It has been 0 days since Pittsburgh mayhem
"The known biter on the river buoy"
Happy Thursday … again! I’m back from traveling and am now in book launch mode, which looks a lot like my regular mode with just a skoosh more breathing into a brown paper bag thrown in.
Let’s get book stuff out of the way first!
— Be sure to grab your tickets to the book launch at the Senator John Heinz History Center soon. I wanted to hold the event on the gorgeous main level with the cool Heinz truck and the Conestoga wagon etc., so that meant limited space. The last update I received from the History Center had 128 tickets sold, so it should be a fun time with lots of Pittsburgh’s most awesome people in attendance.
— If you can’t attend the launch but still want a signed copy of the book, you have another option! You can attend my book talk at the Cooper-Siegel Community Library in Fox Chapel on July 25. Register for free here. Bring your book and I’ll sign it there.
— If you just want to purchase the book, and you want to keep your dollars local, you can pre-order it now from these local bookshops:
My own advance copies arrived last weekend. It took me two hours to open the box, but then I did:
They’re so pretty. Here’s the dedication page:
Group hug! Let’s talk …
1. Star Lake gonna Star Lake as long as we let it Star Lake
Back in 1996, I went to the Star Lake Amphitheater, as we olds called it before it became 72 other things and then eventually became Star Lake again, but I just want you to know that when I call it Star Lake I’m calling it the OG Star Lake. Not this newfangled “Pavilion at” nonsense.
I went to see Alanis Morissette’s “Jagged Little Pill” tour, sat on the lawn, had a blast as she contorted about the stage singing her gorgeous teethy face off, and then after the show, I sat in 72 HOURS OF PARKING LOT STANDSTILL HELL. I may be exaggerating just a bit, but that experience convinced me there isn’t a music act worth the aggravation of trying to get into and out of that hellhole. I decided in 1996 that I would simply wait until they fixed the traffic problem. The ingress madness. The egress mayhem. I would wait for mass transit, a new road or two or six, personal jetpacks, park and rides, helicopter drops, teleportation, the afterlife … ANYTHING other than driving a car into a place I have to assume was designed by Satan himself on a particularly grouchy day.
Here we are in 2023. I’m older, wiser, hotter, and the problem is still the problem. Nothing has been fixed. It’s still as FUBARed as it ever was, as evidence by the fiasco of the Dead & Company show on Monday night.
I would call it a clusterfuck, but that would be an insult to clusters of fucks.
People who made plans to arrive at 4:00 actually arrived after the 7:00 show started. Here’s a bittersweet thread from a woman who was taking her 71-year-old dad to the show and only managed to get there around 10:30 p.m. to catch a few final songs.
Hours and hours spent in traffic that barely inched along. In fact, inching would have been progress! This was more like millimetering. Cars abandoned on the side of the highway, ticket-holders trekking miles on foot to the concert. The amount of time some people sat in a car to get to the show and to get OUT of the show and home, they could have driven to Canada, had ice cream at Niagara Falls and made it back home. They could have flown to London. Ran a few marathons. Watched two games of hockey. Some people never even made it inside the show before it ended.
There’s a lot of places the blame is being placed, including the fact that non-ticket holders were permitted to enter the lots for tailgating, exacerbating the issue. As for Star Lake management, they knew it would be an issue and so they did … a tweet:
Gotta love the “we’re expecting a whole mess and we aren’t gonna do a thing about it, so go with God!” approach to customer service. Arriving at 1 p.m. for a 7 p.m. show is a special kind of crazy and if that’s your brand of crazy, I’d like to meet you and talk to you about how you aren’t dead, puking, or napping by 6:00 p.m. Are you immortal? Or just in your 20s?
Anyway, tons of pissed off ticket-holders have been raging at Star Lake on social media and this one in particular caught my eye:
I need to sit down. Wait, I’m already sitting down. I need to go have a “you’re good enough; you’re smart enough” talk with my bank account because ONE HUNDRED AND SIXTY THOUSAND DOLLARS IN TICKETS TO A STAR LAKE SHOW. How. How How how howhowhowhsldkfjs;lkdfj.
That number is giving me a panic attack. I’m certainly not one of those “eat the rich” people, but man, maybe we need to just snack on some of them a little until they scream. But, beyond that, it took them 5 hours to go 4 miles. That’s unnecessary. Like I mean LITERALLY unnecessary. It’s not a problem that can’t be fixed; it is a problem that Live Nation is choosing not to fix. That’s the truly maddening part.
There’s nothing around the damn place. It should have a shit ton of entrances and exits. It should have a system whereby every car attempting to enter the parking entrance must have at least one person display a ticket for the show. There should be an army of parking attendants just aggressively barking driver after driver into spots. Barring that, it should be killed with fire and rebuilt somewhere less pleasing to the Lord of Darkness.
Instead, they do nothing but count their money knowing music-lovers will come back no matter how much they might complain. It hasn’t changed since 1996? Well, it’s just never going to change. Swallow it down, that jagged little pill.
Plan to arrive at 1:00 p.m. for Phish next month, that’s for damn sure.
Also, Clusters of Fucks is my new band name, and like the Bastard Bearded Irishmen, we believe in the power of profanity.
2. “Give me what I want, if you know what’s good for you.”
I was doing some research on Nellie Bly when I stumbled upon something so heartwarming, I had to share.
In 1894, children began writing to The Pittsburg(h) Press with their letters to Santa. One thing to keep in mind about Pittsburgh around this time is that there was obviously a huge disparity in income. The rich were insanely wealthy while the poor were crowded in slums or rundown tenements and homes in the shadows of the mills. Immigrant families were especially destitute. This is two years after the deadly Homestead strike. Sometimes the condition of steel worker families was so terrible the Post-Gazette raised money to help them get through the winters when the mills would often shut down for weeks at a time, meaning no pay. Abject poverty was the norm for some.
There were hundreds and hundreds of letters sent to the Press, most from children asking for the simplest of gifts for themselves, their siblings and even their parents. Many just wanted books or baby dolls, drums, horns, candy, etc. One child asked for a clothes wringer for his ailing mother while others sought work for their fathers. A vast majority wanted warm shoes and coats. One wanted a Nellie Bly game, hence how I stumbled on the article.
Here are some of the most heartwarming letters to Santa from Pittsburgh’s children in 1894, and some of the most heartbreaking and one of the ice-coldest.
First, some of the kids were extremely funny without meaning to be:
That genius. Gertrude all, “Listen, if you need a place to stash the toys you have for the kids who landed themselves on the naughty list at the last minute, I can take those off your hands, my guy.”
There were of course many letters from children who were mired in poverty:
This one in particular moved me:
It went down to 31 degrees on December 19, 1894.
But I’ll send you out on a more positive note. Take a look at this one:
Damn, Bessie! A chill just ran up my spine.
Santa probably dumped an entire bag of toys down her chimney and then made a run for it, whipping the sleigh reins all, “Is she behind us?!?”
I hope Bessie Kirker had a great life.
3. Is that a pickle on your bridge or are you just making poor logistical choices?
They are finally relocating Picklesburgh, the Star Lake of food festivals. If you’ve attended the event last few years, you know it grew nearly impossible to enjoy. Too many people jammed on the bridge to the point that you couldn’t move at all at times. Shoulder-to-shoulder with strangers breathing their pickle-flavored COVID into your face while you prayed the bridge didn’t just decide to Fern Hollow itself under the pickle-drunk yinzer masses.
So I says to myself, “Self, much like Star Lake, we are not doing this again unless they fix the problem.”
Well, they decided to fix the problem! By relocating the event off the bridge to … well, let me let my pal, the Trib’s Ryan Deto, tell you:
“Self,” I said, “what the hell is BOTA? Bank of the Americas?? Boat on the Allegheny??”
Apparently, Deto is out here just making up acronyms out of whole cloth and seeing if anyone will notice. Boulevard of the Allies is where the festival is moving.
Now listen, just like “Cathy” is never going to happen for the Cathedral of Learning, at most, Pittsburghers will shorten the street to “Allies.” If you say “BOTA” to a Pittsburgher, there’s a good chance they’ll say, “Both-a what?”
If your brain just said “deez nutz,” you are twelve years old and does your mommy know you read this trash written by the lead screamer of Clusters of Fucks?
4. “It’s just a little fiberglass insulation. Your lungs can take it.”
When you hear the word implosion, what do you think? I’m no dictionary, but I thought the “im” implied inward. The opposite of the “ex” in “explosion,” implying outward. When you explode things, you kablooey them out and then walk away in slow motion like a badass while the fire rages behind you. When you implode things, you make them collapse in on themselves and you get covered breathlessly on the local news and the yinzers tailgate to watch it happen.
Or so I stupidly thought.
Apparently, implosion can also mean just knocking something over and creating a disastrous dusty mess that blows out windows, sends debris flying, knocks out the power and makes a huge chunk of the area surrounding the “implosion” look like the surface of Mars.
I speak, of course, of the “implosion” of the Cheswick Generating Station stacks. But let’s be real — it was a toppling. A knocking over. There was nothing “im” about it and Springdale residents are rightly pissed.
They were told it wouldn’t be a big deal and instead … BFD*.
Here’s a video you can watch showing the smokestacks falling over, followed by a slowly approaching cloud of red dust. Start at about 1:48 in.
Springdale Mayor Joe Bertoline sympathized with residents, but he said he was “confident” that there was no asbestos. He said the material covering parts of his borough was fiberglass insulation along with coal dust and gypsum.
Is that supposed to be reassuring? No asbestos. Just fiberglass, coal dust and gypsum. That’s like saying, “It’s okay. There’s no arsenic in the water. Just a little bleach. Drink up. It’ll kill the COVID but probably not you.”
Despite the borough employees and contract workers who rolled through the neighborhood, deploying leaf blowers, a street sweeper and even gloved men who got down on their knees and used their hands to collect dust in garbage bags, particles still soiled yards and buildings.
Leaf blowers. Hahahahah. Can you imagine?
“Jones! Grab a leaf blower and go clean!”
“Sure, boss. Clean what?”
Anyway, the next time someone tells you there will be an “implosion,” be very aware that parts of the “im” will be very very “ex.” I am a writer. I am good with words.
* Somewhere, Deto sits, nodding his head wisdomously**
** tm Joey Tribbiani
There’s an amazing Twitter account I’ve just become aware of. One Pittsburgher who tweets out what he hears on the local emergency dispatch scanner, and my brothers and sisters in Yinz, there is madness out there in these streets. And so. much. nudity. In fact, if the Pittsburgh Police have one of those “___ days since a public nudity call” that number would just always be zero. Here are some of my favorite:
A. Known. Biter. Every parent wants their child to grow up to be something, but “a known biter” is probably not one of them. Also, “The Known Biter on the River Buoy” would be a great country song title.
Shouldn’t have cheated, my guy.
Someone called 911 on a PRT bus that was blocking the grid and while part of me is like, “Wow. I bet this caller asks to speak to the manager at Starbucks all the time,” another part of me is like, “I GET IT, KAREN.”
Those damn bus drivers just do not give a shit. They’ll block the grid and wink at you with a smile while they do it and you sit there rage-pounding your steering wheel while the light cycles past your green twice.
I hope those drivers get stuck in 15 hours of traffic the next time they go to Star Lake.
Check out the account here! It’s amazing. And eye-opening about what first-responders see on a day-to-day basis. Nudity. They see a lot of yinzer nudity.
7. That’s all
I’m well out of space and time. Have a great week! Be kind! Don’t litter! Pick up litter when you see it! Don’t be naked out in these streets! Don’t bite unless requested to! Buy your tickets to the book launch! Pre-order the book!
And remember, asbestos bad; fiberglass good.
See you next