Frankenstorm reading

Did you batten down your hatches yet, Pittsburgh? I would if I knew what the hell that meant.

I’m mostly worried about my Halloween decorations becoming missiles that pierce the siding of my neighbors’ homes. Or a random pumpkin crashing into my living room. I’ve heard we might have up to 70 mph wind gusts. In Pittsburgh?! What in the crap even?!  This feels like a SyFy movie where somehow a category five hurricane of snow forms over a midwest state. They’d call it Hurricaginormous Rex or something. It would star Lorenzo Lamas and Pamela Anderson as hurricane chasers. It would have dialogue like:

Pamela: “We’ve got to get out of this storm before we both die!”

Lorenzo: “There’s a storm in my pants, girl.”

Why doesn’t SyFy hire me?

Where was I?

While you’re waiting to find out just how destructive this “unprecedented weather event” is going to be, here’s a few things for you to read:

1. Me versus David Conrad.

I’ve loved his love of Pittsburgh forever, ever since he was on Relativity (My sisters still call him Leo) and still showed up at Burghy events to support good causes. Then in the past few years we’ve become acquaintances which is exactly how I envisioned my ten-year plan to become his best friend would unfold.

David has been vocal about the St. Nick’s church’s demise, so he and I decided to have a little chat about it. This interview is a result of my chat over breakfast at the Square Cafe with the star of the newly announced Lifetime series “The Secret Lives of Wives.”

We talk about the church, the Civic Arena, why he moved to Braddock, unions, Henry Clay Frick, and more. A snippet:

David sees the colorful Twitter interface on my laptop screen and immediately shields his eyes as if we’re in an Indiana Jones movie and I’m opening the Ark of the Covenant. He has clearly eschewed social media and here I am trying to show him the light. As I close my laptop, I make a mental note to one day convert him to the Church of Social Media, but for now, I need a carb-loaded apple maple crepe and a healthy dose of decaf.


Henry Clay Frick leads us down a path toward the merit of unions, and I tell David what makes me angry. For instance, when turnpike toll takers are fighting for astronomical wages considering the struggle of the average American worker in this recession. Or when a unionized worker who has done something vile is suspended with pay.

But David is a strong union supporter, and I know that about him. He fights back, defending the unions as a whole, contrasting their wages to the salaries of the management that own and run the companies. He defends the people in the unions, calling most of them good people who work hard and who deserve to be at the table when decisions about their jobs are made.  

“People died to bring us unions,” he says. “They died.” Each syllable pronounced. They. Died.

I can’t not look that in the eye.

And by “astronomical wages” I mean for what their job entails. I’ve complained about this on here before. You know that about me.

Go have a read and to see his answer to my question of, “Why do you care?”

And I can tell you this … with his ability to quote books on Pittsburgh’s history, to name exact years of obscure Pittsburgh events, and the things he does behind the scenes here … he really does care.

2. AND!

My column about Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood and on whether or not it’s doing a good job of staying true to the legacy of Fred Rogers.

A snippet:

“Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” is not about collecting dancing stars from bridge trolls or flying on a hastily crafted-together boat made of marker caps and popsicle sticks in order to rescue a half-witted pigeon that got stuck on the Statue of Liberty’s nose. Instead, Daniel learns about going to the doctor, having a picnic, being nervous about school, getting mad and, most importantly, how crayons are made.

Have a read!

And batten down the hatches!

Do we need to stock up on milk and toiletpaper for hurricanes?



  1. bucdaddy
    October 29, 2012 11:05 am

    All due respect to Mr. Conrad, perhaps I missed his good ideas for saving the church other than “People ought to sit down and talk about it.”

    And “The Secret Lives of Wives” sounds terrible, but duh: Lifetime.

    • Virginia
      October 29, 2012 11:08 am

      Actually, there was a viable plan by a north side group who offered to take on the debt in a purchase of the church to turn it into an immigration museum.

      • bucdaddy
        October 29, 2012 7:08 pm

        Viable in whose eyes?

        I’m not being contentious, just: Was it realistic? I’ve driven past that church; there’s no place to park, is there? The thing is right up against the roadway, isn’t it? It’s a threat to fall on moving vehicles, isn’t it?

        This sounds like a good case for historic preservation, but sometimes there’s just no saving an old building. Because it’s, you know, old.

        Few things annoy me more than something old being designated historic, just because it’s old. You probably know IIRC that if people live long enough, they start getting awards for it, whether they’re enviable human beings or miserable ones. Do people still get letters from the president on their 80th birthdays?

        Not everything old is worth saving. Not everything old CAN be saved.

        Is what I’m saying.

        • YinzerInExile
          October 29, 2012 11:29 pm

          An alternative perspective, if you will humor me?

          Buildings are a historic resource. Sure, they’re big and present pretty unique inconveniences compared to other historic resources, like manuscripts, museum-able artifacts, books, etc, but they are historic resources nevertheless.

          But apply your same judgement to another historic resource; apply it to, say, books–not all books are worth saving–or, to put a finer point on it, not all *stories* are worth saving. Well, who gets to decide that? Why do you think you do? Who, in what generation, gets to decide for future generations and future scholarship what stories–what information, essentially–are “good enough” to save? The same applies to buildings.

          The thing that I thing a lot of non architectural historians get hung up on is style: “We don’t need to save that because it’s ugly/there’s another one that looks just like it over there/it means nothing to me or, quite possibly, to society at large *at this time.” But there is another approach–vernacularism–that says that building is important because of the information it can provide us about the people who created it, and the people who subsequently cared for it, and the people who modified it and the environment that surrounds it. A building, no matter what it’s aesthetic value to an individual or to a given period in history, contains information. And it’s information that, in many cases, will require some future scholar or interested party to parse it, under a set of circumstances that we perhaps cannot yet imagine.

          But once it’s gone, it’s gone. You can document it, and that will certainly help potential future scholars, but it will never again be engaged in that way unique to buildings over just about any other historic resource–though occupation, visitation, all the myriad ways in which humans interact with their built environment. The moment you tear it down you lose something forever.

          And in cases of such permanence, although I understand there will be situations where preservation is impossible, I think we owe it to ourselves, our history, and our future to give it due consideration. Simply writing it off because you/contemporary society feel its inconvenient just doesn’t stack up to the potential value lost when that such a decision is easily made, or when it’s worth is knee-jerk disparaged simply because the observer cannot personally imagine it has any.

          • Christina
            October 30, 2012 4:35 am

            Thank you so much for this reply YinzerInExile, mine would have been much more emotional and in the same ratio less rational and effective. Yours is way better than what I would have been able to put together in my cranky mood.

            Just one thing: I am living in Europe. What if we here would have demolished all those buildings, because they are you know … old ??? Go figure.

            And in the case of St. Nicks: It is the oldest still standing (Pittsburgh had another one before that is gone) Croatian Roman Catholic church building in the whole United States part of the first Croatian Catholic parish in the United States ever. Pittsburgh once had ten thousands of Croatian immigrants who came to work in the mills and make Pittsburgh the Steel City. The story of these people – immigrants in general (the museum was not supposed to be only about the Croats) – is more than worth to be told and this would have been the right place. Now we are trading a very relevant historic place in the history of Pittsburgh for what? A couple of inches more of freeway and a billboard? Congratulation … that’s adding value.

            And yes, there was a realistic plan and the reasons why it did not happen are many, complex and not pretty. It makes me sad and angry.

            I just wish some more people would add what YinzerInExile wrote to their general mindset.
            Not every time a historical building can be saved, but before you pass the sentence think twice, because when it is gone, it is gone for good and can’t be replaced.

          • bucdaddy
            October 30, 2012 10:27 am

            Your “inconvenience” might look to someone else a lot like, “If this thing falls on a passing car and kills somebody, we’ll get our asses sued off.”

            But we’re kind of getting away from my initial point, which was that I didn’t hear Mr. Conrad offer any actual solutions — he didn’t offer to overpay for the building or form a Hollywood consortium to do so and maybe dismantle and rebuild it somewhere as a museum piece. He said everybody should sit down and talk about it, which I suppose has already been done, more than once, with varying degrees of recalcitrance on all sides.

            I get that there’s a lot of history and emotion involved in some old buildings, especially a church. It’s where people were baptized, and where funerals were held for their relatives. It’s where they found religion, and held many a warm celebration. It would be nice it everything everyone ever wanted to preserve could be preserved in splendid condition. But as Steven Wright said, “You can’t have everything. Where would you put it?”

            BTW, I was noting to someone the other day that Pittsburgh seems to have a history of converting old churches into bars. I think I can count at least three: Altar Bar, the Church and Mr. Small’s. Any others?

            • Sheila
              October 30, 2012 12:32 pm

              The problem with immigrant museum is who was going to pay for it? The group may have been able to buy the church from the diocese but did it have the $7,000,000 needed to convert it into a museum (number taken from the Astorino study posted on St Nick’s site)? Of course not & they never would get it. This has been a battle for more than 8 yrs when St Nicks was closed – they didn’t have the people in the parish to keep the church afloat & those parishioners instead of joining with St Nicks Millvale (built in 1900 and designated as the church for Croatian heritage) go to other churches. But b/c they were combined, St Nick’s Millvale parishioners still have to pay every month the bills of St Nicks Northside with no support from the Northside parishioners. There is more to this than just a building, but a conflict that has been going on for years and frankly, the decision by the City not to appeal the decision to allow demolition has been a mental & financial relief to many that have been supporting Northside for years.

              I’m all for keeping historic buildings to preserve history but there are ways to understand & study the history of the Croation people in our region & their faith- its just a 2 minute walk from St Nicks Northside & I invite David Conrad to go to St Nick’s Millvale if he wants to learn more. It is a gorgeous church full of history.

              • Christina
                October 30, 2012 5:53 pm

                I spent a whole day at St. Nick’s in Millvale and I am 100% sure that David Conrad did as well. It is one of the most impressive things I have ever seen and just in case you are interested – I wrote about it on my blog. Just search for Millvale and you are there.

                To completely explain and analyse the situation of St. Nicks at East Ohio goes far beyond what Ginny could cover in this article.
                I agree: The parish cannot handle this and if you read the article … that is what David said, too. For the parish it is unbearable financial pressure with no payback. They need to get rid of it to be able to focus on the Millvale church (the recent building is from 1922 – the old one burned down). The restoration and preservation of the Vanka murals will be an ongoing task.
                The neighborhood intiative cannot handle this alone as well and this is why a couple of more parties and their special (financial) interest come into the game. Their would be ways – the Republic of Crotia has special fund for perserving Croatian heritage in the diaspora. The Roman Catholic Church isn’t a poor organisation either and the city would benefit from a museum like this a well. There are ways, but it is a question of wanting to find a solution and some wanted more, some wanted less like so often in life. We – sadly – won’t solve this here.

  2. spoon
    October 29, 2012 11:08 am

    Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood has done some amazing things for Teaspoon. He sings Daniel’s songs while washing his hands and going somewhere new. It’s cute when I leave for work and he says to his brother “No worry, grown-ups come back!”

  3. jen a
    October 29, 2012 12:33 pm

    I haven’t seen Daniel Tiger yet. How true is he really to Mister Rodgers? Does he say Cray-ons or Cray-ins?

  4. Butcher's Dog
    October 29, 2012 1:21 pm

    ANY weather emergency in embryo requires a stocking up of toilet paper and milk. It’s in the fine print at the bottom of your TV screen during weather reports. This one also requires a supply of water as well as batteries for your flashlights. Assuming you have flashlights.

    And just so we’re clear: one inch of rain would be 10 inches of snow, so you do the math on the projected three or four inches of rain we’re to expect.

    • empirechick
      October 29, 2012 3:16 pm

      Milk, Butcher’s Dog? I would have thought you to be stocking up on beverages of a stronger variety…

      • Butcher's Dog
        October 30, 2012 11:02 am

        I was thinking of families here, empirechick. My stockpile of stronger beverages never runs low enough to add additional supplies in a weather emergency. I mean, we turn over inventory quite often, but never run low. Thanks for thinking about me, though!

  5. facie
    October 29, 2012 10:16 pm

    I forgot about Relativity. I loved that show!

    I have a lot of respect for David Conrad for being so vocal in his support for the Burgh. The first time I read that he bought a place in Braddock, I was impressed. I hope this new show works out, but I also hope he sticks around the Burgh.