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Photo I Like summer photos

2015 Summer Wonders #72: Hey! Ice Cream!

Another summer wonder: ice cream trucks. Imagine a world where people with ice cream spontaneously appear on your street!  It’s beautiful.  I know the folks in the photo–they ran an immensely popular local restaurant for years before selling it and starting the ice cream gig as a semi-retirement thing.  The ice cream is outstanding.  The people selling it are too.

http://weeklypaper.blogspot.com/2014/05/indiana-pa.html
http://weeklypaper.blogspot.com/2014/05/indiana-pa.html

 

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Journal Uncategorized

Prom Gown Shopping For Men

I don't know any of these kids--it's just a another random photo I pinched off the interwebs.
I don’t know any of these kids–it’s just a another random photo I pinched off the interwebs.

When I realized that the day of shopping for prom gowns my wife had scheduled with my daughters was not a much-anticipated day of mother-daughter bonding, but a drudgery to which my wife was looking forward with all the eagerness of shoeless pilgrim standing before a road of broken glass, I grimaced and stepped into the breech.  Maybe it had something to do with the disgust in her eye when I presumed I wouldn’t be part of the expedition–or maybe I’m just a great husband and dad.  Pfft.

“Of course I’ll go with you,” I said, my soul sighing miserably from the depths of each individual cell.  She brightened considerably not, I suspect, with glee for the chance to spend a few hours in my delightful company, but at the prospect of sharing the pain.

This would be no quick jaunt down the block.  We would be embarking on a 2-hour drive to the dismal, post-industrial remnants of the town of Sharon, PA–a once vibrant steel town ln062997bthat is, well, surviving “despite all that.”  Our particular destination; a store called “The Winner,” a three-story former department store filled with tens of thousands of dresses that bills itself as “The world’s largest off-price fashion store.”  I don’t think they’re exaggerating, at 75,000 square feet of historic charm, the place was a bit overwhelming.

I have to admit that I was dubious about the whole endeavor.  It sounded too good to be true–a treasure trove of deeply discounted formal gowns set a city for which the term “post industrial wasteland” is a compliment?  Have you seen that movie “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome?”  Well, welcome to the Thunderdome.  The last time we’d been through Sharon they had been using stop signs wired to barrels in the center of the downtown as substitutes for broken traffic signals, and while the lights had been fixed this time around, we found that the streets had been only partially cleared of snow after a storm several days before, and had become uneven obstacle courses of packed ice and slush. I expected to see a sign on the outskirts of town that said: Welcome To Sharon. We’re Well Past Trying.

The sidewalks in the business district were no better–some were clear and some were treacherous.  Nevertheless, we reluctantly parked our new car on the streets–would it be there when we returned?–and found our way to the store.  It wasn’t difficult to find–along with the well-kept diner next door, and a dodgy-looking Army Navy store, there’s just not anything else going on in the downtown.  It’s got the feel of a place where folks have just given up.On our last visit there had been a decent used book store, but it was gone, replaced by some sort of off-brand tax preparation storefront.

Special-Occasion-Dresses-The-WinnerInside The Winner, however I began to be convinced.  You walk inside and the first thing you see is a vintage Jaguar E-type that belonged to the owner of the store, in front of which is stationed a genteel matron at a small desk who welcomed us and politely explained the layout of the store.  And what a good thing that was: the place is huge, filled to the gills with thousands upon thousands of gowns.  I followed my kids around for about twenty minutes before I ambled back over to the lady by the Jag and cracked a joke at one of the clerks, “you guys should open a sports bar next door, you’d make a killing.”

The pleasant, distinguished woman leaned in close and said, “haven’t you visited our men’s lounge adjacent to the fitting rooms?”

Why no, I hadn’t.

I glanced at my wife, who nodded indulgently.  I’d already become an anchor despite my good intentions, and both she and my daughters were eager to have me out of their hair.  With some trepidation I found my way down a narrow hall, past a knot of women outside the fitting rooms, and around a corner.  I half-expected to find a door with of those little slide-open peepholes like you see in speakeasies in the movies, but what I found instead was brotherhood.  Well, maybe not brotherhood–but there was a TV set to ESPN, a half dozen la-z-boy recliners, a sofa, and one of those cute “theater style” popcorn cart poppers and…a keg of Rolling Rock on tap.

Genius.  Free beer and popcorn!  I settled in to watch Tennessee versus Auburn, but soon enough a bunch of us–mostly dads but also a fiance, two boyfriends, and a “family friend.”  Given the date and location (western PA, the day before the superbowl) we talked a lot about football, but also a little about shopping,  a bit about women, and–to my surprise and delight–our mutual admiration for regional hero rogers_esquireFred “Mister” Rogers, which was unanimous. 

Of course, it’s not uncommon for even the hardest among us to wax misty-eyed over Mister Rogers–there’s a true Pittsburgh story, in fact, about how Rogers’ car was stolen from outside the WQED studio.  The story was quickly reported on the local news, and the car showed up back in front of the studio in short order, with a note on the dash that said something like “If I’d known this was your car I never would have taken it.”

But I digress. My children are smart, efficient shoppers–they found beautiful dresses in little more than two hours, for a grand total of about $300 (if you’ve shopped for these formal gowns, you know we got off light).  I bid my compadres a reluctant adieu, lingering in the main gallery to listen to the pianist stroking the keys of baby grand piano–talk about atmosphere!–and we were gone, with a brief stop at a local hand-made candy shop.

On the drive home, my wife decided she had a hankering for a Primanti Brothers sandwich, so that was dinner, a satisfying end to a relatively painless day.  Heck, I didn’t even have to drive, with two learner’s permits in the family: one daughter drove north in the morning, one drove south in the evening–all in all a painless day.

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Commentary Journal sheer awesomeness video

Homecoming Football Game

So, the Homecoming football game turned out well.  It rained before and after the game, but not during, and the kids did pretty well.  A news team from KDKA-2 Pittsburgh showed up–cool for the kids.  Blows my mind to watch this video, though, despite being there in person: I’ve known at lot of these kids since elementary school, some longer–and now they’re so old.  Don’t I sound like a doddering fool?  And: hats over to “unstoppable” Connor.  Nice game.

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My Photos: Rainy Idlewild Summer Night

One evening a few years back a swift and torrential rainstorm hit our favorite amusement park, Idlewild in Ligonier, PA, with ten minutes of sideways rain and wind.  After a long, fiercely hot day, the relief was almost welcomed.  Better still, when the rain passed the park stayed open even though the lions share of the crowds ran for home like a flock of mewing sheep.  We few who remained had the place to ourselves for the last 90 minutes of the day–no lines, the fallen rains rising as mists from the warm earth, and the extraordinarily subtle play of the bright lights within the mist.  We rode the rollercoaster 8 times in a row without waiting.  And yes, at the end, there were funnel cakes.
2008 Idlewild_069

2008 Idlewild_070

 

2008 Idlewild_089

2008 Idlewild_0912008 Idlewild_0842008 Idlewild_085.

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Random Photo Found via Google: PA Mac

I’m not the kind of guy to have a favorite store.  That said, this is absolutely my favorite store.

A Photo I Like #2

About these posts and the photos in ‘em: http://wp.me/p3AOvB-FN

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Funny and/or Strange Poetry

Jimmy Stewart & His Poetry on Shprockets : Best SNL Sketch Ever

hqdefaultQuite possibly the most gut-wrenchingest, funniest SNL skit of all time.  If anyone has a copy of this video–which I’ve been unable to find–send me a link, drop me a line, let me know and I’ll be eternally grateful.

Sprockets

Announcer…..Phil Hartman
Dieter…..Mike Myers
Jimmy Stewart…..Dana Carvey

[FADE IN on the “Sprockets” opening, with the nuclear bomb and city scenes.]

Announcer: Shprockets. Shprockets. Vest German television presents, “Shprockets.” Vith your host: Dieter.

[SUPERIMPOSE “LIVE SHOW” and then FADE to Dieter.]

Dieter: Velcome to “Shprockets,” I am your host, Dieter. Tonight our guest is vone of America’s foremost poets of anarchy and rebellion. An obsessed outcast, whose dark visions drag us to the edge. His book, “Jimmy Shtewart and His Poems”… [holds up book] …is filled with biting images that assault the senses, unmasking both reader and poet alike in a macabre dance of despair. He has also appeared in films. Please velcome Jimmy Shtewart!

[Audience cheers as Dieter stands up, claps stiffly, and then sits again. Jimmy Stewart finally dodders onstage in a dark gray suit and dark-rimmed glasses. He takes a seat next to Dieter.]

Dieter: Mr. Shtewart. Critic Graus Greck, in the latest issue of “Verdkunst,” described your book as an asylum, vhere man meets his Creator and screams.

Jimmy Stewart: Well, uh, thank you, Dieter. That’s, uh… Y’know–y’know, Gloria and I are big fans of YOURS.

Dieter: In your poem, “Old Rocking Chair,” you write: “You sit in the corner/Old rocking chair/It makes me feel good/To know you are there.”

Jimmy Stewart: Yeah…

Dieter: I feel emotionally obliterated.

Jimmy Stewart: I’m glad–glad–glad to HEAR that, y’see, good poetry is about DESTRUCTION.

Dieter: Under vhat conditions does a man experience such raw truth?

Jimmy Stewart: Well, Dieter, it’s no picnic, I can tell you that right now. I was holed up in a Mexico City slum. I hadn’t eaten in weeks, and what few pesos I had, I’d spent on alcohol. Some cheap crap called chocho. I was down and out. That’s when I wrote “Good Old Rockin’ Chair.” You see, you’ve gotta go through the PAIN.

Dieter: And vhat of your poem, “Funny Little Pooch”?

Jimmy Stewart: Yeah. There’s a rather interesting story about that “Funny Little Pooch” thing… There was a period of intense creativity for me, Dii-eter.

Dieter: Dieter.

Jimmy Stewart: Dooter.

Dieter: Dieter.

Jimmy Stewart: Yeah. yeah. You know, I’d been hitchhiking through Paraguay when I finally settled in Bella Cristo with a 15-year-old WHORE. For a week straight, I was either having sex or hallucinating. Yeah… And then I woke up one morning and she was GONE… she’s just–just GONE. And she’d taken all my stuff, and I–I just got crazy paranoid for a minute–well–you–know–how it can be. And I just curled up on that floor like a little baby, and just bawled my eyes out. And–and then a very interesting thing happened. I realized that I was just a speck of crud in a godless VOID. And twenty minutes later, I’d written “Funny Little Pooch.”

Dieter: Jimmy Shtewart: you are a running sore. Running from yourself, yet your scab heals us all.

Jimmy Stewart: Yeah. Yeah. Well, y’know, I just do what I do.

[laughter]

Dieter: May I read a passage from “My Kitten, My Pal”?

Jimmy Stewart: Well, I’d be HONORED, Dau-Daughter.

Dieter: Dieter.

Jimmy Stewart: Dooter.

Dieter: Dieter.

Jimmy Stewart: Yeah.

Dieter: [reading] “My kitten, my pal/You sit on my lap–”

Jimmy Stewart: Well, well, now–now–wait a minute. Now, now, you gotta read it–you gotta SCREAM it, like it’s a matter of life and death, you, can-can I show you… how, here… [takes book from him]

Dieter: Go right ahead.

Jimmy Stewart: All right… [reading] “My kitten, my pal/You sit on my lap/You’re a friendly sort of chap.” [muttering] I’m a little… thirsty here…

[Jimmy picks up a bottle of tequila and swigs from it.]

Jimmy Stewart: Now… GOOD.

[sets bottle down between him and Dieter]

Jimmy Stewart: [reading] “A little bit of gray and a little bit of white/I’ll tell you, little kitten/You’re doing all right.” Yeah.

Dieter: That poem pulls down my pants and taunts me.

Jimmy Stewart: Well, that’s exactly what it’s supposed to do. Yeah, it’s not rare when something happens like–I wrote that one on a piece of toilet paper, after waking up in a puddle of my own SICK.

[laughter]

Jimmy Stewart: Now, it wasn’t pretty, wasn’t pretty.

Dieter: Is it true that you vonce killed a man?

Jimmy Stewart: N-now, now, wait a minute there, Daughter. No–

Dieter: Dieter.

Jimmy Stewart: That’s right, Dieter. No man ever really dies by the hand of another, you see, every man’s responsible for his own DEATH. And by the way, you haven’t asked me if I want to touch your MONKEY.

Dieter: I thought it beneath you.

Jimmy Stewart: Well, Dieter, if that monkey knew where I’d been, he wouldn’t LET me touch him.

Dieter: Then touch him. Touch him! Touch my monkey! [babbles in German] Touch him, LOVE HIM!

Jimmy Stewart: [walks over to monkey] All right, you little pal, let’s go–

[Dieter’s monkey squeals and jumps off his pedestal after Jimmy touches him.]

Jimmy Stewart: [yanks back hand] Oh! Oh, son of a bitch BIT me!

[Jimmy leaps back to the table and breaks off the top of the tequila bottle.]

Jimmy Stewart: [brandishing broken bottleneck] C’mon, monkey, let’s see what’s in that belly of yours!

Dieter: [standing up] Now is the time on “Shprockets” when we dance!

[The theme song starts up as the other dancers join Dieter and dance stiffly. After a moment, Jimmy squats down and starts doing the Charleston.]

Dieter: That’s all the time we have on “Shprockets.” Our guest has been Jimmy Shtewart. My name is Dieter. Auf wiedersehen.

[Dieter trots up close to the camera and dances in front of it.]

Jimmy Stewart: Hi, Gloria! [waves] I’ll see ya in six weeks! I’m making a pit stop in Turkey!

[FADE to black over applause.]

I did find this (the real deal)–Jimmy Stewart doing Jimmy Stewart is almost as good as Dana Carvey:

 

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Commentary Journal

Pittsbugh: Man, I Love This Place

Mount Washington Panorama 16X24
http://ricklamison.blogspot.com/2011/11/two-picture-panorama-of-pittsburgh-at.html

An exhausting home-swim meet day on Saturday–six hours on my feet pimping hot dogs and haluski in the concessions stand when I should have been dozing off in the bleachers, snoring into a paperback novel.  At least the night was tempered by an invitation to share dinner with some friends–sandwiches, beer, crinkle-cut french fries and left-over Christmas cookies–and enjoying their company and the company of their adorable young children…almost enough to make me consider…ah, no.  Two is good, and the empty nest is still the better part of three years distant.

That’s the grace of small-town living–simple pleasures, easy friendships.  Best of all, we woke up this morning and we decided to hit the road and run down to Pittsburgh–a 70 minute run from driveway to parking garage–for a visit to the Carnegie Museum, one of the many reasons

http://ci13.cmoa.org/pittsburgh

that I am so damned in love with this city.  Afterwards, we made our usual stop at Lulu’s Noodles because it’s close to the museum, because it’s delicious, and because it’s cheap as hell and still fun.

https://foursquare.com/v/lulus-noodles/4adb3a11f964a520062521e3

It’s getting harder and harder to settle into those old favorites, however.  Pittsburgh is exploding with young, creative people and the selection of bars and restaurants is expanding, seemingly exponentially.  I’m not surprised, of course, I’ve loved going to the city since I was a kid, and I fell in love with it while living there for several years in the mid-90’s, but it’s rewarding to see that people are noticing.  They’re a little late, of course–

http://www.chicagotribune.com/travel/ct-trav-0105-pittsburgh-tourism-20140104,0,4858908.column

it seems that a month hasn’t passed in several years without an article popping up here or there in which the author is fascinated, confused, and almost ashamed by his or her unexpected by emphatic adoration for a city they expected to find wreathed in industrial smoke and coated in rust covered by a thick coating of coal dust.

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Pennsylvanian? Support House Bills 1621 and 1622: Draft Your Personal Letter to Your Representative

Tired of UPMC spending millions of “non-profit” funds trying to run other companies out of businees and secure a monoply for themselves?  This will help.

http://www.congressweb.com/sohcc/1

Background:

http://pittsburgh.about.com/od/health/i/UPMC-vs-Highmark.htm

“Earlier this year UPMC (formerly known as University of Pittsburgh Medical Center) announced that it would not renew its current hospital and provider contracts with Highmark when they expire. The reason? Highmark, which serves the 29 counties of Western Pennsylvania as Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield, is acquiring the West Penn Allegheny Health System (WPAHS), UPMC’s rival hospital network. UPMC says it can’t be expected to do business with a direct competitor, although UPMC itself operates both a health care system and its own health plan….”

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Commentary

Where I Live: Indiana, PA

Image

Coming up on the beginning of the holiday season, our town kicks things off with the annual “It’s a Wonderful Night In Indiana, PA” light up festival–there will be a parade, the mayor will wave from his car, and the marching band playing Christmas songs; next up is a bonfire, hot cocoa and all sorts of fun stuff for the brats–er–kids. Oh, and Santa’s coming, too.  In honor of all that, and because I don’t feel like writing anything more thoughtful, here’s a few more things about the town I call home.

The New York Times likes our museum.

Really Famous People Were Born Here…like Edward Abbey

And This Guy, Too.  He would never have let the government shut down.

Our Football Team Rocks…and Not Just Because They Usually Win

rp_primary_Athletics_Football_92510D568

The Basketball Team is Even BETTER

We OWN tripadvisor.com!

We even pimp our “wonderful life” on the official town website!

We have our own university, but it’s name confuses people.

It’s a pretty university, too.

The IUP Journalism department has a blog.  Unlike this one, it’s good.

It’s a pretty cool place to live–something this prodigal son never thought he’d say.

You’d be hard put to find a better sandwich.

But we still need someone to open a decent micro-brewery.

It’s pretty here–I grew up in this neighborhood.

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Ohiopyle Late Summer Rain

Ohiopyle Late Summer Rain

Just below the put-in for the lower Yough