Tag Archives: Western Pennsylvania

Lost and found in western Pennsylvania

This afternoon I was scheduled to meet up with friends at a coffee shop in the Shadyside neighborhood of Pittsburgh. I don’t go to Shadyside often, so I printed out some directions, hopped in the car, and headed south.

About halfway there I realized that I’d taken the wrong route: I was on Route 8 rather than my planned Route 28. But I didn’t fret; the two hook up around the Highland Park Bridge, and the travel distance was just about the same.

So I got to the bridge, crossed, and stayed on Route 8 South. I checked my directions and saw that Google Maps had suggested I take some back roads, so once again I was off track. But again I didn’t worry, because I knew once I reached the intersection with Penn Avenue there would be signs to Shadyside, and I could figure it out from there.

It wasn’t until I parked and was walking to the meetup that I realized that I hadn’t needed the directions at all. I knew my way around yet another area of Pittsburgh.

In my past whenever I’ve realized I know how to get from here to there in an area, I’ve almost immediately moved away. It wasn’t that I wanted to be always lost; rather, it takes me a couple of years to get to know the back roads and alternate routes and connecting avenues anywhere, and it also happens to take me a couple of years to grow bored with a job and want to move on.

But past performance may not be indicative of future results.

I moved back to my hometown of Butler, PA in 1999, thinking I’d spend a few years here regrouping and figuring out what to do next in life. Nearly nine years later, I’ve discovered something that I want to do, and doing it means staying right here, creating great things with people throughout this area.

Western Pennsylvania is lovely. I like the pace of life; I love the rolling hills and green countryside; I dig the arts scene; I appreciate the cost of living; I curse the PLCB; and I wish I could convince more of my faraway friends to come visit, so I could take them on drives through the area and show off how cool this region is.

And I especially want to take everyone on drives now that I’m confident I know where I’m going.

(Check out other stories of Pittsburgh and this region at the Primary Pittsburgh Project.)

All the fun that’s fit to print

To help you plan your week, here are the key events on my schedule. Please join me when you can:

Wednesday, December 5: The 74th anniversary of the Repeal of Prohibition. I’ll post recommended beverages on Wednesday. For now, if you are the sort of person who enjoys an intoxicating beverage, plan to be somewhere where you can drink one by 5:32 EST on Wednesday.

Thursday, December 6: Pittsburgh Geek Night the 56th at the Church Brew Works. 5pm to 9pm. Details at the Pittsburgh Geeks website.

Friday, December 7: Butler County Chamber of Commerce holiday event. I realize that many of you will not be interested in this, but I plan to attend. Which will create a challenge when I then rush off to…

Friday, December 7: Gist Street Reading Series, 7:30pm. The final reading of 2007, and the last before the series takes a six month hiatus. Should be a great one. Details at the Gist Street website.

Saturday, December 8: Portraits for Toys at the Creative Treehouse, 10am – 8pm. A terrific idea:

On Saturday, December 8th, the members of the Creative TreeHouse in Bellevue will put their talents to good use and hold a benefit for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Pittsburgh. Professional holiday portraits will be taken at the Creative Treehouse, located at 517 Lincoln Ave (2nd Floor) Bellevue, PA 15202 from 10:00AM to 8:00PM for those who bring a toy donation for Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Suggested donations are toys for boys and girls up to age thirteen and around the price range of $10. Family portraits are available for a donation of two gifts, one for a boy and one for a girl. Single portraits will be available for a donation of one gift. A holiday backdrop designed by Creative TreeHouse members will be available as will a normal studio backdrop for single and family portraits.

The whole family is invited to spend time at the Creative TreeHouse while portraits are being taken. Portraits will be available to download online with a special code provided to each guest at the event. Details here.

Sunday, December 9: Closkey family goes to the theater! Actually, this will most likely be my sister Katy, my mother, and me going to the theater, as the play we’re eyeballing is Pride and Prejudice at PICT. The men of the family are guaranteed to whine and gripe, so we need not even ask them. For myself, I look forward to seeing David Whalen as a charming, blond Mr. Darcy. (Sigh.)

Sunday, December 9: There will be some kind of football game at 4:15pm. I’m not sure I’ll be able to watch it — I hope my heart is strong enough.

Every song’s a comeback

Laura and Jude

Originally uploaded by cynthiacloskey

Last Friday, my sister Laura flew into town for the weekend. My brother Jude had bought three tickets to see Wilco in Pittsburgh, and he’d asked Laura to come. I got the third ticket.

The show was excellent. Jeff Tweedy and his band clicked nicely and seemed to feed off each others’ energy. Tweedy sounded concerned about the severe sobriety of the crowd and the potential impact on our enthusiasm– the show was at the AJ Palumbo Center on the Duquesne University campus, so there was nary a drink to be found. But then he said the band would have to “intoxicate you with our music,” and they went ahead and did exactly that.

Tweedy has a reputation of being moody and unpredictable in concert. On this occasion, he was energized and in good voice, said extremely nice things about the city of Pittsburgh, and worked hard to get everyone in the crowd up and dancing and clapping along. They played pretty much every song I hoped they would, including about half of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. There were fun, flashing lights and rocking guitar solos. Let me also announce here that I am in love with multi-instrumentalist Pat Sansone and his retro guitar stylings.

Find a couple more blurry photos from the show here.

If you have the chance to see Wilco on their current tour, I encourage you to go.

Beyond the music, this was the single best AJ Palumbo Center concert experience I’ve ever had. We had nice seats in the right-side bleachers, close enough to see well and far enough back not to be blocked too badly by the amps. The people around us were enthusiastic and pleasant, and they didn’t seem to mind me dancing in my tiny bit of space. We found ample parking in the garage next to the center, and after the show we were out of the garage and cruising up I-279 within minutes. Honestly, this experience has restored my interest in seeing shows at this venue.

PodCamp Pittsburgh 2!

podcamp Pittsburgh

I want to tell you (or remind you yet again) of a noteworthy event, one that I’m proud to be involved with and that I hope you’ll enjoy.

A blockbuster summer sequel: PodCamp Pittsburgh 2

It was a hit last November, so we’ve brought it back. PodCamp Pittsburgh 2 happens this weekend, on Saturday, August 18 and Sunday, August 19 from 9am to 4pm, with a networking happy hour on Saturday evening. Plus a meet-n-greet tonight!

PodCamp Pittsburgh 2 is a FREE community conference for people who create, enjoy, or are interested in blogs, vlogs, audio podcasts, web video, content networks, and new media. The event offers basic and advanced sessions, panel discussions, lectures, and hands-on demonstrations.

Whether you’re a Web 2.0 novice, a plugged-in ‘net guru, or anyone between, there are sessions to fit your interests and experience. And it’s completely FREE.

Do you need to have an iPod or an iPhone or anything else ‘i’ or ‘pod’?

Nope. This is really all about the web in all its fun formats. It’s as non-geeky as you want it to be … or as radically geeky as you want.

Internet superstars, local pros, and more

New media experts will include:

Plus! I’ll present several sessions on blogging, including a how-to on starting a blog and a "best practices" panel. Come and cheer me on!

Get more details and register right now!

It all happens THIS WEEKEND, August 18 and 19, at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh in downtown Pittsburgh. The full scoop is online at the PodCamp Pittsburgh website. That’s also the place to register online (for FREE).

The conference will be a prime opportunity to explore what the web has to offer for you, and/or for your business or organization. I hope you can join us!

“I’ve never thought twice about the safety”

convention_center_collapse.jpgI’ve been on a video shoot this morning, so I haven’t read much of anything about the convention center collapse in Pittsburgh. But from what I’ve read so far here here and here, the David L. Lawrence Convention Center seems to be turning into Pittsburgh’s version of Boston’s John Hancock Tower.

The building’s most dangerous and conspicuous flaw was its faulty glass windows. Entire 4′ x 11′, 500 lb (1.2×3.4 m, 227 kg) windowpanes detached from the building and crashed to the sidewalk hundreds of feet below. Police closed off surrounding streets whenever winds reached 45 mph (72 km/h). According to the Boston Globe, MIT built a scale model of the entire Back Bay in its Wright Brothers Wind Tunnel to identify the problem. The exact cause of the malfunction was never revealed due to a legal settlement and gag order. Most now diagnose the problem as a combination of the double-paned glass construction method, and the pressure differentials between the inside and outside air. [citation]

At least it was cheaper and didn’t take as long as the John Hancock. And our deathtrap is much prettier. Pretty/dangerous

Creative Cafe of Elisco Advertising

Duane Rieder photo exhibitNew creative/social venue opening in Lawrenceville:

Elisco Advertising will open up its Creative Cafe located in Lawrenceville to bring together artists, musicians, poets and chefs for regular happenings, just to get the creative juices flowing. And the public will be invited to many of them. Elisco has a reputation for alternative advertising. But they also love cooking and fine wine. The Creative Cafe is an opportunity to bring creatives together from all corners of Pittsburgh to feed off each other, if you will. The caveat – the theme will always be food. And, it’s FREE.

The first happening will be Thursday, November 30th from 5:30 to 7:00 PM with a wine and cheese reception to launch the food-inspired photo exhibit of Pittsburgh photographer Duane Rieder. Come meet the photographer, mingle with fascinating people. and enjoy the Elisco touch.

BlogFest 7 & BlogDay 2006

Ending the summer with a bloggy bang, it’s…

WHAT: Pittsburgh BlogFest 7
WHEN: Wednesday, August 30th, 2006, 5:30 PM to 9:30 PM and beyond!
WHERE: Finnegan’s Wake (near PNC Park, 20 General Robinson St., North Shore, 412-325-2601), in the Pub Room
WHO: All of you bloggers
AND: Creating Text(iles), Inner Bitch, Grabass (in absentia), and My Brilliant Mistakes.

As always, if you plan to attend, please RSVP by e-mailing blogfest AT closkey.com.

We planned this BlogFest to coordinate with this year’s International BlogDay. BlogDay is dedicated to discovering new blogs, in other regions and areas of interest. Find out more here.

BlogDay is actually on 8/31, but that also happens to be the night of a Steelers home exhibition game — as sensible Pittsburghers we chose not to compete with the world champions for attendance (not to mention parking on the North Shore).

But it’s all for the best, because we can attend the BlogFest, meet new bloggers there, and then blog about them the next day. Glorious!


Thanks to everyone who came to today’s Pittsburgh BlogIN. I had a swell time, and now I’ve got a page of cool things to follow up on — gadgets to get, tricks to try, and plans to make for the next event.

For more reactions, photos, and other evidence, check out the prompt posts from Mark Stroup and Sri Bala. I think Mark and Venky Krishnamoorthy were the only people to create actual posts at the event, so special kudos to them.

The list of tasks I’d hoped to accomplish at the event was long and obviously impossible to complete. But I did manage to start updating the look of this site. I had liked the design I threw together for my MySpace page, so I’m expanding on it here. The typography and text layout need work — more flair and more cohesion, maybe some sort of theme to pull it together — but at last I’ve been able to use this image of a rusting, peeling surface that I found years back. (FYI: The pic is a stock photo from Microsoft’s clip art library, one of several photos I considered for the Junction Dance Theatre website.)

ALSO: Very special thanks (in the case of Anne, make that Very Special Thanks) to those who spread the word about the BlogIN even though they couldn’t attend. i hope you’ll be able to make it to a future event.

UPDATE: More feedback from the event… in the comments to this post Liz points out that she accomplished some blogs to-dos at the BlogIN and after, and we discuss ideas for future such events. Plus over at Inner Bitch, Christina describes the thrill of meeting a celebrity sketchbook.

When’s the next BlogFest?

Dear Pittsburgh-area bloggers:

We’re trying to schedule the next BlogFest. We thought we’d have everything in place by now, but it has been devilishly difficult to plan things right now at our normal location, Finnegan’s Wake.

I’m told this is because it’s baseball season. Apparently people like to go to Finnegan’s Wake before, during, and after baseball games, and thus the staff are unable to answer the phone. Or maybe they’re all training for positions on the team. Either way, we’re having trouble reaching them to reserve space.

So, we’re still working on it. Look for a real announcement soon. The event itself will most likely be on a Friday evening in May when the Pirates are playing away.

A bitch of an unsatisfactory situation

Last night I went to see Brokeback Mountain. I went with my handsome friend John. His wife Michele set it up.

Both of them wanted to see the movie, but they’ve got two little babies and a small budget that requires they limit babysitting. Typically they take turns seeing movies, one staying home while the other goes to the movie, the two of them tag-teaming the childcare.

For this movie though, John felt he couldn’t go alone. He teaches at the local high school, and this town is conservative and small. He was convinced that if people (parents, teenagers, concerned citizens) saw a solo male attending a showing of a movie about gay cowboys, they would draw conclusions that could threaten his job.

So, he needed a chaperone, and that chaperone had to be female. As a result, I got a home-cooked meal (Michele is an excellent cook) and a free viewing of an Oscar-nominated movie in the company of an intelligent and good friend. My life has its special rewards.

Note please: I continue to be astonished that a solo man attending a movie with homosexual themes could be more controversial than a married man attending a movie with a single woman while his wife sits at home with their toddler and infant.

But to continue. I was not blown away by the movie, although I found the performances, direction, and cinematography all excellent. The thing is, it’s a sad story. It verges on tragic — and I don’t use that word lightly. I could feel the tension of the characters, how impossible their situations were. Even so, the story didn’t hook into my heart. I left touched but not noticeably changed.

I’m struggling to articulate why. Maybe it was a backlash at how much hype the movie has been received. I think it has something to do with the main character, Ennis: I understood that he felt trapped, intellectually I understood his dilemma, but as a person I have never perceived myself to be so limited as he was, and the movie somehow didn’t evoke that sensation in me. The limiting factor could have been me or the movie, I don’t know. I know only that it didn’t do it for me.

At least I stayed until the end. Two couples left during the showing I attended: The first, a broad guy and smaller woman during the first love scene, the second during the second. As John asked later, “Did they not know what the movie was about?” My guess was that they did know, but they didn’t know how much would be shown on the big screen and how much implied. Or perhaps they were more surprised by the limits of their own tolerance.

Possibly the female of each couple persuaded the male that it wouldn’t be like what it sounded, and once those scenes started the guys concluded that yes, it would be. Sad for them then that they didn’t stay, as there was little more physical action than those two scenes.

Then again, that’s just my read. Maybe there was more than I’d taken note of. Moral judgments aside, anything you haven’t seen before surprises you. I’ve lived in cities like Boston and San Francisco, and though I’ve always considered myself open-minded, I’ve probably forgotten how surprising various sights were to me the first time too.

Ever since the movie had launched, I’d heard friends predict it wouldn’t play in Butler. I maintained that it would, especially if it won an Academy award — turns out that all the movie needed was to be nominated to get such pervasive exposure.

I don’t think it should win Best Picture, but every performance in it was worthy of note, and the cinematography was gorgeous. And I’d like to nominate the Regal Cinemas at Moraine Point a little award of its own: Bravest Cinema in a Provincial Town.