Adam Reger | Freelance Writer

Pittsburgh-based freelance writer

Tag: Pittsburgh

Brief Menu Item Reveals Inescapability of Steelers Football in Pittsburgh

From the weekly menu of Zenith, a great vegetarian-restaurant-cum-vintage-store in the south side neighborhood of Pittsburgh:

POLAMALU (need you to play) WRAP

BLACK BEANS, RICE, PINEAPPLE, YELLOW  PEPPERS, COCONUT AND ONIONS IN A SPICY TROPICAL SAUCE WRAPPED IN A FLOUR TORTILLA

If this were just “Polamalu Wrap,” you could suspect the scrawny vegetarians at Zenith of pandering to Pittsburgh’s well-known obsession with its NFL franchise, the Pittsburgh Steelers. The revealing touch here is the parenthetical plea to Troy Polamalu, the Steelers’ otherworldly, locally beloved free safety, to get back in the game. (If you want to know why Polamalu is beloved, among other reasons, check out either one of these videos of him diving into the crowd during the Steelers’ 2005-06 and 2008-09 Super Bowl victory parades.)

If a Washington, DC vegetarian-restaurant-cum-vintage-store served the “Orakpo Wrap,” I’d similarly suspect those pale, feckless herbivores of pandering to that town’s football crowd. But if they served the “Orakpo (Really Going to Miss You) Wrap,” I’d be impressed, as I am in the case of the Polamalu Wrap, and surprised. You just don’t expect the same level of casual football knowledge among residents in other cities. Here, it’s sort of de rigeur. (Orakpo, by the way, is Brian Orakpo, linebacker of the Washington Totally Racist Team Name. You may recognize the name from his appearances alongside a caveman in these Geico commercials. He was injured this past week and will miss the rest of the season due to a torn pectoral muscle. I’d never cheer anyone’s getting injured but Washington fans’ loss is the Philadelphia Eagles’ gain.)

Steelers fanship in Pittsburgh is serious and widespread enough that it’s spawned a sort of backlash contingent of people who sniff and tell you, in the same tone they might use to inform you that they never watch television, and in fact don’t own a television set at all, that they don’t follow the Steelers, or football in general. Among fans of other teams, too, there’s a sort of common response of despising the Steelers and rooting against them. (A few weekends ago I was in Cleveland for the Eagles’ home opener against the Cleveland Browns. On the way out of the game there was some mostly calm discussion between Browns fans and Eagles fans (who were, in total, surprisingly numerous there in (the refreshingly named) Cleveland Browns Stadium), and it turned out one gnarled, hard-living couple in Eagles jerseys was from Pittsburgh. “We hate the Steelers, though,” the man said hastily to a guy in a Browns jerseys. His female companion turned and nodded that this was so. When they got outside, the two men shook hands and the Eagles fan, in parting, raised a fist and said, “Let’s both beat the Steelers this year” and they were joined in solidarity re: beating the Steelers. (This year teams in the NFC East play those in the AFC North, so the Eagles and Browns will indeed both be playing the Steelers.))

More telling, though, is the number of people you’ll find in the supermarket during Steelers games (which I watch part of, usually; if I’ve gone through the drama, the heartache and/or euphoria, of a Philadelphia Eagles game, I have no more patience or emotional energy to then watch the Steelers as well). You would think that Giant Eagle would be a ghost town during the game, but enough people have made the same simple mental calculation—All those sheep will be inside, glued to the tube, rooting for their ‘Stillers,’ drinking their ‘Ahrn City,’ etc., I’ll have the run of the place!—that it’s often no less crowded than it is on a Saturday morning, or midway through the evening on a weeknight.

The backlashers, people who hate the Steelers or who are indifferent but nevertheless organize their Sundays around the team, have always seemed to me to be caught in a simple binary trap: love the Steelers or hate them, they still seem to know exactly when the game is on, and to plan accordingly. Steelers football is just kind of the water you swim in in Pittsburgh, which is a crucial difference between the sports culture here versus nearly anywhere else.

Bukowski Hoggle, A Few Years Late (Including Reason #7 to Love Pittsburgh)

I just saw Labyrinth at the wonderful Hollywood Theater in Dormont. It occurred to me during the screening that the character Hoggle, Sarah’s (Jennifer Connelly’s) self-professedly cowardly muppet guide through the labyrinth, has the same elaborately craggy face as late poet/novelist/barfly Charles Bukowski. I just did all the work (“work”) of finding images of both and was preparing to blow the internet’s mind with this comparison when I thought I might as well quickly google “Bukowski Hoggle.”

I did, and found this and this. Oh well. Now I know it’s an apt comparison.

By the way, if you are in the Pittsburgh area, the Hollywood is well worth the short trip through the Liberty Tubes. (So is Dormont in general.) They’re the only game in town if you’d like to see a live showing of cult classic The Room, and have screened stuff I wouldn’t have been able to see elsewhere in town (Tim and Eric’s Billion-Dollar Movie, Beyond the Black Rainbow). I’m pumped because in a week or so they’re showing one of my favorite films of all time, Pee-Wee’s Big AdventureThey’ve re-opened the theater—a big, old-timey movie house with a giant balcony—a couple times and this time it seems to be sticking, as they’ve done it as a civic organization rather than a for-profit endeavor. So, consider this “Reason to Love Pittsburgh #7,” the latest in that sadly neglected series. (Seriously, there are thousands of reasons to love Pittsburgh. I’ve only got around to writing about seven of them.)

Another Great Writing Opportunity

Following up on this earlier post about a great (read: terrible) “ghostwriting” opportunity, here’s an ad I came across on Pittsburgh’s Craig’s List for fiction writing assistants.

As you’ll see, this sweet opportunity involves taking the ad-poster’s outline and . . . well, writing his/her novel, it appears. The successful candidate will have excellent grammatical skills, write quickly, and be able to make revisions quickly.

Okay, so it’s a ghostwriting gig. The person who posted this ad has an idea but isn’t good with words and just wants to pay someone to write it up. So let’s scroll down to the bottom where it mentions pay and see how much . . . Oh. Oh my. “Compensation: no pay.”

I won’t go on, because you probably get the picture. This crumb doesn’t mention anything about the successful applicant getting course credit, because he/she either doesn’t care or hasn’t thought that far ahead. What may be most audacious, though, is that applicants are asked to submit not only 1,000 words of writing but to spend additional time writing a 500-word statement asking for this person’s consideration. Does the poster think this is an attractive offer? Maybe he/she should mention literally any benefit the writing assistant(s) will derive from this arrangement.

My post about the ghostwriting gig was rather light-hearted, but this ad irked me so much I actually posted a response on CL. Was I too harsh? I don’t think so. It never fails to annoy me when I peruse CL or elance and see the rates people consider fair for writing (or editing or proofreading). I’m inclined to say that writing is not day labor, but that’s a faulty comparison because people have a better sense of the effort and skill involved in day labor. And I doubt you’d ever see someone get day laborers to build a patio or spread gravel around a driveway for no money by calling it an “internship.”

Update: Some time after I posted this, the person who posted the original, offending CL ad must have come to his/her senses (or, maybe, was adequately shamed by my response) and yanked the ad. So, you’ll have no luck following the link above. I imagine I’ve given a decent enough impression of the gist of the ad from the above takedown, however.

Notes on “The Next Three Days”

After missing it in theaters and taking my sweet time about having Netflix send me a copy, this weekend I finally checked out The Next Three Days, the Russell Crowe film that shot in Pittsburgh over the summer and fall of 2009. I felt compelled to watch it—and guilty that I so far hadn’t—because my brother worked on the film as a locations assistant, crashing on my futon for at least part of his stay in Pittsburgh.

I can’t really offer a comprehensive review of the film. Read the rest of this entry »

Pittsburgh’s Loss

Sad news (and old news, apparently). The Gist Street Reading Series has concluded its final season. I laded on the praise and affection a while ago; now it reads like an elegy. Ah, sad times for Pittsburgh’s literary scene. Gist Street was very much its crown jewel.

Sad (Book-Related) News

Joseph-Beth Booksellers, a real high point in the life of Pittsburgh’s literary scene, is closing this weekend. Darn this rough economy!

They moved from a big, lovely two-story space (with escalators and a weird, tiny tranquility fountain sort of thing) to a more cramped space earlier in the year, but still had a great selection, at least in the fiction section and, especially, in the number of literary magazines they carried. I special-ordered Jack Pendarvis’s Awesome one time and the clerk advised me that if it came in and I decided I didn’t want it, that was fine. Some may see that as a lack of business acumen, but I was impressed by the book-first attitude evinced by that policy.

On a note that is either more positive or slightly morbid, though, they are having a great sale—40 percent off everything—until they close on November 14th.

“Being Dead in Pittsburgh” (Reason to Love Pittsburgh #6)

Fascinating article at Boing Boing about the huge number of cemeteries in Pittsburgh—not the ones you see every couple of miles, in every corner of the city, but the very old ones that have been displaced and/or that are under your feet. (Or just under my feet, if you don’t live here.) Of special ghoulish interest is St. Anthony’s Chapel of Troy Hill, whose claim to fame is housing the most relics anywhere this side of the Vatican.

Pittsburghers, as much as residents of any city or nation, love touting the things about their home city that they see as special, singular, amazing. Sometimes, as with Pittsburghese or Primanti Brothers sandwiches, the things are dumb and overstated—seriously, it is a sandwich with french fries and cole slaw on top that’s likely to give you indigestion for the better part of a day. But oftentimes Pittsburghers’ claims are legit. This is one where Pittsburgh’s unique mix of topsy-turvy landscape and its rich history of immigrant communities, combine to make something pretty weird and amazing.

A Movie Theater in Homestead, Pennsylvania

(After (and with apologies to) Allen Ginsberg)

What thoughts I have of you tonight, Al Jaffee, for

I walked past the storefronts under the trees with a headache

self-conscious looking at the neon displays.

In my hungry fatigue, and shopping for images, I went

into the neon movie theater, dreaming of your enumerations!

What thrillers and what rom-coms! Whole families dallying in line! Cashiers leaning on their counters! Ushers whisking popcorn into their butlers!

I eyed the box-office boy. Are you open, I asked of him. I am open if you are ready, said he.

Where are we going, Al Jaffee? The movie begins in six minutes. Which way does your beard point tonight?

One for Scott Pilgrim, I said.

Do you mean Scott Pilgrim versus the World, he asked of me.

Where are you tonight, Al Jaffee, with your snappy answers to stupid questions?

Yes, that’s the one, I murmured, and felt absurd.

Will we walk all night through solitary streets, Al Jaffee? The trees add shade to shade, lights out in the houses, we’ll both be lonely and fail to produce timely zingers to inane questions.

Will we stroll dreaming of the lost America of love past black SUVs in strip malls, home to our silent apartments?

Ah, dear father, graybeard, lonely old courage-teacher, what America did you have when Alfred E. Neuman quit poling his ferry and you got out on a smoking bank and stood watching the boat disappear on the black waters of Lethe?

Marathon training begins (AND, Reason to Love Pittsburgh #5: The Pittsburgh Marathon)

As of yesterday, I am in training for the 2010 Philadelphia Marathon, to be  held November 21. According to the Runner’s World plan I am following this time around, I began my training with . . . a day of rest. I know, anticlimactic.

This will be my second marathon, as I ran the 2010 Pittsburgh Marathon. As you’ll deduce from my running a second one, I loved the marathon. It was rough stuff, but I had fun doing it and was immensely proud of the accomplishment. (My Facebook status several hours after the race: “Holy shit. I ran a marathon.” I feel that still about sums it up.)

I’m pretty excited to train right this time—I had kind of a nebulous training schedule last time, wherein I’d do two weeknight runs per week, of whatever distance I felt like (rarely going above 6 or 7 miles per outing), and steadily upped my Sunday long-run distance, getting as high as 20 before tapering down. It wasn’t a terrible training regimen, and it left me ready to do fairly well in the race (my time was a respectable four hours, fourteen minutes). But it was sort of a lazy way to go about it, and rather unfocused. My goal this time is to break four hours. With proper training I should roll up to the start line (or, you know, a cattle pen half a mile from the line) confident I can hit that target.

Anyway, this post is by way of introducing this topic to the blog, as it will become more and more of a preoccupation over the next 3+ months.

Bonus Marathon News: I also, yesterday, signed up for the 2011 Pittsburgh Marathon, which places me among the hooked. I was surprised to see that the race will start at 6:30 a.m.! and 5:30 for walkers! It’s one of those things that can’t dissuade you from signing up for an event that’s more than eight months in the future, but damn, that’s early.