3/6/14

Fishy Fry Season in Pittburgh!

It's finally here -- the time of year all well-meaning Pittsburghers look forward to - regardless of religious affiliation. Why? because EVERYONE LOVES A GOOD FRIED FISH SAMMICH, that's why. Yes, the Lenten season in Pittsburgh is upon us. Once thought to be a strictly Catholic religious ritual, the epic-ness of the fried fish sammich and it's "Friday go-to" status during lent, has won over the hearts of Pittsburghers everywhere, no matter what deity you personally prescribe to. Seriously. Pittsburghers LOVE a good fried fish filet on a toasty and appropriately seasoned bun -- preferable Breadworkds or Cibrone's, of course. Proof of this delicious fact:



Yes, that's right. A Google map dedicated to fish fries in & around Pittsburgh.  You're welcome. 

2/7/14

Pittsburgh Theatre Review: COMPANY

Last week, I was lucky enough to catch Pittsburgh Public Theater's current production, Company, directed by Ted Pappas. Company, a Stephen Sondheim musical, that made it's first debut in 1971, is a rare sighting anywhere these days, much less Pittsburgh. Just it's presence at the O'Reilly reminded me how grateful I was to live in a city that so values arts and culture, and that gives its residents opportunities that people living elsewhere -- even  larger cities -- don't get. 

When I was in college, one of my favorite classes I had the privilege of taking was a Andrew Lloyd Webber vs. Stephen Sondheim class - and it was all about comparing and contrasting two of the greatest musical composer/lyricists of all time. That fact is not up for debate: Sondheim and Webber are both legends. LEGENDS.

I can already feel you all making judgments - whether for loving that class, or mentally dubbing the winner of the aforementioned duel. Who is better? Webber or Sondheim? If you ask a theater critic, 9/10 times you will get Sondheim. If you ask an avid musical theater audience member,  9/10 times you will get Webber. And every time I see a Webber or Sondheim musical, that classic debate returns to the forefront of my mind.
Who is better? When it comes to musical theatre, what are the defining components that make one composer/lyricist better than the other? I"m not here to tell you who is better than the other -- that's something that, if you are so motivated, you should explore for yourself. However, I will say this: typically (meaning about 90% of the time) Webber's music makes me feel, and Sondheim's music makes me think. Webber's work is so emotional and grand and Sondheim's work is so cerebral and intense. Company is a great example of Sondheim's music tapping into your intellect.




Company is a musical comedy,book by George Furth, that centers around Bobby (the charming and very reminiscent of Neil Patrick Harris, Jim Stanek) a single 35 year old and five pairs of his married/engaged friends, and his three "lady friends with benefits." I wouldn't call them girlfriends, but I wouldn't call them friends.


Unlike the majority of other musicals, Company is a concept musical, which means rather than following a plot, it features moments and vignettes (in no particular order). We watch Bobby visit with each of his paired- off friends in various situations; getting high while the kids are asleep upstairs, participating in an impromptu karate lesson, and my personal favorite, trying to soothe an bride-to- be with  a major case of cold feet by....proposing to her?? 


Company is one of the first musicals given credit for exploring "adult" situations and relationships. Sondheim himself acknowledges this, famously saying that "Broadway theater has been for many years supported by upper class people with upper class problems. These people really want to escape that world when they go to the theatre, and then here we are with Company, talking about how we're going to bring it right back in their faces."


And here we are again, so soon, brought back to the heart of what makes a Sondheim show a Sondheim show. Clearly, he isn't afraid to challenge you. Each of his lyrics are so on point, you can't help but have a profound respect for Sondheim's grasp on human perception and innermost feelings. For example, in the song " Sorry - Grateful" the men of the cast answer Bobby's question: " do you ever regret getting married?" They respond, in the poignant lyrics of Sondheim:


You're always sorry, you're always grateful
You're always wondering what might have been -
Then she walks in.

And still you're sorry, and still you're grateful
And still you wonder, and still you doubt
And she goes out.

Everything's different, nothing's changed -
Only maybe slightly rearranged

You're sorry-grateful, regretful-happy
Why look for answers where none occur?

You always are what you always were
Which has nothing to do with -all to do with - her.



As a newlywed, I was intrigued, and the lyrics instantaneously got me thinking: is that how Ford feels? Is that weird? Is it normal? Does it matter if it's weird or normal?  If that IS how he feels, does it it bother me? Should it bother me? And then and then and then and then....

And THAT, my friends, is the genius of Sondheim. 


Do people really want to think that their husbands are both sorry and grateful that they got married? Is it comfortable to ponder spouses being regretful yet happy that they are married? No. But Sondheim's finger on the pulse of the most hidden of human thoughts forces you to confront your innermost your own. And the this cast at the O'Reilly does it particularly well. 


This is why - generally speaking - critics love and audiences aren't so sure about Sondheim. Pittsburgh Public's rendition of Sorry-Grateful - led by Daniel Krell (David) Benjamin Howes (Harry), and Darren Eliker (Larry) - is perfection. In fact, the entire cast expertly brings Company into the 21st century, with the help of timeless lyrics and relatable characters.  


There's so much truth to the lyrics that they almost hurt. And sometimes they are so true and so funny that you fear you just may burst at the seams with laughter. I'm especially referring to " Getting Married Today," the highlight of the entire show, for me. It's the morning of her wedding, and Amy (a sublime Courtney Balan) decides she is not good enough for her doting fiance, Paul. It. Is. HILARIOUS. Here's a YouTube clip of Madeline Kahn's rendition. Just know that Courtney Balan's was every bit of good if not better:



I can't tell you how happy I am that Pittsburgh Public brought Company to Pittsburgh. Honestly, it's a chance that won't come around very often, and I STRONGLY encourage you to take your Valentine -- or any one you love, to go see Company before it leaves the O'Reilly Theater.  It's a high-quality, seamless production that has practically become synonymous with the Pittsburgh Public Theater name.  Company is here from now until February 23 - and you can buy your tickets HERE. And once you've seen it, be sure to visit me back here - or on the twitters @PGHinRed - and you can tell me who you prefer - Sondheim or Webber - and why.


1/31/14

Peduto vs. Pothole Season


First, can I just say that our newly-crowned Mayor Peduto is adorable so far. Perhaps the city and he are in that "newlywed" stage and he can do no wrong and everything he touches turns to gold and is just so darn CUTE and cheek-squeeze worthy. Or maybe it's partly because it's like replacing George Bush Jr., on a smaller scale: (cough cough, LUKEY) compared to him, you - by default - are gonna look GREAT. Whatever it is, it's working so far. Let's all enjoy the honeymoon phase as long as it lasts. 

Second, can we all acknowledge the new season in Pittsburgh? Everyone who's anyone knows that there are three seasons in Pittsburgh: Summer, Steeler Season, and Winter. Enter: the newly-dubbed, Pothole Season.

Pothole season: It's Good to be a Tire Salesman in Pittsburgh.



Two weeks ago Mayor Peduto called for a "72 hour all-out blitz" on potholes. It was SO cute. And somewhat productive, too. Productive in the sense that I actually NOTICED potholes being filled -- crater-sized potholes, mind you, that required sever swerving to avoid, FILLED. I could hear angels singing. But of course, in Pittsburgh, you never REALLY win against the potholes. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "The announcement follows a Post Gazette report...about the earlier start to Pothole Season that followed wild temperature swings that took the mercury from 50 degrees to minus 9, and back to 55 this month."

Pothole Season: Making the Mercury  Violently Burst from your Thermostat Like in a Cartoon.

In a 72 hour flash -- the majority of my morning-commute potholes were gone! YEs, it was a glorious two days. And then...they came back. Remember, you may win a battle or two, but you'll never win the war vs. potholes.

Pothole Season: We Know What You'll Do Next Winter.

Ford and I recently moved from renting in the East End to owning in the lovely borough of Dormont (more, as promised) on that VERY SOON. IMINENT, in fact!) and every time I drive on McNeilly, I need to go buy four new tires. IT. IS. THAT. BAD. And trust me, I don't delude myself into thinking that McNeilly is the only road like this. Save me, Mayor Peduto- Pie - Mayor Cutie-Pie Peduto - Mayor Peduto the Pothole Puncher! If only if it will be for a few days.... a few days with flat roads and plump tires is better than a lifetime with plump roads and flat tires. Or something like that.

Pittsburgh Barbies: Urban Legend?

Not sure how this ever missed my complete and immediate attention, but apparently -- once upon a time, as it will, there may or may not have been a thing known as  Pittsburgh Barbies. Legend has it that Mattel released a collection of barbies based off of Pittsburgh neighborhoods. Is it true, not true? Is it just some made up story that was supposed to be a joke, but real people were interested in purchasing the real thing and then it wasn't funny anymore because when you make a joke or comment in jest but your audience doesn't process said comment as a joke you are forced to explain or give up on your joke, and either way it isn't funny anymore at all and will never ever will be ever.

I digress.

All I can say is I would give a LOT to see these barbies in person -- reading about them isn't enough.DO they exist as dolls in real life? Can I find one to purchase somewhere in a hidden corner of Craigslist? Or were they an urban legend, and nothing more?

Their descriptions are too enticing not too find out. For example, Shadyside OR Fox Chapel Barbie, is promoted as: " this yuppie barbie comes with your choice of BMW convertible or Hummer H2. Included are her own Starbucks cup, credit card, and country club membership. Also available for this set are Shallow Ken and Private School Skipper. You won't be able to afford any of them." 

{As a former Shadyside-renter, I will neither confirm or deny the real-life, walking, talking breathing versions of Shadyside Barbie strolling along Walnut Street. But I will confide that many a yoga mat and over-priced handbags were spotted often.}

And who could resist holding in her hands Butler Barbie, known in the Pittsburgh Barbie Land as a "pale model who comes dressed in her own Wrangler jeans two sizes too small, a NASCAR t-shirt, and tweety bird tattoo on her shoulder. She has a six-pack of Bud Light and a Hank Williams Jr. CD set. She can spit over 5 feet and kick mullet-haired Ken's butt when she is drunk. Purchase her pickup truck separately, and get a confederate flag bumper sticker absolutely free."

She sounds lovely. And after all, Butler IS Pittsburgh's True South, lest we forget the glorious Big Butler County Fair.

Fun(read: if you've got some time to kill) game: Which Pittsburgh Barbie are you? Not accurately represented? Make your own and send it this a-way!

If you're prepared to yearn through your computer screen, check out the rest of the Pittsburgh Barbie Collection - for your total viewing pleasure.

1/6/14

The Year of the 'Burgh

There are so many things going on in Pittsburgh this year, I'm beginning to think 2014 is the year of the Burgh. Seriously. Putting aside the fact that it's LITERALLY going to be less than 0 degrees tomorrow, a lot of stuff is happening to make us yinzers feel warm and fuzzy on the inside.


Like what, you ask?

 Oh, like getting a new - and may i mention, promising - Mayor? Having officially been inducted this afternoon, he is now known as Mayor Bill Peduto. I don't know much about politics (or care too much, if I'm being honest) but I have to say I'm pumped to have someone different down city hall, running my city. And this Peduto character seems to really want to focus on rebuilding within the neighborhoods that are in need of it most. So, woooo! Yay Pittsburgh.

In other news of Awesomeness, restaurant Salt of the Earth operator,Kevin Sousa, surpassed his kickstarter goal of raising $250,000 late Sunday to open a new restaurant and "farm ecosystem" in Braddock,  to be called Superior Motors. This is huge for so many reasons, just one of which is the level of interest and passion feel toward revitalizing the Braddock neighborhood. Read more Awesomeness here.

Need some more reasons? No problem.

Read about what the rest of the world can learn from Pittsburgh (oh, so so much) when it comes to living well. I'll give you a hint: it involves a regular diet of pierogies and Ahrn City.

Not only that, but an incredible piece was written in the Chicago Tribune about how even though Pittsburgh loves itself (group hug, everyone! It isn't overly impressed with itself. I couldn't have said it better myself. As a group, Pittsburghers tend to strive to always better our community, while keeping a firm grasp on the traditions that got us here in the first place. It's a beautiful and unique thing, and I hope Pittsburgh stays that way forever.

Oh, Pittsburgh. Even when you have a -20 wind chill and potholes littering your streets, I still love you.

xoxo.


but, seriously, can we do something about the potholes? 



12/12/13

"Mayor of Hell" Asks Oscar Voters to Remember "Out of the Furnace."

Despite his 6 foot 8 height, shit-kicking boots and scruffy face, I've always found that the current Mayor of Braddock (recently elected for his third term), Mayor John Fetterman, has always been ridiculously easy to like. Love, even, really.  Who couldn't love someone so committed to such a challenging but worthy cause? To say he has immersed himself in the depth of Braddock's revitalization would be a pathetic understatement on my part. Most recently, Mayor Fetterman has written Oscar voters --- yes, as in "...and the Academy Award goes to...." Oscars. The heavy gold guy Oscars.  I digress.


As I was saying before I interrupted myself, Mayor Fetterman has written this year's Oscar voters, asking them not to forget Out of the Furnace, a revenge drama directed by Scott Cooper. The movie Out of the Furnace features HUGE celebrity names like finger-heart, swoon-worthy Christian Bale and Casey Affleck, the hilarious Woody Harrelson, Forrest Whitaker and Zoe Saldana. As Mayor Fetterman writes.....

"If the story of a Braddock, and towns like her, is indeed worth telling, there couldn’t be a more eloquent, forceful and honest interpretation than what Mr. Cooper and his three leads have delivered in “Out of the Furnace.”"


I hope Oscar voters -- and movie goers, and people who can afford to help -- listen to Fetterman's moving and truthful words. I hope people can appreciate his efforts, and the fact that celebrity influence is just one of the many ways we can bring Braddock to life again. Did I mention that Pittsburgh Magazine recently reported that Out of the Furnace studio, Relativity Media, donated $7k to Braddock, who was in desperate need of police radios? So much awesome. And think how much more awesome we can bring to Braddock. 




Pittsburgh is everywhere these days. . .

Here are three recent (and some of my favorite) examples:

1 - Andrew McCutchen proposed to his girlfriend on The Ellen Show:




2 - Buzzfeed gave us 21 Before & After Pictures of Pittsburgh today vs 1940's. HOW ARE MY GRANDPARENTS LUNGS STILL FUNCTIONING?!?!



3 - Wiz Khalifa was in very heartwarming Christmas skit with Tom Hanks on the Jimmy Kimmel show: