houses, a grocery store, 2 bars, a pizza shop and a bakery. A raspberry filled jelly donut was my favorite treat. How many kids get that these days?

When I was older, like 10 or 11, I was given the "job" of passing out candy at my parents' bar. It was loads of fun {insert sarcasm here}. I sat there with a box of Clark bars or Milkshake bars and waited for the kids to come in (back in the day kids did go to neighborhood bars to trick-or-treat; at least in Pittsburgh). Occasionally, I'd get the scary costumed unknown kid who'd come up to me and rather than shout a playful, "Trick-or-Treat!", I'd hear in a low, menacing tone, "You better give me 2 candy bars or I'm going to kill you tomorrow!" Happy Halloween! {insert sarcasm here} As my wife says, "Well, at least you're not bitter at all."

In college, I went to some interesting Halloween parties. The Sigma Nu parties were the best. Unfortunately one included an image permanently burned into my brain. I looked on the couch of the house I was in and there was Gilligan making out with a nun with a scowling clown sitting next to them, staring at them. At that point, I gave up on Halloween.

When the kids came along, I got back in the spirit of Halloween a little. But this year in our new house, I think I had the best Halloween since I was Casper. The kids were both really excited. I think Drew had more fun giving out candy than getting it. I had a great time taking the kids out hanging out with the other parents and even having our own "goody bag" with a 6-pack of Labatt's Blue in it. For the first time in years I can honestly say, I can't wait for next Halloween!

Sunday, October 12, 2008


In Pittsburgh, we love our fireworks. Just last week there was a building shaking display in downtown for Pittsburgh's 250 birthday. This week in our community, there were fireworks because, well, we're really not sure, but any excuse for fireworks and we're there. So last night we pack up the boys and our neighbor, grab some snacks, and set out for the big display. As we approach the launch site, I notice a distinct lack of activity. I mean there is no one there. No cars, no people, no band, no nothing.

Then we see a sign, telling us that we're 24 hours early. S#@^!!! Who has fireworks on a Sunday night?!? I guess we do. So fast forward 24 hours later; we pack up the kids again and thankfully, today there were fireworks. Not like the "shock and awe" of Pittsburgh 250, but a really nice 20 minute local fireworks display. I enjoyed it, Nancy enjoyed it, our two year old on my shoulders enjoyed it. Our five year old and his buddy enjoyed running around in the dark screaming "Happy Birthday America!" hardly casting a glance at the sky. But I guess they enjoyed it too.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


I can't believe it's Fall already. So much has happened in the past month. Last weekend, we saw the most impressive fireworks display celebrating Pittsburgh's 250th birthday. It was the largest display ever; and Pittsburgh's a fireworks crazy town. This was a more impressive display than any I ever saw in Washington, D.C. Baseball has finished (thank goodness); the Pirates are in last place... again. Football has started; more importantly Hockey has started. I love the Steelers, but I love and admire the Penguins. Drew turned 2 and I turned 45.

45. It doesn't really bother me, except I'm no longer in that 35-44 year old demographic. I received an invitation to join AARP. Doesn't the "R" stand for retired? I also fill out surveys for the Harris Poll. I don't get any money, but I earn points that I can exchange for gifts. (So far I earned a radio and a crock pot; it took two and a half years of surveys for that). Last month I was getting surveys like, "Tell us about your online music purchases" and "Help us develop the next great electronic gadget". Now I get ones like, "Tell us about your favorite men's hair coloring product" and "Adult diapers; function or fashion?"

The other day I heard a commercial playing "Mr. Blue Sky" by the Electric Light Orchestra; one of my favorite groups during my high school years. I started singing along and told Clay that was one of my favorite songs. He said, "Who sings that song, daddy?" "E.L.O. I used to have all their records." Without missing a beat, he says, "What's a record?" Nancy giggles. I start, "Well, before their were CDs, you used to have to buy music on these big plastic discs and spin them on a table and put a needle on it." As the words come out of my mouth, I already see Clay's expression start to change,as if he's thinking, "What the hell are you talking about old man?"

Yes, and phones didn't have buttons, and milk was delivered to the house, and we had 13 channels on TV and 11 of those were in color; Car seats? The back seat was my playground; my internet was 24 volumes of the World Book Encyclopedia and my Facebook was a Radio Shack walkie-talkie that reached my friend Billy's house on a good day.

Maybe I am getting old.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Seven years later

I always feel strange on this day. This year it sneaked up on me. I didn't think about it until last night at Clay's baseball game. I'm still angry about what happened and I'll never forget the smell as I looked at the Pentagon burning from the parking lot.

One story I'll always remember is how one of my co-workers, Robin, and her husband, organized a group to get drinks and sandwiches to the kids who were at the Pentagon's day care center. With everything else going on that day, the kids could have been so easily overlooked. At times, I feel bad that I was safe at home in front of my TV by 11:30 that morning while she and others were still there helping. Maybe she did this because she had kids or because it was just in her nature. Either way, when I think of today, the only memory that makes me feel good is that of her and others thinking of those kids.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

I'm Five, and I Approved This Message

I can tell that there are way too many political commercials on TV and radio lately. Clay's been asking "Daddy? Who are you rooting for; John McCain or Barack Obama?" I said I'm not rooting for anyone, I'm trying to decide who I'm going to vote for for President of our country. It's a very important decision. "Oh, so who is mamma rooting for?"

The other day we were driving around and an Obama commercial came on the radio. Drew immediately started saying "Bwaak Abama, Bwaak Abama!" Clay immediately replies with, "I'm John McCain and I approved this message". This goes on for four or five minutes until I scream "Enough!" A few minutes later Drew says, "Jah McCaay, Daddy, Jah McCaaaaaay!" Clay starts with "Bah-Rock-O-Bama! Bah-Rock-O-Bama!" Ah, the fickle nature of American politics. I'll be so glad when November gets here.

Here We Go Steelers!

The flat panel HDTV is warming up, the Terrible Towel is hanging over the fireplace, the nachos are in the oven and the beer is cold. It's Sunday in Pittsburgh! It's our first Steeler game in our new house since the move. Here we go Steelers, Here we go!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

School Days

It's hard to believe, but the first day of school is here already. Clay didn't look back; he was so looking forward to school. All day, flashes of my time in school have been coming back to me. The good memories and the bad; the excitement; the angst. It seemed that time dragged. Every school year was a lifetime; every month a decade. It seemed like summer was always so far away, and then it was gone.

To Clay, the next 13 years will see like an eternity, with milestones like first grade, middle school, junior high, driver's license, graduation and college. To me it will fly by much too quickly.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Day George Lucas Lost His Marbles

Ewoks. I hate the Ewoks. I will always remember sitting in the theater at the Beaver Valley Mall on a the first Sunday in June 1977. Seeing the opening battle scene in Star Wars (before it was called "A New Hope") made a lasting impression on me that still give me goosebumps. I think I saw that movie a dozen times that summer. Three years later, "The Empire Strikes Back" came out. It was dark and I didn't like it as much as the original, but is till saw it 5 or 6 times. Then in 1983, "Return of the Jedi", which I had high hopes for, until... Ewoks! George Lucas must have lost his marbles.

Fast forward to 1999. By then "Empire" had become my favorite movie and I looked forward to the new prequel series. That all changed when we were all introduced to Jar-Jar Binks, possibly the single most annoying character in recorded history. He made me long for the days of Ewoks. George Lucas must have lost his marbles.

August 2008; "The Clone Wars". This story takes place between "Attack of the Clones" and "Revenge of the Sith". It uses a weird animation process that makes everyone look like they just popped off some bizarre Byzantine fresco. Normally, I would already know to stay away from this movie, but I have a 5 year old and between the media blitz on TV and the equally bizarre Happy Meal "toys" from McDonald's, we had to go.

The movie revolves around Anakin getting an (annoying) apprentice and the search for the son of Jabba the Hutt, who has been kidnapped by Count Dooku. Still, this might have been a salvageable idea for a story, but alas, no.

So, after watching this movie, I give you the following 8 reasons why George Lucas has finally, truly lost his marbles:

#8 Battle Droids who act more like "Laurel and Hardy" than "Stallone and Schwarzenegger"

#7 Anakin's apprentice calls him "Sky-guy"

#6 Numerous plot holes you could drive a Star Cruiser through.

#5 Jabba's son, who is called "Stinky"

#4 There was no iconic "opening crawl" that has been a staple of the movies and even the video games. Instead there was a narration done in the style of manic, annoying 1930's radio announcer.

#3 Endless battle scenes. After 6 or 7 minutes of clones and droids shooting constantly at each other, you get kind of numb, especially when it does not move the story forward.

#2 Being constantly reminded that "We have to find Jabba the Hutt's son. He's been kidnapped!" Alright already. We know. My 5 year old with the attention span of a , well, a 5 year old gets it already.

And #1, worst of all, Jabba the Hutt's flamboyant, apparently homosexual uncle Zero the Hutt. I kid you not. Zero is a purple Hutt with gold paint, flower tattoos, wears a gold headdress with feathers and speaks in the manner of Truman Capote with a Louisiana accent. A horrible stereotype. Again, I kid you not. Why not just get it over with and call him "Pizza the Hutt". At least that would have got a laugh out of the audience.

George Lucas has truly, finally lost his marbles.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Wishing Well

Last Friday we took the kids, along with their cousins to Idlewild Park and Storybook Forest in Ligonier, PA. It's a park that caters to younger kids, but there also a bunch of rides to keep older kids happy. I haven't been there since I was about 5 or 6, but I remembered Story Book Forest more than the rest of the park.

Story Book Forest is a walking trail where you meet Mother Goose, Raggedy Ann, The Three Little Pigs and all the other characters you remember from childhood. I really wanted to take them here this year because Clay now likes SpongeBob more than Thomas and I was afraid that he'd think this was boring and too young for him. I was pleasantly surprised that he really enjoyed going through; although he didn't want to see Captain Candy on her pirate ship, even though she was passing out free lollipops. Drew on the other hand said, "Candy?! Let's Go!!!"

Near then end, there was a wishing well and I asked Clay if he wanted to make a wish. I gave him a penny and he ran over to the well. I said, "Close your eyes and make a wish and throw the penny in." He closed his eyes tightly, whispered to himself, smiled and threw the penny. I asked, "Did you make a wish?"

"Yes, I wished that you'd be my daddy forever!"

I almost cried. Yes, buddy, you get your wish; and I get mine.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


"Space Chimps". What could be wrong with that. It has two of my favorite things; Space and Chimps. The only thing that could be better would be "Space Chimps delivering Hooters' Wings with a free MacBook Pro". Heaven.

Clay has wanted to see this movie since he saw the first commercial months ago. So I decided to give Nancy a few hours of peace and quiet while I took him to see this potential Academy Award winning flick. As we enter the theater lobby, Clay immediately is disinterested in the movie and wants to play video games. All the games he wants to play are racing games and he is far too short to reach the pedals; thankfully.

I break him from the trance of quarter-swallowing electronic crack by telling him that we needed to get some snacks for the movie. "Clay do you want any popcorn?"

"No, I want that Batman thing!", as he points to Malted Milk Balls with the Batman logo on it.

"You're not going to like Malted Milk Balls. How 'bout some popcorn?"

"No Daddy, I want that Batman thing!", as he points to Milk Duds.

"No, Clay, you're no going to like those. How about some popcorn?"

"I don't want any popcorn!"

"OK, how about M&Ms or Twizzelers?"

"I want Starburst!"

"OK, you can get some Starburst. Are you sure you don't want any popcorn?"

"Goddammit Daddy! No Freakin' Popcorn!!!"

OK, well he didn't say that, but he again told me of his lack of desire for any type of warm, buttery corn-based snack product. So, I order a small one for myself. As we pass the "Popcorn Flavoring Station" I start sprinkling on cheddar cheese flavored salt. "Daddy, what's that?" "Cheddar cheese flavored salt". "Yuck! I hate cheddar cheese salt!" I tell him that since he doesn't want any popcorn, he shouldn't care what I put on it.

We settle in for the movie, and just as the first preview is about to start Clay says, "Daddy, I want some popcorn!" FIne. By the time "Space Chimps" starts, he has devoured most of the bag. "I guess I don't like cheddar cheese salt too much, but I'll eat the popcorn anyway", he says. I'll learn next time.

Oh, and the movie. Awful is not a strong enough word. It looks like it was made on cutting edge animation software that Pixar threw away in the early 90's. But Clay and I did both laugh when the big chimp slipped on the banana peel on the treadmill. Can't help it; Monkeys=Funny.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Another Brick In The Wall

When we bought our house, we knew we had one major problem. We had two retaining walls in the back yard and they were both bowing badly. In five months the lower wall moved several inches and the final blow came when I was cutting the grass behind one wall and my leg went down in a void to me knee. Apparently, this wall was built by roving bands of chimpanzees which must have been through Pittsburgh 10 years ago. These monkeys were bad even by monkey standards.

So we called the landscaper and viola, two weeks, 20 tons of stone, two truckloads of mulch later we had our new (single) wall up. It looks great and even has a set up steps so we don't have to walk around the ends to go up a level. As a bonus, one of our neighbors gave us his kids' old play set. It's a good thing we had it done when we did, right before we went on vacation, because when we left our back yard was mud, manure and seed. By the time we returned, we had grass!

But the main reason we wanted to have the wall rebuilt was to have a safe area for the kids to play. I was worried that either the wall would collapse on someone or that someone would break a leg by "finding" a hole like I did. In the time our house was up for sale, it had become the "skate park". Various slacker-related items (parts of skateboards, snowboards, ramps, pipes, etc.) occasionally turned up on our driveway, lawn and retaining walls and I worried that one of these slackers would end up splitting his head open. At least now, I don't have to worry about the wall collapsing on them.

We've spent the last few days power washing, staining, repairing and re-fitting what will become "The Pirate Ship". We already have our "sail" and will soon put on the ship's wheel and the pirate flag. It sails in it's sea of mulch and will soon need to be officially christened. The old owner had spray painted "SK8-24-7" on the side; which I have since power washed into oblivion; so now we need to find the perfect name for our ship. Suggestions?

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Happy Birthday America

Sorry, it's been so long since the last post. Here's what's coming up: "Another Brick in the Wall", "F.U. VDOT", "OBX 2008" and more, but I couldn't let this go without posting this tonight. This was taken on the morning of our nation's 232nd birthday, because there is no better way than to say "Happy Birthday America" than "Bikini Cole Slaw Wrestling". And no, Nancy would not let me go.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Let's Go Pens!

Well, it's over. The Penguins run for the Stanley Cup ended about an hour ago. Since moving back to Pittsburgh, we've really been into Pittsburgh sports, but some of the most exciting games this past six months have come from the Pens. From Sidney Crosby's overtime shoot-out win at the outdoor game in Buffalo on January first, to Monday's triple overtime win in Game 5 in Detroit; to tonight's 0.1 second left in the game "almost" goal by Marian Hossa. What an amazing effort these guys put forward.

We're disappointed in the loss, and Clay almost cried when he found out that hockey is over until October, but we still love our Pens! Way to go guys!

I think I'm going to go out and buy Clay a Sidney Crosby or Marc-Andre Fleury shirt tomorrow. He may not understand yet, but these are young men in their 20's that I want him to see a role models. Not because they are great athletes, but because they work hard, give their all for their team, and win (and lose) graciously; no swaggering, no complaining, no trash talking; just like how I want my sons to be.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Why Didn't I Think of This!?!

Here's a great website: YouParkLikeAnAsshole.Com Nothing more needs to be said. Enjoy!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Happy Anniversary! Here's a Set of Tires, Honey!

This past weekend was our 10th anniversary. On our honeymoon in Hawaii, I promised Nancy that we'd go back for our 10th anniversary. We didn't make it, so we did the next best thing; Chautauqua Lake, New York in the off season; during the coldest, wettest spring in memory. (Not to repeat myself from my last post, but Global Warming my butt!) It was actually a very pleasant trip and we had a great time. We had great food, visited many wineries, saw some wonderful scenery, took golf lessons and did one of my most favorite things in the whole world; make fun of Canadians. That is another blog posting all in itself.

We decided to be "green" and save the environment by taking Nancy's Prius on the trip instead of the minivan. OK, so we really didn't care about being green, we just wanted to get more than 18MPG on this trip. If you don't know, the Prius is a hybrid which runs on gasoline but has an electric engine which kicks in when it needs a boost; which kinda makes it like the Dick Cheney of cars; but Cheney has even less style and the Prius doesn't want to rule the world.

Anyway, we took a lot of side trips through Moraine State Park, Slippery Rock, Erie, Presque Isle, and North East, PA. Just when we decided that we should be getting to the hotel, the Prius starts acting like the Tilt-a-Whirl at a carnival, swerving from side to side. We pull over and we can actually see the tire deflating before our eyes. Nancy asks if she should call AAA. I say, "No, I'm a man. I can change a tire!" After all, I've seen "Cars". "Pit Stop!" How hard can this be. After 10 minutes the lug nuts are off and the spare is ready to go on. Just one problem. The wheel won't come off. I pull, I swear, I kick, I swear some more, but still nothing. I'm surprised because swearing usually intimidates the inanimate object I'm swearing at to bend to my will. So, defeated, I tell Nancy to call AAA.

Fifteen minutes later, our savior arrives with a railroad tie. He crawls under the car and smacks the living crap out of the tire and it comes off. Toyota's emergency road kit did not include this one, apparently, vital item. He looked at our other tires and showed us the tread, or lack thereof, and steel belts popping through the rubber on them. He sent us on our way with an unspoken, "Hope you make it the 50 miles to Firestone before the other tires fall apart!"

So, I've decided that the 10th anniversary is not tin, nor diamond, nor even wood; it's rubber.. steel belted.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Let's Go Bucs!

Clay and I went to our first day game yesterday. It was a double-header. It was 47 degrees; in May. (Global Warming my butt). We bought the cheap seats way behind home plate; there are no bad seats at PNC. I was surprised that there were over 12,000 people there because of the weather, but none cheered louder than Clay. His new favorite player is Freddie Sanchez (sorry Ryan Zimmerman!) and Jason Bay comes in a close second.

Clay charms everyone. He had an intense conversation with the lady in front of us about how she was a Pirates fan and her husband was a Braves fan. He asked why does she still like him if he doesn't like the Pirates. At that point I distracted him and tried to get him to leave them alone. Clay also told one of the ushers every detail of his last T-Ball game and another the three minute synopsis of "Cars". They all thought he was cute. And of course he is; but he talks a lot. Here are some random things I remember him saying yesterday:

"Daddy, I'm cold! I want ice cream!" "Daddy, I'm cold, I want hot chocolate!" "What's a Buccaneer?" "Daddy, it's tooooo hot!" "Where's the ice cream guy?" "Daddy, why does that guy {the catcher} put his glove {his face mask} on his head?" "Is a strike good or bad?" "Why is that man {he points vaguely at the 12,000 in attendance} doing that? Why, daddy?" "Daddy? What does KKK mean?" {OK, this was on the sign that counts how many strikeouts (K's) the Pirates have; they just happened to have three at that point}. "Daddy, where are the fireworks?" "I want a hot dog!" After standing in line for an entire inning for said hot dog, "I don't want a hot dog just french fries and ice cream". "I'm cold, when are we going to get ice cream?" "Why is there a 2 there?", again pointing vaguely. "Can I eat fires that I dropped on the ground?" "Why didn't that guy catch that ball?" "I'm hungry!"

But his favorite thing is at the beginning of every game. The scoreboard shows a video of a computer generated pirate who talks smack about the other team, then shows what is to Clay the single most exciting thing he's ever seen; an animated battle between pirate ships; one with the Pirates logo on the sails and a floatilla of ships with the opponents logo on their sails. The Pirates' ship fires cannonballs that get progressively more bizzare. They turn into rockets, jets, and finally a giant robot octopus that pulls the last remaining ship to a frightening demise to Davey Jones' Locker. After that, Clay's all "OK, daddy, I'm ready to go whenever you are."

That's when I remind him that the game is about to begin. "Oh, yeah. Let's Gooooooo Buuuuuuuuucs!" I love that kid. Can't wait to take him and his brother.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Happy Mothers' Day

To my mom, my mother-in-law, and my wife. I love you all.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Chuck, Next Door

Tonight has been a beautiful night, and like most evenings, we find ourselves outside enjoying the back yard and chatting with neighbors. Our neighbors on one side are a very nice Indian family with a little boy Drew's age. He was out cutting his grass and we talked about gardening and the deer and rabbit problem. We also discovered we have the same exact lawn mower. He's a very nice guy.

Here's the only problem. He and his wife introduced themselves a couple of months ago but I didn't really catch their names. I thought I'd be smart and look them up on the county real estate site and get his name that way, rather than sounding like the dope who can't remember or pronounce his name. No luck. It's like Mushtarhawlapindi Dannymurthaughrockingchair. And I'm not sure which one is his first name and which one is his last. So I've decided to call him "Chuck".


OK, so here's something new that I'll probably tire of in a few days; Twitter. If you look under my profile on the right hand side of the page, you'll see "Twitter Updates". This will let you see all my Tweets. What does this all mean? All four of you who read this can now see what I'm doing at any particular time I post a Tweet. But for the love of God, why would you want to?! Most of them would be something like; "Surfing the web", "Watching 'SpongeBob' with the boys", "Watching the Pirates lose another game".

The more I think about it, the more I think Twitter is pretty stupid. But I feel the need to try out all things tech. So who knows, maybe a Stickcam web show next?

Monday, May 5, 2008


I've really got to keep up with this blog. It's been a long time since I've updated. So many things have happened. We found a Sonic Drive-In about 20 miles away. I love the drinks at Sonic, especially the diet cherry limeade. On Sunday we went to Pittsburgh Mills, the mega-mall north of Pittsburgh. Why? Because that's where the Sonic is! My only other times I get to go to Sonic is at the Outer Banks. I'd drive to the Nags Head Sonic every day at 2PM to get the Happy Hour half price drink. It's always the diet cherry limeade. There are supposed to be 15 Sonics in Pittsburgh by 2010. I'm praying for one within walking distance.

Clay has been playing Soccer and T-Ball. Soccer isn't going so well, but he looks good in the uniform. By the way did you know I'm the assistant coach. Me. Mr. "I don't know anything about soccer and don't particularly like it." So I stand there and shout encouraging things like "Good Job!" and "No Hands!" and "Stop Crying!" and occasionally getting hit in the nuts with a soccer ball by an over zealous 5 year old. Plus I have one player whose greatest joy seems to be running behind me and punching me in the ass all morning. Thanks for volunteering me, Honey!

T-Ball is looking better. Clay is already batting from both sides of the plate. I think the other dads think I'm nuts because I keep saying things like, "You know, Clay can bat lefty this time" or "This might be a good time for him to bat righty". Since it's T-Ball and there is no pitcher, maybe I'm worrying about this too much. And at least I know more about baseball so I can shout more encouraging things like, "Good Job!", "Keep Your Eye On the Ball!", and "Stop Crying!"

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The 10 Best Things About Pittsburgh: #1

#1 PNC Park. When I was a kid, I saw my first big league game in Three Rivers Stadium. It was the stadium of the future; a giant mass of concrete with the fans kept far away from the playing field. But I loved it. For less than $10, I could ride the bus there and back, get a ticket, a coke and a hot dog. Three Rivers was cold and sterile. I went to other horrid stadiums and parks too; the Kingdome in Seattle (Like watching baseball in a bomb shelter), Exhibition Stadium in Toronto (called the Mistake By The Lake), and Municipal Stadium in Baltimore (I think the filth and rust held the iron girders together). I thought this was how baseball was supposed to be.

I must admit that that changed after a game at Oriole Park at Camden Yards (Let me make this clear, I never was an Orioles fan, but I liked Cal Ripken and it was the only game in town). It's a really nice park an the first of the "new' parks. It has personality. After the Nationals came to DC, it was back to the giant concrete monstrosity, RFK Stadium, to watch baseball. It had the architecture of Three Rivers, the cold impersonality of the Kingdome, and the distance from the field of Exhibition Stadium. But at least we had baseball in DC.

It seemed that every summer that we travelled back to Pittsburgh, the Pirates were out of town that week, plus I don't think that Nancy thought that sitting at a ball game for three hours was high on the priority list. Since living in Pittsburgh, I end up driving by PNC Park a couple of times a week. All winter, I'd sneak peeks into it as I drove by trying to get a feel for the place. I was determined to take our older son to a few games this year.

Last week we along with a friend went to our first game. It was beautiful! Our seats were just past 3rd base, probably about 170 feet back from the foul line. The first thing you notice is the view of downtown Pittsburgh laid out behind the outfield wall. Then you notice the light towers which are based on the towers from old Forbes Field, a unique feature of PNC Park. And the players were right there. You are so close, you fell as though you are part of the game. I felt like Robert Redford might walk out of the dugout in his New York Knights uniform at any moment. I imagine that this was how baseball was meant to be watched.

And the Pirates won the game; which I must admit, was a pleasant surprise.

Monday, April 14, 2008

The 10 Best Things About Pittsburgh: #2

#2 The Strip District. "The Strip" is not Pittsburgh's premiere gentlemen's club nor is it any other seedy, smoke-filled establishment where woman disrobe. The Strip is a neighborhood bordered by the Allegheny River and Liberty Avenue from 11th through 33rd streets in Pittsburgh. In the early 19th century, the Strip District was home to many mills and factories as its location along the Allegheny River made for easy transportation of goods and shipping of raw materials. The H.J. Heinz Company, famous ketchup and condiment manufacturer is located here.

The shipping infrastructure built around the manufacturing companies lead to The Strip becoming a vibrant network of wholesalers—mostly fresh produce, meat, and poultry dealers. Soon auction houses rose around the wholesale warehouses and many restaurants and grocery stores were built to feed hungry shift workers at any hour of the day. By the 1920s The Strip District was the economic center of Pittsburgh.

Today in the Strip District there are still several wholesalers and produce dealers. Today many of the abandoned warehouses have been renovated into small specialty shops, restaurants, night clubs, and bars. The area has developed into a historic market district with many ethnic food purveyers, some art studios, antique dealers, unique boutiques and other such businesses setting up shop where trains once delivered produce by the ton. The Strip District comes alive primarily on weekends during the summer months when street vendors are selling their wares, the open-air farmer's markets are in full swing.

One of my favorite places is the world famous Primanti Bros. restaurant. There's no need to order fries and cole slaw with your sandwich; they already come on your sandwich. I remember going to The Strip with my brother when I was a kid and getting one and feeling all grown up. I spent many a night after a Sigma Nu party sobering up, I mean grabbing a late night snack there during my college years. After not having one for nearly 20 years while living in Virginia, I took my wife there. Iwas so excited. We waited in line for about 40 minutes; we ordered a couple of the #2 Best Selling Cheese Steaks; I waited for her reaction to the wonderfulness of this sandwich. It never came. I was devastated! She didn't like it!

So I was all a flutter when attending a Pirates game this past weekend when she said she'd give them another try. Luckily, PNC Park has a Primanti Bros. right behind home plate. OK, I've got to give her credit for trying again, but she had the same reaction. To be fair, the ones at PNC aren't as good as the ones in The Strip; or could it be they just tasted better at 4 a.m. after a party with my fraternity brothers and a few CMU and Duquesne co-eds?

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The 10 Best Things About Pittsburgh: #3

#3 "We Are Fam-a-lee". OK, when I was a kid during the Pirates '79 season, they played that gawd awful song "We Are Family" by Sister Sledge ad nauseum! I hated it then, I hate it now. Pittsburgh was never a "disco" town, yet during that year Pittsburgh lost it's collective marbles and that song became everyone's favorite; except mine. I remember sitting at game 5 of the '79 World Series with my best friend at the time John V. John was into Skynyrd, Molly Hatchet and Led Zeppelin, yet even he swayed to that disco beat. I was not alone though. The twenty or thirty Baltimore Oriole's fans who sat in our section also sat there scowling when that song came on; mostly.

So what does this have to do with the "best" of Pittsburgh? Even though I despise the song, Pittsburghers really are kind of a family. Pittsburghers for the most part are not a class-conscious group. That's part of the blue-collar ethos that still lingers as part of this area's culture. Pittsburghers don't like conspicuous displays of upper-class status and pretensions. Trends aeren't as important here, at least once you are over 30. Pittsburghers genuinely like each other despite social and economic differences. I see it every time I stop for coffee, go to the grocery store or see a show. We are family.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Gilbert & Sullivan? I don't know; Third base.

This blog entry is for my friend, Ed. Ed you are the one person who I know will truly appreciate this mix of hardball and Broadway. There is a blog here in Pittsburgh called "The Burgh Blog: Pittsburgh, Only Cooler" by the anonymous "pittgirl". She is hilarious, has a great take on all things Pittsburgh and hates pigeons. Recently she posted the attached photo as part of her blog with the following comments about the forthcoming pitiful Pittsburgh Pirates season. The caption to the picture reads "Pirates hopeful Josh Wilson -- a Mt. Lebanon graduate -- goes through a sliding drill early in camp."

7. The Buccos of Suckitude continue their futile efforts in Florida. Here’s a look at some of the talent.
Skinny little legs. Poor form. JAZZ HANDS!? We’re screwed.

Here's the comment I posted to her which she thought was pretty funny:

Mt. Lebanon High School presents Josh Wilson in “The Pirates of Bradenton”. Hear Josh sing,
“I am the very model of a modern Major-Leaguer,
I’ve information the Pirates season’s looking even bleaker,
I know the mayor of Piksburgh, and I quote the fights historical
From Tampa Bay to Chicago, in order base-a-ball-ical;
I’m very well acquainted, too, with minor league affiliates,
I understand equations, I’ll probably be lucky to be with the Lynchburg Hill-i-cats,
About pinch-hitting theorem I’m teeming with a lot o’ news –
With many cheerful facts but the Buccos are still a-gonna loose

Let's Go Bucs!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The 10 Best Things About Pittsburgh: #4

#4 Pittsburghese. I grew up in Pittsburgh, but I don't think I ever uttered the word "Yinz" except in jest. I do know that I was hounded constantly by my Broadcasting Professor at Duquesne University, Frank Thornton. His favorite thing was to make me say, "There was a fire at the tire store on the South Side." After 4 yers at Duquesene and 22 years in Virginia, I dropped a lot of my Pittsburghese. I used rubber bands, drank soda, cheered for the Steelers, shopped at Giant and told people I was from Pittsburgh. But I could always pick out a Pittsburgh accent (just like I can pick out a friggin' Canadian the moment they speak) whether on TV, radio or from speaking with someone in person. Roads were slippery when wet, the weather was cloudy, and I was proud to have lost most of my accent and even was accused by my Pittsburgh friends of saying "y'all" occasionally.

But I'm back and I'm embracing Pittsburgheese again. I say "slippy", "pop", "gumband" and I even called someone a "jagoff" recently. And it's OK; it's who I am. Just as long as I don't turn into "Chipped Ham Sam"

For the those of you in Pittsburgh, here's my blog in Pittsburghese, translated from Pittsburghese.com.

#4 Picksburghese. I grew up in Picksburg, P-A, but I don't think I ever sed da word "Yinz" except jaggin' aroun n'at. I do know that I was bein jagged aroun by my Broadcastin Pafessor at Dew-kwez-nee University, Frankie Thornton n'at. His favorite ting was to make me say, "dere was a fahr at da tahr store on da Sahside." After 4 yers at Duquesene and 22 years dahn in Virginia, I dropped lots of my Picksburgese n'at. I used gumbands, drank pop, cheered fer da Stillers, shopped at Jahnt and told people I was from Picksburg n'at. But I could always pick aht a Picksburg accent (jest like I can pick aht a frikin' Canuck when dey tawk) whether on TV, radeeo or from tawkin' wit someone n'at. Roads wuz slippy when wet, da weather wuz clahdy, and I wuz prahd to have lost mosta my accent n'at and even was accused by my Picksburg friends of saying "y'all" ur sumptin.

But I'm back and I'm cool wit Picksburgese again n'at. I say "slippy", "pop", "gumband" and I even called some jagoff a "jagoff" recently n'at. And it's Oakel-Doakel; it's who ahz n'at. jest as long as I don't turn inta "Chipped Ham Sam" er sumptin.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The 10 Best Things About Pittsburgh: #5

#5 Sidney Crosby. The 20 year-old Pittsburgh Penguins phenom is my favorite player; and not just for his skating and puck handling abilities. Here's some excerpts from a recent article about him from ESPN.com.

All requests for Crosby's time are filtered through the prism of, "How does this affect my teammates?"

Interviews and photo shoots often are carried out in the morning before other players arrive.

Crosby frequently keeps in contact with a wheelchair-bound girl from Montreal. When the Pens are in town, Crosby gets tickets for her and her family and always manages to spend some alone time with them. On one visit, Crosby invited her down for the morning skate. He gave her signed Pens gear and made sure players gave her high fives on their way to the ice.
Not long after the visit, Montreal's training staff received a text message from Crosby, thanking them for helping with the visit.

After he signed a big endorsement deal with Reebok, the company wanted to send promotional material to Crosby. He said he didn't want anything unless his teammates and staff got the same.

During the playoffs last year, when the Penguins were in Ottawa, Crosby spied a group of children within the hundreds of fans and whispered to Buonomo to bring them over so he could sign for them.

This is one classy kid. I never really had a sports hero that I looked up to when I was a kid, and I never thought that my sons would ever find a sports figure to look up to. But, I think that I'd be proud to buy them a #87 Pittsburgh Penguins shirt. It's nice to see that in these days of steroids, "gangster" players and multi-million dollar contracts, there is still at least one pro athlete who kids can look up to.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Four Score and Seven Sausages Ago....

I'll get back to my Top Ten list soon. Today as usual, I asked Clay what he did at preschool. As usual, his answer was , "I dunno". After some prodding, I get more details. The teachers were mad at the kids because they kept yelling "POPCORN! POPCORN! POPCORN!" as they were trying to dole out a snack to them. I had visions of a tiny riot being quelled by the teachers before the chant changed to "ATTICA! ATTICA!" As far as I know, no tear gas was used to put down the great Popcorn Rebellion of '08.

I asked what else did they do. "We read a book about Presidents", said Clay.
"Do you remember their names?" I asked.
"George Washington and somebody else."
"Abraham Lincoln?" I asked.
"Yea, him. You know he's like a sausage", Clay says matter-of-factly.
"You know, he's like a sausage I get for breakfast; Abraham Link."
"Clay, his name is LINCOLN, not LINK."
"Oh, but he's still like a sausage, right?"
Well, at least he didn't say Lincoln was the guy selling mattresses and cars this week.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The 10 Best Things About Pittsburgh: #6

#6: Traffic. Hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha. After 22 years in Northern Virginia and dealing with the Beltway, I-66, and I-95, Maybe I'm jaded. What we have here in Pittsburgh is not traffic. Sure there is the occasional back-up, accident and road closure, but the people around here have no idea what traffic is.

We recently signed Drew up for a new pre-school about 10 miles away. It looks like a great place and we enjoyed our tour. Nancy seemed a little hesitant. She told me that she thought that the 10 mile ride and 20 minute trip might be a bit long; that maybe we should look a little closer. God bless her; how soon we forget.

In Virginia, our preschool, Annandale Co-op, was only 4 miles away. It took 35 minutes to get there on a good day; an hour or more on a bad day. Good thing it was the best preschool east of the Rockies. It was worth the traffic to get Clay there.

So now we smile to ourselves as we hear people talk about the terrible traffic on "McNightmare Road" (McKnight Road); or the traffic reports about traffic backed up ALL THE WAY ACROSS one of the many bridges, Delays might be upwards of 5 minutes!

To be fair, Nancy is the one who drives every day, not me, but I think we'd take rush hour across the Fort Duquesne Bridge over I-95 South on a Saturday morning any day.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The 10 Best Things About Pittsburgh: #7

#7: Rivers and lakes. I'm not a great swimmer and I haven't waterskied since college (well, it was more like being pulled by a boat as water rushed up my sphincter until I fell flat on my face at 20 MPH) and I don't really like to fish. But I've always loved the rivers, creeks and lakes around Pittsburgh.

When I was a kid, I used to play in the "creek" (an open sewer) behind my parents' bar. It was fun building dams and floating sticks, but mom always said that I couldn't play in the part where the creek turned orange. Yes, orange. Bright orange. Pre-E.P.A. enforcement orange. This happened where the discharge pipe emptied from one of the local steel mills into the "creek". We thought it was pretty cool back in the day that the water turned this neat color. Looking back, I can't get the image of the three-eyed fish from "The Simpsons" out of my mind.

Well, now the mills are closed, the water is, well, it's not orange any more and I'm looking forward to enjoying my time by the water this summer. I love watching the water flow down the Ohio. I spent many a summer day staring at the fountain at Point State Park. I anticipate the first warm day where I can take the boys for a walk around North Park Lake. Maybe I can even convince my brother to put his boat back in the river.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

The 10 Best Things About Pittsburgh: #8

#8: "The Inclines" Pittsburgh has not one, but two inclines. Providing safe, reliable, rapid public transportation, via funicular railway, since 1877. Utilizing two original, 1877 cable cars, the Duquesne Incline is a working museum.

Opened in 1870, the Monongahela Incline is the oldest and steepest incline in the United States, as well as the nation's oldest cable car operation. They both offer beautiful views of downtown Pittsburgh as well as a convenient way for residents of Mt. Washington to get to downtown Pittsburgh.

This is really the best way to see Pittsburgh and has always been one of my favorite things to do. The only other place I've been with a remotely similar funicular railway, was Hong Kong. It took you up to the top of Victoria Peak. I still think that the view of Pittsburgh is better than Hong Kong's.

The 10 Best Things About Pittsburgh: #9

#9: "The Silk House and Oram's Donuts". The Silk House Cafe' is a restored 1826 coffeehouse operating in the Ambridge Historic District in Ambridge, Pennsylvania. Located just blocks from Old Economy Village, the building is believed to have played a major role in the Harmonists' famous silk industry. We found this place kind of by accident a couple of years ago as we were searching for a place with free internet. The coffee is great, the staff is really friendly and they have great pastries and lunches.

But what really puts the cherry on the top of this place is that they serve Oram's Donuts, which are made in Beaver Falls, PA. These donuts compare to Krispy Kreme as A Lexus does to a Kia; but only if the Lexus was less expensive.

When we were staying with my parents while the house was on the market in Virginia, we really became regulars. Nancy would stop there on her way to work and I'd go a couple of times a week. Well, being in the North Hills now, Nancy can't get her morning wake-up of a coffee and a donut. Since I still make it into Ambridge a couple of times a week for pre-school duty, I stop in and get a "to-go" Oram's for Nancy (and my) breakfast the next morning.

It's probably good we don't get to go there everyday any more, but it still is worth going out of our way for.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The 10 Best Things About Pittsburgh: #10

#10: "The Pittsburgh Left. "The Pittsburgh Left" is not a group of ultra-liberal Western Pennsylvanians nor is it the name of a really cool punk band. Here's Wikipedia's definition: "The "Pittsburgh Left" involves two cars facing one another waiting at a traffic light or other stop signal: one turning left and one going straight. The left-turning car will execute its turn through the intersection before the car going straight passes through the intersection, where normally it would yield. Permission to do so is either given by the car going straight, or sometimes taken by the left-turning car by starting through the left turn early enough so as not to obstruct the straight-going driver."

You'd think that this would never work or that there'd be massive road rage issues, but in Pittsburgh it works. As a matter of fact if you are turning left and don't go, the other driver will usually look at you funny; flash his lights or wave at you until you go. After living in the DC area for all these years, I just assumed everyone had chronic pissed off driver syndrome, me included, but dare I say it; Pittsburgh drives; for the most part; are actually friendly! Well, if not friendly at least as not as prone to shooting you.

Friday, January 25, 2008

American Gladiators

Well here's something I've recently discovered about my wife. She's a huge fan of American Gladiators; both the new and old version of the show. It has moved to the top of her TV watching list, at least until "Battlestar Galactica" returns.

She was so happy when she found classic "AG" on ESPN Classic (The Ocho). The contestants had big hair and the gladiators had more superhero looking costumes than the new version. Mike Adamley and Larry Czonka, the hosts, wore tuxedoes and some of the games were a little lame; like the bungee jump where you have to collect different colored balloons or balls.

Nancy's favorite of the new gladiators is "Wolf", who's real name is probably like Irving Schmendrick or something like that. Every time he's on, he says something like, "Your going to be dripping from my fangs!" and howls like, well, a wolf. Immediately Nancy says, "Oh that Wolf! He's so crazy!"

I told her she reminds me of my grandmother at these times. When I was a kid, my Baba (Ukrainian for "grandmother") used to watch "Studio Wrestling" the pre-cursor to and the superior entertainment to the WWE. It was hosted by "Chilly" Bill Cardille and was on every Saturday. Her favorite was Bruno Sanmartino, or as she called him, "Brummo". My sick, elderly Baba would sit in front of the TV screaming obscenities at anyone who dared challenge "Brummo" in two languages. Her cheers for "Brummo" would consist of "Bayh, bayh... dae moh!", which roughly translated is "Hit him, hit him... give it to him!" When someone got the better of Mr. Sanmartino, she would yell, "Aaaah, you son-of-a-bitch!" No need for translation there.

Baba passed away years before "AG", but I thin k she and Nancy would have liked watching it together; 'cause, you know; that Wolf, he's so crazy!


It's been two weeks since the furniture arrived; we've had ice, snow, a funeral, a lost wedding ring (found after 4 days), and the worlds largest supply of unpacked cardboard boxes and used packing material. We have ice and water in the fridge, FiOS on the TV and internet, calcium deposits in the pipes and squeaky floors in the kids' bedrooms.

We still have more boxes than I care to count to unpack, especially in the garage. Our two car garage has been a one car garage for the past two weeks and that really sucks when the temps are in the single digits it's snowed every other day. I've become reacquainted with my friends the ice scraper and a can of windshield de-icer. And God bless the man who came up with "Driveway Heat" from Prestone (Mr. Prestone?).

There's lots more to do, but all-in-all, it's starting to feel like home.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Welcome Home

Here we are on the eve of the big move into our new home. There were times I thought we'd never sell the house in Fairfax; that we'd never find "the" house in Pittsburgh; that we'd never get on with our lives.

For the past three months we've more than imposed on my parents and turned their quiet home into the Toddler Dream House and Scream-a-torium. I've been back in the room I spent my teenaged years in. The Who and Led Zeppelin posters are gone, the computer is an iMac instead of an Atari 800, the stereo has been replaced by Sirius Satellite Radio. It's been crowded and noisy and sometimes chaotic, yet it has also felt comfortable these past 3 months. You can still hear the sounds of pipe rolling off the mills in the middle of the night, the train's horn as it echos down the valley, and the slow rumble of trucks on Duss Avenue.

We start our next chapter tomorrow as we move into our new home, and I'm excited. But I know I've already been home for a few months and it makes me happy.