Discover more from Breathing Space
"I wanna lay you down on a bed of french fries"
The Sixth Street Bridge got my knickerbockers in a twist
Inside this edition, which is long so you may need to click a link at the end to read it all: Google Maps can’t handle Pittsburgh bridges * there’s a yinzer on The Bachelorette this season * I uncovered the most amazing Pittsburgh sports history story you’ve never heard * new Burghy merch! * Random n’at * book stuff
Well, would you look at that—Fjorday* falls on a Wednesday this week! That’s convenient.
Now that the book is launched, I have a bit more time which hopefully means I’ll return to a more predictable publishing schedule. I have some book stuff to sum up, but I’ll save that for the end. If you attended the launch event, I especially need you to read the book stuff.
For now, let’s talk!
*If you didn’t read last week’s edition, then you don’t know what Fjorday is and that sounds like more of a you problem than a me problem
1. “Pick a lane, any lan--ooh, you chose wrong LOL.”
Regardless of where I’m driving, if the location is more than, say, ten miles away, I drive with the Google Maps app, even if I know the route. Why? Because I don’t believe in traffic. I mean, I’ll sit in regular traffic, sure, but if there’s some stupid-ass construction that’s going to be a big bitch, or an accident inside a tunnel, I want to avoid it. I don’t usually have the voice on, rather keeping it set to only talk to me if an alert pops up regarding a quicker route or a slowdown.
Recently I was driving from the site of the old Western State Penitentiary into downtown from which I would take the Monroeville exit off of the Fort Duquesne Bridge. So this section of the bridge, except I was entering it from the right side:
I had forgotten to turn the voice to alert-only. When I approached the bridge, I knew from the hundreds of times I’ve driven it that I needed to be in that second from the right lane to go toward Monroeville. You know this too, as a local. You know to stick to the far right to get to the airport, the far left to get to Bernie Sanders hhahahahahlkdjfs;ldkjff. Politics, BOOM! Anyway, the far left to get to the Strip, and the second from the left to get to Fort Duquesne Blvd*. WE KNOW THIS. We play footsies with other cars as we jockey to get in our needed lane before we run out of road because we’ve all entered the bridge in a lane we don’t want to be in when we exit.
Reader, Google Maps, knowing I needed to catch that 376 East exit, told me, “USE ANY LANE TO TAKE THE EXIT TOWARD MONROEVILLE.”
What the hell kind of chaotic evil is Google Maps trying to unleash in Pittsburgh? Use any lane?!? You can’t use any lane; there is only one specific lane you can use that correlates to your desired location. If you choose just any lane, you are going to want to punch that Mayhem dude right in his chaos-causing punchbag face (band name?).
There are visiting motorists placing their trust in Google Maps to guide them safely through Pittsburgh’s stupidly convoluted bridge traffic patterns and the robots are just unhelpfully launching chaos grenades like they’re at war with peace and order. I am starting to suspect that the reason our bridges are constantly backed up is because Google Maps, with doom in its heart, is just straight-up lying to people.
Or maybe it simply can’t figure out Pittsburgh’s bridges and has just given up and it’s not saying it like, “[confident power pose] Use any lane!” but more like, “[shrugs] Beats the hell out of me. Just use any lane and go with God.”
Meanwhile, God is like, “Pittsburgh bridges?? That’s beyond my paygrade. I believe Lucifer knows though.”
*Or as the Trib’s Ryan Deto would call it … FDB.
2. Oh no. Oh no. Oh nonononono.
The last season of “The Bachelor" or “The Bachelorette” I watched was, I think, the Ryan and Trista season ages ago. Therefore, I don’t know as much about the show these days. However, thanks to social media, I do know that a Pittsburgh man is on the new season of “The Bachelorette”—Tanner, 30, a mortgage lender trying to win the heart of Charity Lawson, 27.
My yinz. This man, upon meeting Charity for the first time, GAVE HER A WHITE TOWEL WITH HIS INITIAL ON IT AND HE CALLED IT A TANNER TOWEL AND HE MADE HER TWIRL IT LIKE A TERRIBLE TOWEL BECAUSE HE IS FROM PITTSBEOWFIJLKSDFJSLDKFJSL*.
When I tell you my cringe cringed. I have a very real problem with secondhand embarrassment. I think I’ve told you that I still haven’t watched Will Smith slap Chris Rock because I’m afraid it will kill me and I have so much yet to accomplish. Charity, for her part, was very gracious, but you can see that, like Elmo, she died inside a little.
You can watch the video here, but I must warn you, it might kill you. I don’t know if Charity gave him a rose, if that’s still how it works, but if she did, I hope she’s ready for Tanner to try to woo her on a four-poster bed scattered with french fries while wearing nothing but a Tanner Towel.**
*I am losing my shit quite a lot in this post, but stream-of-consciousness is how I write this drivel, so [sunglasses] deal with it.
**Thus truly testing out the maxim that french fries make everything better.
3. “Knickerbocker? I barely know her!”*
I am so so excited for you to read my latest history column at Pittsburgh Magazine because it’s almost too unbelievable to be, well, believable! I have the best words and I have so many of them.
I had been researching a London play that was set to come to Pittsburgh in 1900 but the mayor at the time deemed it too scandalous. So there I was deep in a 1900 edition of a UK newspaper when out of the corner of my eye I spotted:
Talk about a wait-wut moment. So I thought, surely if this is true, I should find it in Pittsburgh’s newspapers and DID. I. EVER. Reporters from several of Pittsburgh’s newspapers tagged along for the match and each had breathless and oftentimes hilarious accounts of what went down. When I tell you this story has everything, Stefon! Dozens of Pittsburgh’s richest men, decked out in golf knickerbockers, some on horseback. A course referee. A horse and buggy golf cart. Near fistfights with angry steelworkers. Busted windows. Angry bridge toll-takers. Soaring highs. Crushing blows. Growing crowds.
My research showed that many of the “facts” in the UK newspapers sensationalized, which is wild because the story is sensational without embellishment. The real story came from Pittsburgh reporters, one of whom detailed the route taken from the Allegheny Club, at the time located on a six-hole course near Brighton Heights, to the Pittsburgh Club, located about where the old Horne’s building is downtown today. So I cobbled together a map from other maps around 1900 and highlighted the route then plotted it out on a current map:
Here are the steps of the Pittsburgh Club (photo taken in the mid-1930s), in front of which Patton would have needed to land his ball to win the bet. And if you’re curious about Patton, I’ve got a snippet of his obit that includes a picture:
If you’re having trouble visualizing what Pittsburgh looked like in 1900 as Patton and these men made their way through the city, here is a pic of the street conditions in Allegheny City at the time, which caused his ball to bounce bonkersingly. And here’s the Sixth Street Bridge at the time, across which he had to send his ball without smacking it off any rods or struts and thus into the river for a two-stroke penalty:
I even have a picture of the Troy Hill trolley that, well, you need to go read it to see what happened with this particular trolley when it encountered Patton’s bridge ball:
Here’s a snippet of the article:
According to reports, he dropped his pail and marched toward the group with plans to “knock all joy and gladness out of the man in the golf suit.” Tension! Thanks to the intercession of his friends who calmed the charging worker, Patton was not “compelled to give an exhibition of his prowess as an exponent of the fistic art.” (This is just an old-timey journalist’s way of saying, “Golf boy nearly got his butt whupped in the streets by a steelworker.”)
Go read. I really really need it to be a feel-good based-on-a-true-story sports movie. And I wish this feat could be recreated today. Imagine all the downtown pigeons the golfer could “accidentally” take out for me. [crack!] [bam!] [feathers!]
*I’ll never stop.
4. New Pittsburgh-themed merch!
The insanely popular and always hilarious Pittsburgh Personified instagram account, curated by Marla Kauffmann, has unveiled a merch shop and I just had to share some of my favorite new Pittsburgh-themed goodies!
The Polish Hill one killed me. Not an ad!
5. Random n’at
I’m mostly out of space but there are a few things I wanted to share quickly:
You have until one minute before midnight today to vote for a North Side community basketball court to win a complete overhaul. Let’s make that happen. No registration needed.
Pittsburgh is one step closer to getting a Hills Snack Bar Truck!
A Pittsburgh woman was injured (but luckily not seriously) when her car hood was struck by a falling boulder in East McKeesport. WTAE interviewed another driver, a true yinzer, Chuck, who had a narrow miss:
"I had all my windows down on my car and I could hear the rocks on the hillside. And as I look up to my left, I can see smaller rocks coming down. And then I look up again and I see boulders — I mean, the size of me-sized boulders come down the hill. I hit my brakes. I lock my brakes up," Spaulding said.
Go watch the interview. God bless Pittsburghers who do man-on-the-street local news interviews better than any other city. And when driving Pittsburgh’s roads, always be on the lookout for me-sized boulders. (h/t Paul)
I’ve added one of the former Cold War Nike Missile Air Defense sites to the map at Pittsburgh Remains to be Seen, so go check that out near Coraopolis. There are other such sites scattered around the city and I’m working to find which still have visible remains and matching historical pictures. I’m having vinyl stickers printed up by Commonwealth Press to send to any kiddo that lets me know they found all of the artifacts (via email and the honor system), as well as to anyone who suggests an item for the map that I eventually add. No cost to mail them. Fun!
6. Book stuff and wrap-up!
You there, with the gorgeous face. You stood up during the book launch and I’m told had some truly lovely and moving things to say, but they were not fully relayed to me. If that was you, please email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) with what it was you said so that I can properly reply and thank you. We had a bit of an acoustics issue because me and Sally Wiggin both have wonky ears. So I apologize I missed what it was you said and I look forward to hearing from you. If you attended but were too shy to say anything but have something you wish to convey or ask, you can also reach me via that email.
The book launch was absolutely lovely and attended by more of you than I could have hoped for. Truly you filled the room!
And then many of you waited for longer than I wanted you to for me to sign your book. It was surreal and I’m honestly not even sure it all happened. If you haven’t yet purchased my debut novel, the links are all here for you to choose where to buy from. There are also signed copies for sale in the Heinz History Center bookstore and I’m set to head to City Books on the North Side this week to sign their second shipment.
The feedback thus far has been so lovely, and I’m surprised and delighted by how many men have read and loved the book, finding themselves in it too. As I wrote on Twitter yesterday, I’ve had a very hard time answering the question, “What is your novel about?” But I think I have it: “It’s a heartfelt but funny story about the unexpected places we find unconditional love and then finding the bravery to let it heal us.”
If that seems like a story you could use in your life, give it a shot. If you’ve read the book and loved it, consider leaving a review on Amazon, B&N and/or Goodreads.
As a reminder, I’ll visit your library or your bookclub (within a two-hour drive from Pittsburgh, and yes, it can be in your home*) for free! Just email me to make arrangements, but do so quickly; I already have three libraries and four bookclub visits scheduled for the summer and early fall. First up is Cooper-Siegel Community Library in Fox Chapel on July 25.
And that’s all for this Fjorday! Have a fantastic week and weekend! Be kind! Buy my book! Aim golf balls at pigeons’ heads! Don’t email me, PETA! And as always, be sure to catch my punk band Pick Any Lane.
We specialize in intentional chaos, which just happens to be my next band name.