How Pittsburgh Owned 2014

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So you says to your friend the other day, you says, “That bitch never writes anymore.”

Oh, I write. I promise you. Every day I write.

Like I says to my husband the other day, I says, “If I didn’t write, I’d shrivel up and die.”

I just haven’t had time to write much HERE. In this space. But such is the evolution of my life as a writer, mother, wife, restaurant owner, forty-year-old.

I’ve written so much. I compiled my Burghy gift guide and forgot to share it here. I LITERALLY ACTUALLY FACTUALLY HISTORICALLY solved the mystery of why we buy milk, bread, and toilet paper before snowstorms … and forgot to share it here.

I even wrote a gift to you.

To all of Pittsburgh.

I spent about seven hours working on this gift to you. Reliving 2014 for you. Going back through the year, all the news stories, the viral stories, so that I could remind you that Pittsburgh, your city, had a very good year. So you don’t forget, or grow complacent, or become blasé about a city that refuses to slow down, give in, give up, regress.

You can read that gift here in my annual Ten Reasons Why Pittsburgh Owned 2014. 

Take a guess what just three of them might be, let alone ten, and then go read all of them. You too will be surprised about how much you’ve forgotten about 2014. Pittsburgh doesn’t need the giant rubber duck or the yarn bridge to still make a lasting, noticeable mark on the world … and 2014 proved that.

We have a great home, guys. Give it a hug any way you can find to do so. Even if it’s just standing at the Point and taking a long deep appreciative breath.

Group hug, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.





Pittsburgh Parking Wars

It was revealed on Wednesday evening that the 2015 Pittsburgh budget called for not only an increase in some parking rates, despite the fact that parking costs are already a bowl full of ridiculous with a side of bizonkers, but also extended meter enforcement hours until 10:00 p.m.

Currently, the meters are enforced in downtown until 6:00 p.m., and that’s great news for restaurant owners and business owners like me and my husband. Park at a meter at 5:30 or so, feed a few quarters, and once that puppy realizes it’s six o’clock, it’s all, “Yeah. Whatever. Bye.”

I was angry when this same policy was put in place a few years back, only to eventually be repealed.  Had I more time and inclination, I would hunt down my posts about it, but, yeah. Whatever. No.

I was angry yesterday, when I heard they were trying it again. So I did what I do … I ranted on Twitter.

Read from the bottom up. If I had the time to flip these around, I would, but, yeah. Whatever. No.

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I didn’t crop out my Apple Store tweet because, seriously, that happened. I think they’re wizards and I don’t mean computer wizards; I mean wizard wizards. Magic wand wizards. Eye of newt wizards. Of Oz wizards. Either that or Jedis.

Where was I? Right. Suck it, all you who have whined at me and complained that I was going to be super easy on Bill Peduto, because I’m a fan. No, I was pissed and I said it and he saw it and bloop-blip-bleep goes my phone telling me that I’ve got some direct messages on Twitter from the Mayor.

Uh-oh.

I’m about to get yelled at by the mayor, aren’t I?

Have a look, and you can read these from top to bottom. Lucky you.

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Well then.

First, do you know that when you park at the Cleveland airport, you don’t drive around the garage looking for a spot while shouting at your children that YOU’LL TURN THIS CAR AROUND AND WE WON’T GO TO DISNEY IF YOU DON’T ALL STOP INTENTIONALLY BREATHING ON ONE ANOThER? It is all automated. Electronic signs at each row tell you how many regular spaces, if any, are open, and how many handicapped are open in that particular row. Every space in the garage has a red or green indicator light, so when you turn into a row with an empty space or spaces, you just look down the row for the green light and there’s your open spot. IT IS SUPER AWESOME and it taught me that Pittsburgh was in the dark ages, parking technology wise. I mean. Cleveland. Come on.

Second, when I heard that Bill Peduto was proposing this change after he was against this very thing back when Lukey did it, I imagined he was sitting in a conference room being told there was a budget shortfall and he simply said, “Eh, whatever. Raise the parking rates and enforce those suckers until 10:00 at night. Boom. [drops mic and walks out].” That made me angry. I don’t want the people to pay more just because the politicians couldn’t be bothered to address waste or put any real thought into the budget or into actually making things better.

Having read what the Mayor is saying, I’m intrigued. Data-driven. Technology. Dynamic pricing. I want to see what happens with this. I think Pittsburgh needs this type of technology, and if we really do get it, it could completely change the efficiency, usefulness, and general “I WILL PUNCH A PUPPY IF I DON’T FIND A SPACE SOON” frustration of downtown parking.

All of this is in the ordinance, which you can read here.  (p.s. This took me 15 minutes to find which is 12 minutes longer than it takes me to find just about anything on the web on account of I am a web-sleuthing genius. Fix that, City.)

The Mayor mentioned in a later direct Twitter message that they would be better explaining what they mean by “dynamic pricing” at some point next week. However, reading the ordinance, it appears dynamic pricing will only be implemented in certain areas.

In addition to dynamic pricing, there’s something called dynamic HOURS. It looks like everywhere in the city will end meter enforcement at 6:00 p.m., except the North Shore, Downtown, and the South Side who will have dynamic hours from 6 to 10 p.m., meaning within that timeframe hours of enforcement will be adjusted according to supply and demand.

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I’m curious to see how that will work and what kind of pricing we will see. (p.s. There is a typo that says 10 a.m. instead of 10 p.m. Fix that, City.)

Sundays will still be free.

So for now, as it seems we’re going to get something in return for paying more, I’m going to quash my anger, even as a downtown business owner, and I’m going to see where this takes us. I hope it takes us into the future ahead of other cities, rather than us doing what Pittsburgh always used to do: do, acquire, adopt, accept, realize, and become things five to ten years after everyone else.

This might catch us up with other cities who are incorporating technology into their parking systems, and maybe even catapult us ahead of them.

However, if these promises don’t come to fruition and in 2016 we’re all being taxed to death, driving around town thinking of punching puppies as we hunt down a meter that will only let us park for an hour for ten dollars so we don’t have to pull into a $30 garage, so help me Nutella, I will become a bowl full of LIVID with a side of LOOK HOW MANY SWEAR WORDS I CAN INCORPORATE INTO ONE BLOG POST.

Amen.





Bunny toots, Grinch poops, and a bit of holiday perspective

Each year right about this time is when real true havoc hits America.

Holiday. Havoc.

[Wilhelm scream]

It’s not bad enough that we feel pressure to make every holiday season the BEST. EVER. with turkey, trimmings, lights, cards, gifts, parties, etc., but now we’ve got Pinterest and I don’t know if you’ve plugged “Christmas Cookies” into the Pinterest search box lately, but please do so that you can also see what these overachieving batshit Martha Stewarts are calling Christmas Cookies these days. (Click the pictures to be taken to their respective recipes, if you’re so inclined, you sicko.)

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GTFOOH. Yeah, let me attempt to make teeny tiny birdies kissing in a tree in a manner that doesn’t look like I made a sad purple octagon. Let me try to ice that little crooked reindeer grin in a way that doesn’t look like Rudolph took too much meth before lining his lips with eyeliner. Let me learn how to feed a bunny rabbit a diet of sugar water and corn syrup so that he will poop out teeny tiny little marshmallows for my little cocoa cookies.

My point is, it’s so easy to get wrapped up in material inadequacies this time of year. The neighbor’s house is going to be better decorated than yours. Your frenemy’s turkey moister (dirrrrrty). Their gifts better. Their children cleaner. Their trees more majestic. Their bunnies pooping out perfect little tiny marshmallows and their army of caterpillars spinning perfect silk to use for wrapping ribbon. The threads of Christmas start creeping out and intertwining with Thanksgiving and your turkey decorations have candy canes on them and the Joneses are winning so you start sprinting to keep up with them and before you know it, you’re literally up to your eyeballs in Amazon Prime boxes that you are only 75% sure of the contents therein.

Did I just rant? Sorry.

Guys, it’s fine to get wrapped up in all of that, if that’s what presses your JOY button and flicks on your MEANINGFUL switch. But a little perspective helps us to further appreciate what we have OUTSIDE of our Pinterest-perfect lives.

Stories like that of Michael, a child who spent 200 days in Children’s Hospital fighting an incredibly painful and rare medical syndrome. 200. Days. I almost throat-punched an orderly to escape the hospital 18 hours after the birth of my second child.

Michael was granted a wish and he wished a selfless wish. He’s got a Pittsburgh heart in his small chest.

Close that Pinterest window and please read my latest in Pittsburgh Magazine:

At about 130 days into his stay at Children’s, a family friend with impressive connections* played the part of Bill Gates and asked Michael, “Can I give you something? What do you want? Toys? Games? Do you want to meet a Steeler? Penguin? Pirate? What do you want most? Anything!” I guarantee if Michael had said, “What I want is Mario Lemieux to walk in here carrying Troy Polamalu, who is carrying a basket of toys as big as Clint Hurdle,” the friend would have said, “Done.”

Because that’s what you do for kids who have suffered more than any adult could or should. In his soft voice, Michael said, “I just want someone to tell Pittsburgh about a nice thing someone did for me.” So I was contacted. 

Go read! Next week, I’ll have an update on Michael for you, after I visit with him again.

But for now, read, absorb, and realize that your cornflake Christmas wreath “cookies” turning out to look like Grinch poops littering Mount Crumpit doesn’t really mean one single important thing.

Life’s just so much bigger than that.

Michael taught me that. Let him teach you too.

*That well connected friend is Saul Markowitz of Markowitz Communications. He’s got a Pittsburgh heart too.





Random n’at

1. A text from my mom after I replied “LOL” to the preceding text from her telling me I am to design her new kitchen:

“No LOL unless you mean Lots Of Love because I am DEAD SERIOUS. And so is YOUR FATHER.”

Of course I responded LOL to that and then her head exploded.

2. Russell Martin reportedly wants AT LEAST $75 million over five years.  Choose one of these reaction gifs. All are appropriate.

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Maybe not the last one; I just love that gif.

3. I solved the mystery of why we’re slowing down at the mouths of tunnels in Pittsburgh and wrote about it for the November edition of Pittsburgh Magazine. 

A snippet:

You’ve slowed down. You’ve read the 40 signs. You’re prepared to stop, foot hovering over the brake. You’ve ensured you’re not hauling any flammable liquids, as four signs have warned against. You’re not over-height, as three signs have warned. You’ve included a bibliography and page numbers. You’ve now slowed to 35 miles per hour.

You jerk! Don’t you see the signs next to the “Pedestrians Prohibited” signs and the “No U-Turn” sign? Don’t you realize they want you to “MAINTAIN YOUR SPEED?” But you’re slowing down because you still haven’t read the four “Stay in lane” signs. (The actual hellmouth will open, unleashing the tunnel monster if you change lanes within a Pittsburgh tunnel.)

Go have a read and see how I managed to talk about helicopter parents in Upper St. Clair.

4. I’m in the final stages of compiling this year’s Burghy Holiday Gift Guide for the magazine, so if you’ve got an awesome idea for a gift made or developed right here in the Burgh, hit me up at virginia [at] thatschurch.com.

Immediately. Right now. Go.

5. County controller Chelsa Wagner held a press conference, an actual real live press conference with news cameras and press releases and a lectern and microphones and VISUALS on an EASEL to announce that Rich Fitzgerald hasn’t been logging his miles appropriately for his county-issued 2007 Jeep Cherokee.

She used his Twitter account and made screencaps of it and cross referenced it and then blew them up and put them on easels and blasted it to the city and then blasted him and then never bothered to send him the report.

Chelsa, seriously. Yes, please do your job and watch out for the taxpayers, but there’s no need for the press conference because we all know you and Rich Fitzgerald have a personal beef and therefore you just look ridiculous and petty and immature standing up there with your charts and lectern placard.

Gawd.

Screenshot:

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Rich, log your miles correctly.

Chelsa, do your job without the unnecessary public fanfare to call out a person you very publicly hate.

As if I don’t already have enough people who hate me on Grant Street. Meh.

And please do not bother trying to draw a comparison to Lukey taking the brand new police-assigned Homeland Security SUV to the Toby Keith concert. He never should have even TOUCHED that car. This is Rich’s county-issued car. We’re just talking about miles here. So just shhhhhh.

6. I tried watching a bit of the Steelers game last week, but felt gross about it in light of my quitting the NFL and turned it off.  I turned it on this week for about two minutes to see the Steelers looking like Rod Barajas running through three inches of mud.

High-five if you get that joke. Little Pirates throwback there.

7. Finally, on a personal note, which, LOL (NOT Lots of Love, Mom) because everything I write in this space is personal, I have decided that in 2015 I will read one book a week. Fiction, nonfiction, pop-up book about dinosaurs, recipe book, doesn’t matter. One book a week.

What should I read? What’s good? What changed your life? What made you a better person. What made you get to the last page and whip that book at the wall in anger like I did when I got to the end of Gone Girl?

Leave some suggestions in the comments, please.

8. I’m out of time and have to end this post now!

miraclemax

 





My car tahr is on fahr.

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As you know, Pittsburgh was determined by the readership of Gawker to have America’s Ugliest Accent.

Now before you get your Steelers boxers in a bunch and start constructing a thousand-word comment on the Gawker piece in which you use phrases like barf breathers and SONSAJAGOFFBITCHES … read what I wrote. (Sometimes you write something and you think, “This isn’t bad.” And then you drink a shot of tequila and the phrase “putrescence of tongue” enters your brain and shoots out your fingertips onto the keyboard.)

Read about why we shouldn’t be too insulted.

Read about why that accent represents more than just inflection, intonation, and linguistic nuance.

A snippet:

Compared to the accents of other American cities, Pittsburgh’s is distinct. Rougher. Harder. More abrasive. And internationally speaking, it really begins to pale. It doesn’t have the breezy playfulness of the Australian accent, the curly musical frills of the French accent or the absolute majestic glory of the English accent. A man with an English accent could say, “My mucus is phlegmy,” and American ladies would strongly consider throwing their bras at his feet in ecstasy all, “Oooh. Now say, ‘My pimple is painful.’”

Speak in Shakespeare’s iambic pentameter an ode of love in your best Pittsburgh accent, and it will still sound like a bowling ball felling pins. 

Stop what you’re doyn and go read it immediately or I’ll set your tahrs on fahr.