Discover more from Breathing Space
But did Pittsburgh ASK to be delivered from sin?
Jake from State Farm is going to be LIVID
In this edition: best cookies ever? * a kid took a Bobcat for a joyride and I hope he felt joy because he is probably in so much trouble * weird things people leave at Pittsburgh airport * that time in 1907 the Salvation Army literally paraded in repentance of Pittsburgh’s sinful ways * a fun podcast I recorded recently * and more!
Longtime readers of mine, would you look at these cookies that were lovingly made as a surprise at my most recent bookclub visit, I think my 10th by my count …
Do you need a minute? Because I needed several when I saw them. I don’t even remember writing some of those band names, but Cornucopia of Chaos is for sure doing a reunion tour of corn maze festivals this autumn. I have never seen a more perfect Heinz Ketchup cookie and they are delicious too. These cookies came with a touching note from the baker/cookie artist about how she’s been reading me since college and I need to pause a second and say this …
I have become increasingly aware that because I have been writing about Pittsburgh for about 18 years now, very soon someone will say to me, “I grew up reading you,” and, dear reader? I will not handle that well at all. Because that’s what I said to my friend Sally Wiggin when I met her. “I grew up watching you.” And now someone might say it to me and I’m just going to vomit right now and maybe get Botox for the first time in my life idk.
Anyway … drink!
And invite me to your bookclubs. I truly enjoy doing it and not just because I get cookies and wine at every visit. But that is a big part of it.
*The cookies were made by a local part-time baker/full-time attorney who you can find/order from on Instagram as Judiciously Sweet. This is not an ad at all. She is just insanely talented. And a lawyer. Who has been reading me since college. I’m old.
1. “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is th- … eh, actually, you’re on your own.”
A ten-year-old boy lived out most every child’s (and Donald Trump’s*) dream of driving real construction equipment when he stole a Bobcat and took it for a joyride through a local neighborhood, leaving a swath of damage in his wake.
Now, I know this is serious; thievery is no joke, and someone could have died. But since no one died or was even injured, can I just say …
Every sentence. Every video still. I laugh. I mean, you have to go watch the doorbell camera footage, because it just shows this really slow-moving chaos backgrounded by honking horns as this green Bobcat rolls through the streets of Mt. Lebanon taking out cars, stop signs and fences like it’s being driven by a drunk-off-his-ass Bob the Builder.
This is the second time in recent memory, though the first by a child, that a yinzer has just hopped into the driver’s seat of a piece of construction equipment and taken it for a spin, so I again have to ask … do they not have keys? That you can take? And put in your pocket? So that people don’t just hop on and press a button like they’re starting up a Keurig?
And if there are keys, do drivers just not take them when they leave the equipment unattended? I need this explained to me like I’m five … or ten and eyeing the excavator parked in my neighbor’s yard.
My next question is, in light of the damage to cars and property, does insurance of some sort cover a thing like this, or are the parents of this joyrider about to be out a bunch of money that the kid will be paying back until his wedding day when this video will for sure be shown during the best man’s toast?**
Is there an insurance rider in case of “chaos wrought by spawn under age 11 living their best life”?
Finally, to this kid I say, “Buddy, this too shall pass. Just tell them you decided to take the lanternfly problem into your own hands and all will be forgiven.”
** “Ashleigh, we raise our glasses to you for being willing to wed yourself to a known thief. May the only thing he ever steals from now on, be your heart over and over again.” I am AMAZING at this.
2. Left behind … and not in the rapture
This week in Pittsburgh products for sale, we have got to talk about the upcoming auction of items left, found, abandoned at Pittsburgh International Airport.
There are cars. As in people leave their cars at the airport and don’t retrieve them and once 45 days pass, the process is started to remove them. Now, yes, some of these cars look like that Mt. Lebo kid ran them over with the Bobcat, so it’s not surprising they were abandoned like drunk friends at a Morgan Wallen tailgate. But several look perfectly fine, and one of them is a 2019 Lexus SUV!
More than 20 vehicles will also be up for auction. Some are old Allegheny County Airport Authority vehicles and others are vehicles that passengers left behind. The airport said they're often the most popular target for deal hunters.
It begs the question: Who leaves their car at the airport and doesn't come back for it?
The airport said there isn't really a good answer.
There are tablets, phones, laptops, Apple Watches and AirPods upon AirPods. There are expensive headphones of every brand from Bose to Apple, hundreds of pieces of jewelry, python snakeskin boots and so many random belts and shoes.
Are people just forgetting to put their shoes back on after security and are running barefoot to catch their flights? How do you lose shoes in an airport? I need to know. I don’t understand how all this stuff gets left behind. I’m obsessive about making sure I didn’t forget anything and what that means is that the next time I fly, karma is going to hand me my ass by making me forget to grab something important like my child.
You can preview some of the items here, but the auction is in person.
Happy bidding! Not an ad! Buy me stuff!
3. WE MOURN PITTSBURGH’S INABILITY TO ZIPPER-MERGE
You might think I’ve been joking when I say I maintain a binder of Pittsburgh insults that have been published since the 1700s that I used to keep in my Trapper Keeper but they became so numerous they needed their own binder. But …
And I bet you thought I was joking about the Trapper Keeper too (it’s space-themed). Rest assured I don’t joke about binders, journals, labels, files, tabs or anything else that allows me to organize my nerdiness into easier-to-find nerdiness with cross-tabbed epic nerdiness.*
From that binder, let me grab a new Pittsburgh insult to share with you! Let’s head back to the year … [spins the Wheel of Historical Disses] … 1907! 1907, come on down! Wait, I think I’ve combined Wheel of Fortune with the Price is Right. No matter. As I’ve already told you, Pittsburgh’s reputation for being debauched and sinful reached a zenith in the years of 1906 and 1907 thanks to our wealth, political bribery scandals and love of the drink. It got so bad at one point that hundreds of members of the local Salvation Army LITERALLY PARADED DOWN THE STREETS OF PITTSBURGH WEARING SACKCLOTH as “a token of repentance for the sins of the people of Pittsburgh.”
Crowds gathered to witness the spectacle as grim-faced sin-eschewers marched carrying banners that said things like:
“WE MOURN PITTSBURGH’S 1,732 SALOONS”
“WE LAMENT PITTSBURGH’S HOUSES OF SHAME”
“WE DEPLORE PITTSBURGH’S SINS”
“WE REPENT PITTSBURGH’S SINS IN HIGH LIFE”
And there is a picture as seen in the March 30, 1907 edition of The Pittsburg Press:
Who knew there was more than one way to style sackcloth and ashes! Fashion, but make it Bible-thumpy. To these men I say, why mourn saloons when you can mourn IN saloons. Put that on my gravestone.
Also, can you repent on behalf of other people? I was unaware. In that case, Lord, about Matt Canada …
*Who among you Googled Turabian because you couldn’t allow yourself to not know what that binder is for. You are my people. Welcome, nerds.
4. Speaking of insults …
I recorded a truly hilarious episode of the City Cast Pittsburgh podcast in which yinzers were recruited to read some of the most epic put-downs from my October column at the mag. It’s a riot and the best part is that they all did it, without being told to, in their snootiest voices. Like, you can HEAR them looking down their noses at you and your blue-collar uncouthness.
Listen to the episode here. It’s only 20 minutes long, so a nice short spot of Pittsburgh-flavored humor to brighten your day or evening.
5. Eye spy with my eye
I am constantly checking eBay for interesting and unusual antique Pittsburgh goodies, and my house sure reflects that. But this listing that popped up today caught my … eye.
Whoa. The box shows the local glass eye company known as Hugo Leopold was located in the Renshaw Building at Ninth and Liberty, and they were there in the 1940s. Here’s a picture of some of the staff of the building after the glass eye business was one of several robbed in 1949, compared to how it looks today:
Somewhere, Marty Griffin just said, “Look at that filth. This city is an actual toilet.”* You betcha I decided to watch this auction, and you betcha I’ve received several discount offers from the seller because WHO IS GOING TO BUY AN ANTIQUE GLASS EYEBALL just because it was sold in Pittsburgh? This girl would. I also spent a bit of time researching the glass eye company and I found this by accident from 1935:
Someone left their glass eye on a trolley in Pittsburgh in July of 1935 and I am never again going to bother asking how anyone leaves shoes at the airport. We’re all just doing the best we can out here on the Bobcat ride of chaos we call life.
*My pal and editor Sean Collier wrote a really great piece for Pittsburgh Magazine about the state of downtown. To sum up: stop being weird and just go downtown and see for yourself. It’s fine.
6. Random n’at
Some cute little notes for you, loves. Nothing is an ad.
The Pittsburgh Symphony has a series of shows called PSO Disrupt that are meant to be more relaxed and accessible experiences to counter the impression some have of the symphony as being strict and stuffy. As a fan of the symphony, I love this idea and I hope it will help more of you come to appreciate it whether you’re dressed in jeans or your very best sackcloth.
Every year I say I’m going to enter the city’s annual gingerbread competition and every year I remind myself, “Self, it took you five years to learn to make chocolate chip cookies that weren’t flatter than lace; you have a better chance of winning Miss America.”But I’m feeling ambitious this year, so maybe I will enter. Here’s the info!
Sidney Crosby threw a puck to a young fan and said fan’s soul immediately left his body for a solid minute.Tiktok failed to load.
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I did a fun interview with Pittsburgh Magazine about my book and what if any of it was based on my life. A snippet:
“Can you imagine if I wrote a book not set in Pittsburgh, what people would do?” she says. “They would just be like, ‘What the hell is this?’”
I have all the best words. True story. Read it here.
I have two events coming up in the next week, so please come! They are free! And they are also free in that I do not charge a fee to bookshops or libraries to do these things.
First up is a book signing for City Books’ OcTBRfest! I’ll be signing books from noon to 1:30 this Saturday, October 7 at their location on the North Side. So stop by and have a chat with me.
Then on October 12, I have a book talk at Sewickley Public Library. There are currently, as far as I can tell, only a handful registered for that event, so I will offer to cancel it so they aren’t wasting space on me for a small group. Register if you’d like to attend so I can figure out the best thing for me to do on that front by the end of the week.
7. And I’m done!
And that’s it! Out of time and space and the desire to continue typing while the weather outside is remarkable. Have a fantastic week! Be kind! Don’t litter! Don’t leave your baby behind in the TSA bin! Buy my book!
And be sure to come out and see my new alt-country-rock band Grim-Faced Sin-Eschewers as we debut our new album “1,732 Saloons.” Don’t be fooled by our name. We sin so much. You can’t even believe it.
See you here next week unless you unsubscribe in which case I’ll parade down your street with a banner that says, “THE NERVE OF THIS MF’ER.”
You’ve been warned.