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

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.