Adam Reger | Freelance Writer

Pittsburgh-based freelance writer

Month: July, 2010

Reason to Love Pittsburgh #3: Keystone State Wrestling Alliance

The Keystone State Wrestling Alliance is a local pro wrestling outfit that holds monthly (usually) events at the Lawrenceville Moose. It is awesome. I’ve been going intermittently for several years and it is a real joy. If you’re remotely interested in this, you should go. Go once, try it.

For the flavor of the KSWA, check out these profiles of the wrestlers and the photo gallery. In the latter, please note the wood paneling and drop ceiling of the Lawrenceville Moose. That is just the start of the atmospherics you can expect when (not if but when) you attend a wrestling show. There are all kinds of Pittsburghers at the Moose: yinzers, kids, diehard wrestling fans, confused newbies, grad students, hipsters (quite a lot of them, actually), families, girls’ basketball teams, and a number of other categories I’m probably omitting.

Anyway, the KSWA is having its “Summertime Bruise” event this Saturday, July 24th, at 7:30 PM. The Moose is at 120 51st Street, just off Butler Street in Lawrenceville. Tickets are (I’m pretty sure) $10. It’s one of my favorite Pittsburgh things and I cannot count the number of friends, classmates, friends of friends, and friends of classmates I’ve compelled to go to the Moose for a night of wrestling insanity and local color. Also, cheap beer.

Recordings where people laugh

I’m listening to an episode of The Best Show on WFMU (which I slavered over here) from a couple of weeks ago. Jon Wurster is in the studio as Rick Spangler, “a record producer with a diverse resume.” Although usually unflappable, Wurster here cracks himself up repeatedly, playing it off as an effect of pollen and breath mints, and glossing over the covered-microphone silences as his having fallen out of his chair.

And I am loving it. It’s reminding me of this Elliott Smith cover, “All My Rowdy Friends (Have Settled Down),” a Hank Williams, Jr., song, which is on the CD that comes with Autumn de Wilde’s Elliott Smith photo book. I think the CD is called “Live at Largo,” if a CD in the back of a book can have a proper title, but in any case that’s what the music is: recordings from a show at Largo in Los Angeles (which, just to make this post splinter off in as many directions as possible, here is a New Yorker piece describing the scene at Largo (though you have to have digital access to get at more than the abstract, so maybe save yourself the click if you don’t want your interest piqued and then rudely stifled)).

But anyway the reason I love the song is that Smith laughs repeatedly during the song and sounds, generally, happy. He totally blanks on part of the lyrics, which I’ve now discovered to be “corn bread and iced tea took the place / Of pills and ninety proof.”

Also, here’s Hank Williams, Jr. playing the original. Not surprisingly, I prefer the Elliott Smith version. Last weekend I picked up a cassette of Hank Williams, Jr.’s greatest hits at Salvation Army (minus any kind of cover or case, which made it all that much more thrilling) and by Tuesday I was pretty well done with it. Country music remains, like the films of Jerry Lewis, way better in theory than in my actual experience of them. It is a great song, though.

And another plus is that I now get the self-referential line Williams, Jr. throws into the Monday Night Football theme at the end, when he goes, “All my rowdy friends are here on Monday night.”

Freemasons Open House in Pittsburgh

I am deeply regretful that I will not be able to go to this Freemasons open house this weekend, and am jealous of anyone who is able to go.

Compounding that regret is this tantalizing quote from Mike Marcus, one of the members: “There is always an interest in boosting membership numbers, but we’re not opening our doors only to try to sign people up.”

Always an interest in boosting membership. Only to try to sign people up. Implying that, yes, they are trying to sign people up! Suggesting that I could go to this thing (if I were not heading out of town for a sure-to-be-raucous Reger Family Reunion) and come out some hours later an initiate into the secrets of the Free and Accepted Masons. Oh, cruel and fickle fate. Oh, teasing cosmos. Going out of town while this is going on could be my biggest regret since I had class while my friends were initiated into the Braddock Elks Lodge. Why didn’t I ditch that day? Why? I still don’t know.

Thrilling Internet Discovery

One of my best friends from college, the extremely talented poet Ms. Bridget Lowe, has been blogging elegantly for Ploughshares! Reading through her archives has been great. But this one, about an early rejection from Highlights for Children, is pretty phenomenal. If you click through, don’t miss the comments section.

Literary Tattoos

A few months ago I met a guy who had a tattoo on his inner forearm that read “Visceral Realist” in a typewriter-type font. I was impressed and amused by it, and by the coincidence of it: I’d recently finished The Savage Detectives, by Roberto Bolano, the novel that inspired the dude’s tattoo. And, moreover, the friend who’d loaned me the book was in town visiting, and had an hour or two before recounted a story a professor had told about knowing the real-life version of one of the characters, Luscious Skin. It was a pleasingly dense cluster of coincidences, which sort of felt true to the spirit of The Savage Detectives.

Anyway, the tattoo occasioned a subsequent bar conversation about what literary tattoo we each would get. It made me realize that a good book- or poem- or writer-themed tattoo is hard to come by; I had nothing, and I only remember people mentioning books they’d like to honor, rather than specific and germane images therefrom. (Tangential tattoo note: I doubt I’ll ever be inked, but I’ve long maintained that the tattoo I would get would be an image of a German shepherd’s head, placed squarely on my bicep a la a sailor’s tattoo of his faraway or long-lost dame. Something along these lines.)

So it was with interest that I came across this story, on Flavor Wire, which includes a fair number of literary tattoos, some great and some less great. As the story notes, it’s NSFW and also NSFLAATPL (Not Suitable for Looking at at the Public Library).

Thanks given

Today marks one year since I started my job. The time last summer that I spent unemployed recedes further into the past. My memory of that time, accordingly, gets rosier and brighter. Good thing this blog is still out there, reminding me of what a boring time that actually was.  (Actually I notice I had a recurring tag, “Boredom,” that appeared in a lot of posts.) I played a lot of Tecmo Super Bowl in those days.

I usually let anniversaries, birthdays, holidays, etc. pass without too much reflection (because I like to do my reflecting when I want to, not when some fat cat tells me to), but on this one I’m struck by how fortunate I am to have a job. Straight up.

Coming upon this post from that other blog, I’m reminded what an odyssey it was to temp and to look for a permanent job (and to try to do things like write and have a post-MFA social life afterwards). Work is not inherently fun, but stability is nice. And this is all without reference to the economic crisis or the current shortage of jobs; considering how many qualified and over-qualified people can’t find work only compounds my sense of being incredibly fortunate. (It might make me double-super lucky that I wasn’t looking too hard for work when I got this job; one of my old co-workers opted to go to law school and my former bosses thought of me.) Anyway, I suppose this note is along the lines of the ads I used to see in the classifieds section of the Philadelphia Inquirer, thanking various saints (I think St. Jude is the default saint, but what do I know) for gifts received.

No Opinion

Is it a sign of approaching middle age to be basically indifferent to large chunks of pop culture? The Flaming Lips are playing Pittsburgh tonight. I saw that a while back and thought, “Yeah. Maybe.” Then did nothing. My girlfriend just texted to suggest we buy scalped tickets and go see the show. I couldn’t tell if she was kidding or not. (Update: I think she was.)

I saw the Flaming Lips a while ago. I remember it being a pretty excellent show: Sebadoh, Cornelius, and a band called ICU (that was actually one dude with a theramin) also played. It was at the Electric Factory in Philadelphia. I got off the wrong subway stop and wandered through some of Philadelphia’s sketchiest, dirtiest neighborhoods as dusk settled in and I got progressively more freaked out. It was the summer after my first year of college and I had just hacked off this great heinous mane of wavy hair that I’d been cultivating since the summer before my senior year of h.s. During the show, someone kept throwing water at Sebadoh’s bassist and he flipped out and came into the crowd. There were innumerable delays because HBO was recording the show. I came away liking Cornelius, mainly because of their copious use of Planet of the Apes imagery. Wayne Coyne from the Flaming Lips did a duet, with the theramin-playing guy from ICU, of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”

Still: I would rather eat a nice dinner, take a walk, and watch a movie than go to an arena and see the Flaming Lips tonight. If this be middle age, fine. Even at that Philadelphia show, I remember walking to the door and applauding only half-heartedly for the Flaming Lips to come back for an encore. When they did, I stayed out of a sense of obligation. They were touring in support of The Soft Bulletin, which I didn’t love. Nor did I love Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots. After that, I stopped paying attention. (Although I did go see Christmas on Mars, which was phenomenally boring and badly made to an extent you rarely ever see on the big screen.) It feels like the Flaming Lips have gone the way of Pearl Jam or U2, where whatever got them to this point—their fantastic weirdness, I’d argue—is alternately forgotten and trotted out as their shtick.

But, that’s just me. I have an embarrassing habit of being lukewarm on most bands’ breakthrough albums. Don’t ask me about The Bends versus OK Computer, because I’ll just make us both feel bad.

What were we talking about?

Addendum re: Jack Pendarvis

Embroidering the point I made yesterday (to wit: that Jack Pendarvis is awesome), I tracked down an excerpt from Awesome, printed in the Yalobusha Review, that I recalled having cracked my shit up. A sample:

Dottie set up a kind of clinic where I breathed on people’s backs and gave them orgasms. Each person was observed to exhibit some kind of material improvement.

Gertrude sang in a lovely contralto.

Annabel became an expert in medieval Russian iconography.

Jack Pendarvis & John Brandon Podcast

One of my most favoritest of contemporary writers, Jack Pendarvis, reads here at an Oxford, MS bookstore with the writer John Brandon (who seems poised for big success with his second novel, Citrus County, from McSweeney’s). I liked, but did not love, Brandon’s first novel, Arkansas, also from McSweeney’s. (A compendium of info on that book is here. They published a couple excerpts, but I’m unable to locate those on the website.) However, I loved, not liked, Brandon’s prose, so I may well check out Citrus County.

Jack Pendarvis cracks me up, whether I’m reading his “blog” or one of his story collections (Your Body Is Changing and The Mysterious Secret of the Valuable Treasure), or his novel, Awesome. (One of my great accomplishments during graduate school was, while fiction editor of the grad-student lit mag, Hot Metal Bridge, to solicit a selection from Awesome. Mr. Pendarvis was gracious enough to give us an excellent section of the book, and was a pretty darn nice guy to correspond with.) He is pretty funny here, reading from a column he writes for The Believer. It kind of bummed me out to hear him slated as the opening act, but I guess what with John Brandon’s being something of a rising star, that status may now be appropriate.

The Brandon reading is pretty excellent, too. After hearing what Citrus County is about—it seems to involve a terrible crime, and potentially a love triangle—I am all the more intrigued after listening to this excerpt, which features a middle-school teacher running his students through genealogy presentations and reluctantly planning for his tenure as coach of the school’s girls’ basketball team. If you’re like me, you love it when random stuff comes together.

One sour note about the podcast, as I experienced it: the player really, really sucks. And by that I mean it won’t let you pause or fast-forward (which would be a convenience if you tried to pause the broadcast, realized pushing Play took you all the way back to the beginning, and thought you’d like to skip over the ten minutes you’d already heard).

On “Inception”

I saw it yesterday and am still thinking it through. If I don’t love a movie immediately, or have very high expectations for it that are not met, I sometimes over-correct and say that the movie was bad or that I disliked it. I can admit that Inception wasn’t bad, and that on the whole I liked it. But it felt like something was missing, or like the overall set-up was overly intellectual and failed to communicate any real feeling.

This review, by Christopher Orr over at The Atlantic, comes pretty close to my own feelings on Inception. I certainly don’t care for Orr’s (mild) diss of The Prestige, though.

I now turn my sights to the technically virtuosic, exquisitely conceived and designed latest film from a director whose work I typically love that I’ve really been looking forward to this summer: Micmacs. I’d take Jean-Pierre Jeunet over Christopher Nolan any day.