Discover more from Breathing Space
Wait. Kaufmann's used to sell WHAT?!
"To quote Mike Tomlin ..."
I took last week off from the newsletter simply due to the fact that it was a big, busy week that crushed my best of intentions to publish.
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Last Tuesday was my first-ever post-publishing book talk, this taking place at Cooper-Siegel Library in Fox Chapel, which is just a lovely library. I arrived 13 minutes before the talk was scheduled to begin but Google Maps took me one building over, which was the municipal building (DO YOUR JOB, ROBOT!). There was a lone vehicle in the lot—a police car. Thinking it was the library, I said to myself, “Girl. You are about to be HUMBLED and maybe arrested.”
But then I looked at the building next to it across a shrubbery* and saw the actual library with plenty of cars. Whew. I wasn’t completely sure how to approach a book talk, but it ended up being a very fun, funny, and conversational kind of evening with a fantastic group of Pittsburghers, including Sally Wiggin who surprised me.
Then the next morning, I once again joined Tom Ross, the one-man river clean-up crew, to kayak a mile down the Ohio to clean a particularly bad patch of river litter. We grabbed everything we could safely row back to our entry spot, which was six bags of litter and other goodies.
I picked up over 200 plastic bottles in just this area. Also, clothing, shoes, play balls, many chunks of styrofoam coolers, buckets, cans and lots more. It’s so disheartening, but it also feels so good to leave behind a much cleaner area than we found.
Then that evening I visited a local book club that had chosen Nothing. Everything. to read. It was a truly enjoyable evening with an engaging group of Pittsburgh women who loved the book and had some thoughtful questions about how I wrote it.
But that was last week and this is this week. Let’s chat!
* If your brain goes to Monty Python and the Holy Grail every time you read the word “shrubbery,” we are friends even if we’ve never met.
1. Speaking of kayaks …
One thing I had to overcome in regards to litter clean-ups was my being intimidated by Pittsburgh’s rivers. There are passing boats and their wakes. Plus I had a low simmering fear that I’d be the person who ignored lock/dam warnings and would plunge over one or get sucked into one, meeting my watery doom. I don’t honestly know if locks and dams having sucking mechanisms, but I feel like that was a perfectly reasonable fear. Like the river would flush me like a poop. Upon exiting the kayak to stand in knee-deep water to retrieve trash along the banks, my fears would shift more toward, “If I see a snake, do I run, beat it with my litter grabber, or try to choke the life from it using only Jedi powers?”
I got over all of those fears nearly immediately because boat wakes aren’t too difficult to deal with, and as for the animal kingdom, I’ve only ever spotted waterfowl such as geese, ducks and the occasional heron. Pigeons are smart and stay in the streets. But now …
To quote Mike Tomlin:
After reading the headline, I had hopes that maybe the kayakers mistook a floating log for an alligator, but NOPE! There’s a frickin’ picture as proof.
Joli Cibik reported the sighting via an email Sunday evening to the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission. As of Monday morning, the Cibiks had not heard back from any wildlife officials.
I don’t know if this is unreasonable, but if I spot an alligator in a river in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA while I’m knee-deep in water and I call the proper authorities, I want to hear sirens in the distance within four point two seconds. I want to hear a helicopter whirring from afar on its way with positively sizzling hellfire missiles. I WANT THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA ON THE PHONE IMMEDIATELY.
You may think that’s an overreaction, but let’s you come face-to-floating eyeballs with an alligator in the Mon and tell me how good a job you do at not pooping every inch of your jorts.
I’m going to guess … a poor job indeed. Anyway, do not put any part of your person into the Kiski River, my brothers and sisters in yinz. You may never get it back.
2. Speaking of “pets” …
Writing about pet alligators reminded me that they were more common back in the early 1900s, and that I once stumbled upon the fact that Kaufmann’s downtown used to have a 7th floor pet shop in the 1930s or thereabouts, and then they brought it back in the 1960s. The shop sold dogs, cats, baby monkeys, and even baby alligators. I shit you not.
But possibly, I shit you so, because I can’t find the screenshot of the advertisement or news article that mentioned the baby alligators. However, while hunting for that story, I found this from July 9, 1938 and, once again, it’s that time in the newsletter where I’m going to need you to locate the nearest exit—keeping in mind it may be behind you—and then take a hold of your butt because …
To quote Jimmy Fallon …
First, the pilot literally risked an actual airplane crash and his one single life, swooping his plane all around in the air, probably screaming his head off before coming in for a hard, skidding landing all because he was afraid of a little mouse … YET THE SCHOOL HAD A PET ALLIGATOR?!?!?* AND THEY FED THE MOUSE TO THE ALLIGATOR?!?! Reader, this is some wild circle of life shit and also exactly why I love history.
As it turns out, I shit you not! I found it … Kaufmann’s once sold baby alligators. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, November 3, 1962:
Can you imagine? “Dearest, I’m running to Kaufmann’s to grab a smart new dress for Sunday supper and I might grab a jaunty hat and a baby alligator while I’m there.”
“That’s fine. Since you’re going, pick me up a new briefcase** and a juvenile iguana.”
Kaufmann’s really did sell everything.
And heck yes Juvenile Iguana is my new band name and we are a Def Leppard tribute band.
* Shouldn’t a flight school have, like, and I’m just spitballing here, an avian-related pet?
** Are briefcases still a thing that people use? I always loved my dad’s briefcase that he took to church and work. It made his papers seem so important. Like he was carrying state secrets.
3. The fix is in!
Reader, please take a look at this Civic Science Tribune-Review poll about this year’s Picklesburgh festival:
To quote Oprah:
No, wait. Wrong one. Hold. Okay. To quote Oprah:
The only choices are either you went and loved it, or you didn’t go at all. There’s no room at the inn for anyone who went and maybe didn’t fall down and worship at the altar of the vinegar-soaked cucumber. This is like me running a poll that says:
Basically, if you met me and you didn’t think I was all that with french fries on top, you can go swim with a river alligator.
That said, I went to Picklesburgh’s opening Friday at 2 p.m. and it was much better than the claustrophobic bottle-neck bridge location of years past. The crowds weren’t too thick nor the lines too long. I really enjoyed it. Word is that the remainder of the festival was more jam-packed with much longer lines. But too bad. Vote that you went and loved it, or that you didn’t go.
This is how democracy dies, isn’t it? Not in darkness, but in the harsh light of Al Gore’s Internet.
I’m on to you, Civic Science and your fake news big lie baloney. Boom! Politics!
4. Diagnosis: death by cute
I stumbled on Pittsburgher Emily McGaughey’s Shop Emily M. Etsy shop and found therein some of the most adorable stickers, magnets and pins ever. Like, I want to just go “eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee” in as high of a pitch as I can. She has created so many winners, it was hard for me to pick which to share, but these are a few of my favorites. If you or someone you love is into Japanese Kawaii art (particularly teens) or cuteness in general, they will love so many things in this shop.
Look at the Primanti’s cat and the little cat in the incline eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.
Reminder: not an ad! Go check out the whole shop.
5. Random n’at
Here’s a quick roundup of short things that I don’t have time to turn into long things!
This video of a young football player suddenly realizing he was standing next to Steeler great Troy Polamalu will make your day.
That’s how I would have reacted, but with just a smidgen more leaping-into-his-arms-and-openly-weeping-until-security-tore-me-away.
Pittsburgh’s Astrobotic is getting over $34 million for a new moon mission, this one to demonstrate a method of transmitting power on the lunar surface. This puts Pittsburgh another step closer to being known as a space city, and puts me one step closer to going to space. How? I’m assuming they will need someone to go up and … plug it in? I don’t know. Hire me, Astrobotic. I promise to behave. Ish.
They may have Gritty, but we have …
There’s a new item on the Pittsburgh Remains to be Seen map! It’s the long-gone Penn Incline supports which are technically located in the Hill District, but you can see them from the Strip District near 17th Street when you look up the hillside. This marks the second incline remain, the first remain in the Hill, and the 50th overall item on the map! Keep those suggestions coming.
6. And that’s all!
I will tell you right now that next week’s newsletter is a maybe because I have some travel scheduled, so don’t be surprised if I skip. On the bright side, I’m happy to issue refunds at the point of sale. Ba-dum-tiss! Have a fantastic week! Try the veal! Be kind! Stop your filthy littering, you trash panda jagoffs! Buy my book and leave reviews if you love it! Oh, I should run a poll. Hold. Okay. Here:
Those are your only two choices. God bless America and democracy and eagles, and, to quote me, “Let freedom ring all up in this bitch.”