Category Archives: Awesome Burghers

Could you be mine?

So my mother says to me she says, “You better write something on your blog soon or your readers are going to forget you exist.”

And I says to her I says, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and gosh darn it, I DO EXIST!”

Part of being this person called “PittGirl” is getting invited to stuff. Lots of stuff. Fun stuff. Boring stuff. Fancy stuff. Casual stuff. Shows, talks, press conferences.

Part of being an introvert is saying no, graciously and kindly, to most of the stuff I get invited to.

I’m just not good at people. I’m good at faking being good at people, especially with a few glasses of liquid courage in me.

But when the Heinz History Center invited me to the unveiling of the new Mister Rogers permanent exhibit, in which the actual sets from Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood would be on display on the 4th floor of the center, I didn’t say yes, I literally emailed them back and I wrote, “Um? HELL YES.”

Because I’m fun like that and I figure PR people always get boring emails back all, “Yes, sirs, I wouldst be delightest to attend your function presently, forsooth.”

Then there’s my email, “HELL YEAH!”

I digress. Naturally.

But me? Mister Rogers? Like ——><——- that.

I’ve written about it before, about my love for Fred Rogers. As a child, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was my show. If I recall correctly, it came on after Sesame Street. As an adult, I’ve read books and watched documentaries about his life, about his “deep and simple is better than shallow and complex” philosophy. About his “BE PRESENT IN THE MOMENT” philosophy, which is one I really struggle with, as an introvert. It’s hard to be present when you just want to run away from all the people. I’m working on it.

So yesterday, I walked into that exhibit, and man, the feelings. The feelings the feelings the FEELINGS.

This tree:

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This bench:

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This castle:

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And it was emotional and I didn’t know why until the drive home when it was like, EPIPHANY.

Why Fred Rogers was my homeboy.

Because as a child with a severe hearing disability, before closed captioning was on every TV, before I was old enough to even read closed captioning, I didn’t watch much TV. I can’t read cartoon characters’ lips when all they’re doing is opening and closing and not forming any shape that resembles a phonetic sound. Sesame Street puppets? No lips to read. I associated the characters with sounds. Cookie Monster: OMNOMNOMNOM. I’d laugh. Snuffleupagus? WUHWUHWUH. Big Bird? [nasally nasals]. The Count? MWAH-HAHAHAHA! Super Grover? AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

Sesame Street was a frenetic mishmash of sounds that my brain used to create a story that probably didn’t really go with the story I was actually being told. But when you can’t understand the words, you create your own story. To this day, I still do it if I’m watching a show or movie without captioning. I use the pictures to write my own story. It’s fun and it takes some frustration out of not being able to understand what is being said.

But then there came Mister Rogers. Quietly, with no background din for me to try to listen through. Speaking so so so slowly and deliberately that a little girl with hearing loss could understand exactly what he was saying to her while teaching her important things about batteries, music, art, dancing, life, and crayons.

Sure, I had to make up the stories when the puppets came on, and I honestly don’t want to know what things that demon Lady Elaine was saying, but I understood every word Mister Rogers said to me, and that’s why I gravitated toward him, his show, his life lessons, his work, his everything. And I never realized it until yesterday, at the age of 40.

So, thank you, Fred Rogers, for letting us mostly-deaf kids have something to listen to without getting frustrated because we had no clue what that green guy in the garbage can is so damn grouchy about this time.

As for you, Burghers, go to the History Center and check out these iconic REAL sets from the show. Go feel the feels you’ll feel.

And buy one of these awesome sweater-changing mugs while you’re there!

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While I have you here, some stuff I wrote:

Amelia Earhart once crash-landed in Pittsburgh and then said some pretty awesome things.

It’s time for Pittsburgh to let go of the past, just a bit. Let it go, Elsa.





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.





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.





It was MY day, bitches.

I probably shouldn’t write this post, but I honestly don’t give a shit.

And that’s a weird way to start a post about my 40th birthday, but seriously, I in no way want to seem as if I am bragging (My sisters will testify that I HATE doing anything that even resembles bragging. They even have a recent example to prove it.), but I have shared almost a decade of my Pittsburgh journey with you guys, and I don’t want to withhold from you this latest, interesting leg of the trip.

So suck it up and read this and feel free to comment about how I’m bragging and a bitch and also how fabulous I look for 40 because 40 … WAH!

Anyway …

I turned 40 last Friday. I’ve already written about how I am not too happy about turning 40. Yes, it’s better than the alternative, but these gray hairs and these wrinkles and these failing eyes and this flabby butt are not endearing me much to 40. Of course, I’ve known my flabby butt since my twenties, but still … 40, you are not welcome here.

40 started out great. Breakfast in bed. Two sets of flowers. Two balloons, one of which informed me that I had crested the proverbial “hill “and was indeed on my way down it. Screaming. In terror. Like a three-year-old approaching the Jack Rabbit’s double dip.

My husband had spent the better part of the previous week being blatantly, intentionally mysterious. Dropped hints about trips. Suitcases. His parents in Mexico.

Were we taking a trip? I secretly hoped not because while if YOUR husband handed YOU two tickets to Greece and an already packed suitcase, you’d probably jump into his arms and try to rip his pants off in ecstasy, that’s pretty much my worst nightmare. Not the sex. The travel.

I need to prepare for travel. I need to take care of shit. I need to get my affairs in order. I need to mentally prepare myself for getting on an airplane.  For possible burny death.

I know. I need drugs or something.

Anyway, my husband headed for the restaurant for the day and left me to be nervous about whatever the hell he had planned. I knew we were going to dinner, but that was it.

Fast forward to about 4:00 p.m. when my mother arrived to pick up my children so that we could have our date night. And she said, “Gin, since you’re going away for a few days, why don’t I –”

And I said, “WHAT?! AM I GOING AWAY?! AM I GOING TO DIE IN A PLANE CRASH TOMORROW?! INTO WHICH OCEAN WILL I BE PLUNGING?!” Internally, I hit my knees in prayer.

Mom looked aghast. Threw her hands over her mouth and quickly ushered the kids out the front door without saying another word to me.

A while later, my husband drove us to the South Side. I was sure we were heading for my favorite South Side spot Dish Osteria for dinner, but he pulled into Nakama valet. “For a drink.”

Ugh.

I sucked down a cosmopolitan like it was a tequila shooter and demanded to know where we were going. What were we doing. I AM 40 AND YOU ARE GOING TO GIVE ME A FRICKING HEART ATTACK.

Maybe that was the plan. Kill me at 40 so I can’t complain about 50.

Drinks imbibed, we retrieved my filthy momdorkmobile from valet.

“We need to swing into the Pirates offices to pick up my tickets for next week and then we’ll go on from there.”

Huh?

His cell phone rings. “Yeah? Hi, Jordan [our sales rep]. We’re almost there. Where will you be? Okay. See you in a few.”

Huh?

At PNC Park, I started to get it when we headed inside and suddenly there were employees directing us to the 3000 Club.

SURPRISE, GINNY!

Look who is here! All of your family! Many of your friends!

But wait. Look who is also here. Your nutty OCD sister who had a mental breakdown just a few months ago. She got on an airplane for the first time in more than a decade to be here.

And that got me. Because she got on an airplane. For me. If you’ve ever read her blog, you understand what a huge, huge, huge deal that it. Inconceivable six months ago. Completely inconceivable. She didn’t attend our sisters weekend last fall because she couldn’t get on a plane.

So I cried. Because it meant she was really well. Finally, she was whole again. Here’s my ugly-cry face. Memorize it. You won’t see it again until the Bucs win the World Series:

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But that’s not all, Ginny. Close your eyes because we have another surprise!

I opened my already teary eyes to find myself staring into the face of my best friend from college who I had not seen since 1996 on account of the fact that I live in Pittsburgh and she lives in Newfoundland, Canada.

I was stunned that my husband was actually listening to me when I talked about her. That he contacted her and managed to get her there. Can you imagine how creepy that would have seemed? “Hi! I don’t know you. You don’t know me. Can I get you a hotel room in Pittsburgh?”

So I cried some more. Who knew 40 makes you so damn weepy all the damn time. And sweary. Really sweary.

Damn.

Shit.

Hi, dad.

As the evening progressed, someone special swung by.

Mayor Bill Peduto. And here’s why I had to write this. Because he walked in and took control of the room like a badass, asked for quiet and then boom.

Proclamation. That he wrote. Himself.

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I almost cried. Especially at the part about all my faults.

Hah! Kidding.

Remember how much I’ve made fun of people with proclamations? About ridiculous days named after people we’ve never heard of? Remember that?

I’m one of those people now.

A hundred years from now they’ll be looking through old books in city hall all, “Wow. Books. Haven’t seen one of these in 20 years,” and they’ll find the proclamation copy and say, “WHO THE FRACK IS VIRGINIA MONTANEZ?!”

So I had a day. It was proclaimed. Virginia Montanez Day. And I didn’t know about it until 8:00 p.m.

And I was like, shit (sweary!), I have only four hours TO RULE. THIS. CITY.

I wanted to run yellow lights with the proclamation held up to the windshield. Suck it, traffic light camera. It’s my day. I would make duck lips and the peace sign. Ticket THIS.

I wanted to jaywalk while holding it in the air like Lloyd Dobler and a boombox. (If you don’t know who Lloyd Dobler is, you must leave now on account of your disgusting youth. Gross.)

I wanted to kick down Dunkin Donuts’ doors and demand free pastries.

Park for 30 minutes in a 15-minute loading zone.

Find Lukey and do the running man dance in front of him.

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Punt pigeons all, “It’s MY CITY, VERMIN BITCHES (all the swears!). POW!”

But I stayed at the party and had a blast.

Look at my gorgeous sisters, including the crazy one who got on a plane:

Screen Shot 2014-06-04 at 9.57.57 AM(Left to right: Princess Aurora, Ta-Ta, the 40-year-old Virginia, Tina Fey, and Pens Fan)

 

Look at my mom and dad:

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Look at me showing them how I was going to cross every street, outside of the crosswalk, until midnight:

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Haters gonna hate.

And look who else showed up:

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That’s David Conrad surrounded by my nieces and nephews who are all big “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” fans. He is the bad guy on that show, but he is truly a good Burgher.

(I am six episodes behind. If he is no longer the bad guy, DO NOT TELL ME.)

My sister Marcia (OCD Tina Fey) gave out a scream when she saw him. And then I realized that 60% of the reason she got on an airplane and risked burny death was because there was a 50% chance she was going to meet him.

Bitch. (Swears!)

So many more wonderful friends I’ve made since I started this blog arrived. It was touching. Unexpected. Sally Wiggin gave me a shirt that says “Ohio.”

I turned 40, and it didn’t suck.

Also, if you got a parking ticket in the City of Pittsburgh on May 30, 2014, get at me.

I think I can cancel those for you.

[awkward kung fu moves]

 





I am dork; hear me snort

Do you know that I am a big giant socially awkward dork? Do you? Do you need me to count the ways?

Perhaps the time I gave David Conrad a ride in my filthy momdorkmobile?

The time I met Mario Lemieux and talked for three minutes straight without inhaling once and then possibly proposed marriage to him like a hopelessly romantic Tourette’s sufferer?

The time this Saturday when I walked around the Children’s Home Shake Your Booties event at Heinz Field for twenty minutes with my blouse awkwardly tucked into my Spanx?

The time I walked around downtown all day with a size sticker strip stuck to the back of my new jeans?

The time I met Sean Casey and he said, “You have leaves in your hair.”

The time I accepted an award from Light of Life with Kennywood wide open?

I am dork. Hear me snort when I laugh.

I’ve got another one to add to the list.

Last night was the Zoo’s first ever Fashion for the Wild event, a fundraiser and fashion show and I was fortunate enough to be invited to check it out. Kiya Tomlin was there showing off her designs. She’s gorgeous. Really.

I got to meet some animals. This is Mr. Cuddlemuffins, as I named him.

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This is Sir Back-The-F–k-Up:

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Snakes. What was God thinking?

Also there were hosts Sally Wiggin and David Conrad, my BFFs:

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There was also fashion, not  modeled just by professional models, but also regular women with interesting stories.

When my sister and I arrived, we were asked if we were guests or models (we said models, of course) and we felt very flattered that we were asked that. We must look super hot and thin, we thought. Then the fashion show started and we understood. Regular Pittsburgh women.

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I took my sister Pens Fan as my plus one because she’s a big David Conrad fan and wanted to meet him.

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Then Dork struck. (That’s the title of my future autobiography, yes?)

A bit later my sister and I were walking up the circular walkway that winds up to the top floor of the aquarium while David happened to be walking down it. We met in the middle to chat at which point I stepped my new skinny heel into a floor grate and got stuck. Not just a little. REALLY stuck. Wedged.

I yelped, “Oh, my God. I’m stuck!”

I tried to yank my shoe out but the entire grate started coming out of the floor. Not even joking. I started to tip over as the totality of my weight was now balancing on a one centimeter-thick heel and I have that inner ear thing that gives me a shit sense of balance.

David was forced to prop me up while my sister reached down and helped me OUT OF MY SHOE at which time she forcibly yanked it out of the grate and handed it to me.

Ta-daaaaaaa!

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[takes a bow]

For my next trick …

Only me, guys. Only. Me.

I bought some cool stuff too! Check out my new coasters featuring three sports stadiums no longer around:

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And I grabbed this too. Would you believe it mentions the Penguins and the Steelers but not the Pirates? I’m kind of aghast.

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At my sister’s insistence, I took a photo with David. But before we took the picture, I said, “You know for as many times as we’ve met, there does not exist a photo of the two of us together and I feel like we should keep it that way.”

He agreed, so we mostly did:

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Honestly, I’m just thankful there’s no Target price-tag hanging down my back.

You should check it out next year. I hope to be there. I’ll be the curly-haired girl wearing WEDGE SHOES.