Adam Reger | Freelance Writer

Pittsburgh-based freelance writer

Tag: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Reason #9 to Love Pittsburgh: Billy Nardozzi and Pittsburgh’s Literary Underground

Today I was paging through the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and saw this guy’s face in the section for paid announcements:

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It was the second time I’d seen Billy Nardozzi and his poetry in the Post-Gazette, and I thought, “What in the world?”

I did some research, and apparently he’s a known quantity here in Pittsburgh: NPR wrote a piece on him in 2011. That followed a Post-Gazette feature from 2009 by Brian O’Neill, a great PPG reporter.

Nardozzi drops $50 to $100 every Tuesday to have his poems published, along with a photo of himself with that ridiculous mullet and, at the bottom of each poem, his phone number, with a note beneath it saying, “((( All Calls Are Welcomed ))).”

Some people do call him, he said, many with words of encouragement and thanks, and others with advice to cut the mullet. Both pieces take pains to make the point that, no, this is not ironic at all. You’d be forgiven if you thought it were an elaborate joke, because these poems kind of stink.

I could explain why in detail, but instead, here’s a Tumblr of the poems of Billy Nardozzi.

Reading about Nardozzi reminded me of The Dirty Poet, a Pittsburgh fixture whose poems tend to appear overnight, yellow 8 1/2 x 11″ yellow sheets of paper taped to poles in Squirrel Hill, Friendship, Bloomfield, and other neighborhoods. This Pittsburgh Quarterly piece talks briefly to The Dirty Poet.

I met The Dirty Poet once, setting out his poetry at great Pittsburgh bar the Brillobox. He said to me basically what he said to the Pittsburgh Quarterly: that he gets more feedback on his poetry from taping it to phone poles than he ever has publishing in small literary magazines. (He was a little snide when he heard I was a writer, and asked if I’d published anything. I said I had, which occasioned his little soapbox speech.)

This New Yorker blog piece also namedrops The Dirty Poet as it extols Pittsburgh’s literary scene. As good a job as the writer does, I feel there’s an obvious indicator of the depth and richness of Pittsburgh’s literary culture that Ms. Macy Halford missed: Pittsburgh has not only a literary scene but a literary underground, populated by writers who so burn to be heard they bypass the machinery of that literary scene and pay to publish their work, and sneak out in the dead of night to tape their work to traffic poles (or, go out at 9 p.m. to distribute it at bars). That is what I call a literary culture.

Reason to Love Pittsburgh #8

The “Random Acts of Kindness” column in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. I just love it.

For the sappy reasons you’d think, having to do with faith in humanity and the milk of human kindness and so on. But also because there’s such lovely Pittsburgh textures in these messages, and because, if you live here, you can convince yourself these stories wouldn’t be told everywhere else in the world.

Here’s an example, from the March 21st installment:

“Thirty minutes later I realized I didn’t have the [lost credit] card and hurried back to that lane, where I asked the assistant if she had found it. She had not. She directed me to the customer service counter, saying, ‘Don’t worry — this is Pittsburgh!'”

Also to wit, the opener from one of today’s “Random Acts of Kindness”:

“I had occasion to have a buffet luncheon and soft drink at the Pizza Hut located in Brentwood Towne Square.”

Oh, Lord. Oh, Pittsburgh.

P.S. Here is a link with all of the other reasons to love Pittsburgh. There are many more than eight, but I’ve been going slowly.

The Fascinating Case of A.J. Richardson, the Candidate for Mayor of Pittsburgh Whose Face Is Covered in Tattoos

Pittsburgh’s in the midst of a primary campaign for mayor—a Democratic primary, anyway, which in this city is the de facto general election—and so far the greatest storyline to emerge has been A.J. Richardson. He’s originally from Brooklyn, he’s working at present as a bus monitor on the city’s North Side, he’s never held elected office, and, last but not least, his face is covered in tattoos.

Seriously. This is A.J. Richardson:

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I’ve mostly been reading about him through mainstream media—here’s a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review profile; here’s a CBS Local piece on how he’s not an underdog; and here’s a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette piece on his decision to plead guilty to DUI charges after a Tuesday night incident—and so I can’t say with any certainty whether or not—

Wait, what? Yep. This tattoo-faced dude was found in a green minivan, engine running, passed out or in a deep stupor in the middle of a road in Pittsburgh’s West End late Tuesday night. Cops honked at the minivan and when there was no answer they pounded on the window. Richardson declined a breathalyzer test but failed the cops’ field sobriety tests. Asked about it the next day, Richardson said the arrest was part of a conspiracy; “It’s a weak, feeble attempt to discredit me.”

I can’t tell if this twist makes me enjoy the A.J. Richardson saga more or less. No one was hurt, but still drunk driving is never funny. But then again it has made it all the more strange to see various media reporting on Richardson’s comments and debate appearances with entirely straight faces.

To be fair, nothing I’ve heard Richardson say is unreasonable. His angle is that he’s never held office, so he’s a fresh voice, will be a fighter for the working man, will sweep out corruption, etc. His campaign website is appropriately vague and positive-minded, and his “Project X”—a plan to ID areas where heavy drug-dealing is happening, to help the police target those areas and not entire communities—is certainly better than some policies.

But man. I just can’t get past those face tattoos. It’s almost like he’s adopted the most extreme body modification I could think of, that is usually associated with white supremacists, prison inmates, rappers with checkered pasts, and basically no one you would characterize as at all wholesome or respectable, and now is also demanding earnest consideration for his adoptive city’s highest office. And, God bless them, most in the media and in the political machinery seem to be doing their best to give it to him.

It’s like everything I love about Pittsburgh is wrapped up in this one news story: weird people, a sort of small-town quality that invites this sort of quixotic campaign, and a widespread niceness, or at least politeness, that has prevented the masses from laughing this guy out of the room.

Anyway, I hope I haven’t been too harsh on him. He seems, on the whole, like a nice guy, and you’ve got to love these kinds of grand, doomed gestures. He has zero chance of winning the Democratic primary, but I’d like to think that the city will measure each candidate by his positions, his record, and his actions, and that it will be these things—his lack of a record or any relevant experience, his unconscionable DUI arrest in the middle of a campaign—that cause him not to be elected, and not all the shit inked into his face.