Friday night was a very, very typical pre-Halloween Friday night for me–after missing it last year, partly because I think it was in a different town, I made my triumphant return to The Rocky Horror Show live onstage, complete with bold makeup and bright-pink fishnet tights. I laughed, I shouted until I was horse, and I did the Time Warp. A good time was had by all.

On Saturday morning, probably around 11:15, I stopped for gas on my way to get my hair dyed and was scrolling through Twitter when the news broke–a shooting in a synagogue in Pittsburgh. At the time, the death toll was four but they were pretty clear they know that number was gonna go up. When I was sitting in friend/stylist Emily’s chair an hour or so later, it was eight. When I was driving home an hour or so after that, it was 11, and almost all of my programmed radio stations had stopped playing music altogether and were instead playing news broadcasts and press conferences.

I only lived in Pittsburgh for six months, but I’ve spent my entire life hovering nearby. I grew up about an hour south, went to college at a University of Pittsburgh branch campus, and after those six months on Mt. Washington, I moved to another small city about an hour away. I’m far enough removed that I don’t feel like it was my community itself that was harmed, but I’m close enough that it hurts. I’ve teared up reading the news. I’ve seen my Facebook feed turn into nothing but an endless timeline of shock and grief and my notifications a string of people marking themselves as safe. Seeing the city in the national news is weird, and seeing it the national news for this reason is heartbreaking.

Part of me isn’t surprised–southwestern Pennsylvania isn’t known for its diversity and tolerance, particularly the area where I grew up, so much so that a coworker from that same area messaged me pointing out the last name of the shooter is common there and it wouldn’t be a surprise to learn if that’s where he was fro. But part of me is surprised because a violent, anti-Semitic Pittsburgh isn’t the Pittsburgh I’ve ever never known, and because of that, I knew that the city would really come together in the aftermath. The anecdotes are uplifting–people opening their homes to reporters covering the shooting, people cooking for the police, singing at vigils, huge turnouts at blood drives, massive amounts of money raised for the synagogue and victims, though admittedly not all from this area. As I write, the Pens are playing with patches on their uniforms that say “stronger than hate.” People are sharing slogans saying hate can’t bring down a city of steel and images that replace the gold diamond of the Steelers logo with a gold Star of David.

I love Pittsburgh. The only reason I don’t live in the city itself is mostly timing–when my housemates all decided to go our separate ways, I just couldn’t find an apartment in the city that I could afford at the time. But I spend a lot of time there. I go to concerts there (I’ll be there Thursday), I see shows, even go to the movies sometimes. It’s been a difficult few days for everyone, especially the victims and their families above all, and I hate that this happened and that there are people out there who support the shooter or support similar acts. This is a very sad, hateful chapter in our history not just as a city but as our country and I’m eager for it to be over, but I know it will end. It would be nice to say a lot of uplifting things about moving on and putting it behind us, but the unfortunate reality for those who were there is that this is something that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. Still, I want to close with optimism.

So like I said, I love Pittsburgh. I look forward to more fun nights out with friends and family, and I know this does not and will not define the city.

Saturday 9: Alfred Hitchcock Presents

Saturday 9: “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” Theme

This week’s song was chosen because this is the last Saturday 9 before Halloween. Are you unfamiliar with this week’s tune? Hear it here.

1) The Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock, was born in England. Name another pop culture contribution England has made. The British Invasion! So many bands are from England, and to this day I still find them putting out great stuff.

2) This week’s song is recognized as the theme to Hitchcock’s long-running TV show, but “Funeral March for a Marionnette” is a classic piece written for piano in the late 1870s by Charles Gounod. Do you often listen to classical music? Not as often as I used to because I’m working from home now and not commuting, but one of the radio stations I have programmed in my car is the local classical station.

3) Janet Leigh’s shower scene in Hitchcock’s Psycho is considered one of the scariest sequences ever filmed. What’s the most frightening movie you’ve ever seen? It changes. One of the ones that stands out the first time I saw it was Signs. I was like 13, and it was terrifying then. But I’m a horror lover who doesn’t scare easily, so a lot of the movies dubbed “the scariest ever” just…aren’t.
4) Hitchcock admitted that he “never trusted birds,” and he took that fear and turned it into the movie, The Birds. Is there a member of the animal kingdom that just gives you “the creeps?” Bugs. I realize people, like my husband, for example, would be like, “That’s not an animal!” So reptiles.

5) Halloween will soon be upon us. Will you carve a jack o’lantern this year? No, that was never a tradition my family got into. I’m not good at that kind of artsy stuff, so I don’t think I’d ever enjoy it.

6) What candy will trick or treaters get at your house? We bought a small bag of variety candy because we’re not sure if we get trick-or-treaters! This is our first Halloween in this house and our part of the neighborhood is mostly older people–the youngest other than us, as far as we know, are the same age as our parents. It’s also a little more of a rural neighborhood and not super walkable, so unless people are coming from very, very close by, I don’t expect much. But we want to be prepared anyway, and I would love to get some!
7)  When you went trick or treating, did you prefer fantasy costumes (like a storybook character) or scary ones (like a monster)? I definitely skewed fantasy. I don’t think I ever did scary.
8)  Which candy was your favorite? Which one were you disappointed to find in your trick or treat bag? I was always a chocolate lover. Mostly anything else, except for a few beloved others, was a disappointment.
9) Which do you find scarier — cemeteries or haunted houses? Haunted houses. They just have far more opportunities to be scary, with things lurking behind doors or strange sounds or seeing something going down a hallway.

Friday 5: Not Shaken

  1. When are you the straw that stirs the drink? I don’t know if this quite counts, but there’s an aspect of my job where the responsibilities for it fall on two specific people who split the duties across the day, and in their absence, myself and another coworker are the back-ups. On Friday, both heads and one of the alternates were off, so it was just me. Normally, this isn’t a big deal at all, but being election season, we’re seeing a much larger influx of work on this, so me being the only one in charge of it the entire day was daunting.
  2. Who has delivered the most stirring rendition of your country’s national anthem? My personal favorite is local Jeff Jimerson, who sings the anthem for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Sadly, I write this on Saturday afternoon, a day which brought the heartbreaking news of a shooting in a Pittsburgh mosque. I expect the Pens’ next home game to be particular poignant–anytime Jimerson has sung after a tragedy, it’s been beautiful and sad but I think gives everybody a sense of hope, especially in a city where sports are huge. Jimerson has also always been a staple of local singer B.E. Taylor’s annual Christmas concert until Taylor’s death a few years ago, and although I only made it to a few of those in the years prior, they very, very quickly become one of my favorite Christmas traditions. His family, friends, and band have continued the concerts, and although we didn’t go last year, we are going this year and I’m very much looking forward to it.
  3. Who or what is stirring in your vicinity? I live far enough outside of Pittsburgh that I don’t feel like it’s my community, but close enough that it’s bee a difficult day. Everyone here is shocked and upset, and although attitudes the shooter had aren’t all that rare in this part of Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh certainly isn’t the type to let a hateful attitude take hold and win. Vigils are underway now, and from the looks of photos and videos from the scene, the streets nearby are packed. Hope, optimism, and love are stirring–and after all, this is the birthplace of Mr. Rogers.
  4. What do you like and dislike in a stir-fry? Like–about anything one puts in a stir-fry, but I really like when they include tofu. Dislike–mushy veggies. Now, I’m willing to concede that my personal taste lies a little outside the norm because I like a crunchy veggie, so much so that my husband says what I really like is not cooked vegetables but just kind of warm ones, but man do I hate a really soft, sad-looking veggie in a stir-fry.
  5. How do you deal with feeling stir-crazy? First of all, I almost never feel that way, and if I do, it’s usually after I’ve been sick and am annoyed and antsy and very, very ready to be back to 100%. I just go do something. A pretty easy way to get out, particularly being married, is just to go get dinner somewhere.

As always, from Friday 5.

When there’s an eight-year gap between you and one of your sisters-in-law, the obvious way to solidify yourself as a cool in-law is to throw her a small 21st birthday party.

(I kid. She already loves me. I don’t really need to try here.)

She doesn’t have her driver’s license yet and doesn’t want to spend the money for a photo ID when she’s taking her driving test in like a week or so, which I can’t blame her for, so rather than go out to places where she had a 99% chance of being denied a drink, we decided to stay in.

I mean, she’s been able to drink a few places, but when we went out to a Primanti’s Friday night after we picked her up and our waitress actually took mine and Paul’s IDs to have them scanned, I knew she wasn’t gonna stand a chance. Like, I know I don’t look like I’m 29, but damn, no one scans my ID anymore. Maybe at the casino and that’s it. Most people would be flattered, taking it as a sign that they look young, but either we had an overzealous waitress or it’s some kind of Friday-night, under-30 policy.

Anyway, we didn’t do a whole hell of a lot Friday night, then spent most of the day Saturday cleaning and unpacking shit so we had an actual usable, presentable living room. And I have to say, now that almost all the boxes are out of the room–we have a few stragglers in the kitchen area–the house looks bigger. Who knew? It’s also just nice to have it picked up. The place looks nicer, too, obviously, and I think it makes me appreciate it more. The new floors look great, everything is more organized, and it’s a space I’m proud of.

We haven’t bought new living-room furniture yet, though. We bought a new bedroom set and mattress, expensive new lawnmower, new floors, and new carpet all on top of the house itself, so rather than have even more in bills, we’ve been waiting to get some things paid down. Our solution? Bring the deck furniture in! We have nice wicker furniture that’s obviously meant for the outdoors but looks nice otherwise, and hey, it was entertaining space. It was far, far better than either sitting on the deck in the cold or cramming onto smaller furniture in another room.

We kept it small, too–Jacob and Katie, plus a cousin and significant other. A friend of Paul’s and his girlfriend did stop by for a little bit, but mostly, it was just us. We had a pretty entertaining night of just kind of bullshitting, and Paul got more drunk than I’ve seen him in a long, long time. Not that that’s hard, with his abysmal alcohol tolerance.

Our cat, Robin, was the star of the evening, getting much attention, and since every single guest was also a Cat Parent, we talked about our cats a lot. And everyone left by midnight. What an exciting 21st for Emily!

Naturally, we slept pretty late Sunday, at least for us, because midnight is also pretty late for us these days. Emily had some money to burn and opted for a South Hills shopping trip, so we grabbed some lunch then made our way to the mall for make-up and bath bombs before taking her back to her dorm.


re looking at more fun this weekend with the annual local production of Rocky Horror.

Saturday 9: Sweet City Woman

Saturday 9: Sweet City Woman (1971)

Unfamiliar with this week’s tune? Hear it here.

1) The lyrics tell us the singer is on his way to catch a train and he really wants to be on time. When is the last time you were late for something? Knowing me, definitely recently, but I’ve actually been doing pretty good lately and can’t think of one!

2) He sings he’s on his way to meet a woman known for her macaroons. What’s your favorite cookie? Chocolate chip or my grandma’s apricot cookies.

3) His girlfriend’s face is so pretty she lights up the city night. How many lights are in the room you’re in? How many are switched on? There’s just one light fixture in the middle of the ceiling, and it’s currently on.

4) This is the rare top 40 tune that prominently features a banjo. Sam has always been crazy about the sound of a banjo. What sound makes you smile? (It doesn’t have to be a musical instrument. Think bacon sizzling, church bells, etc.) My cat’s meow because it’s the tiniest little squeak, except for when she’s hungry, and it’s somehow adorable and hilarious no matter what.

5) 47 years after their record was a hit, The Stampeders still tour every summer, playing festivals across the US and their native Canada. Do you enjoy live music under the stars? Or would you prefer to be seated in a theater? Outdoor concerts are probably the best, but being seated is nice.

6) In 1971, when this song was popular on the radio, detective shows were popular on TV. Mannix, Ironside and Cannon were all in the Top 20. Who is your favorite TV detective? Olivia fuckin’ Benson.

7) Also in 1971, the Post Office Department was disbanded as a Cabinet department and became The United States Postal Service. When did you last go to the post office? Were you mailing something? Buying stamps? Picking up a package? Renewing your passport? I was mailing a package and did get some stamps, too. It was probably a week or so ago.

8) Race car legend Jeff Gordon was born in 1971. Do you watch NASCAR? Nope.

9) Random question — Do you have a vaccination scar? If so, where is it? Nope.

Friday 5: Social Capital

  1. Who or what keeps hanging around? My best friend’s damn ex-boyfriend, who’s been hangin’ on since she dumped him. She’s dating someone else–someone much better–but they still talk and the dude’s kind of an ass. He even is keepin’ on keepin’ on after my sister-in-law took her phone at a party, called him an asshole, and said to leave her alone.
  2. When was something most recently injected into you? Probably the last flu shot I got two years ago. I had the day off when they were giving them at work last year and didn’t get one, and man, did I regret that–I ended up gradually coming down with the flu starting Christmas Day. This year, I work remote and the clinic is only until 3, which is right when I’d be finishing up work, so I wouldn’t have time to drive over. I could probably work it out so I could get one, but I think I might just go to a pharmacy for one instead. I shouldn’t have to pay for it either way.
  3. What were you most memorably the chair person of? I’m gonna call myself the chair person of our house’s party planning. I’ve never really been in charge of anything legit and I’m definitely the more proactive one between me and my husband, and we threw a small party over the weekend, so you can guess who handled the bulk of the planing. Come to think of it, I handled the bulk of our wedding last year, too, although I did delegate some tasks.
  4. When did you last gamble on a decision, and what was at stake? I don’t know! Maybe whether or not to respond to people’s douchey Facebook posts, my sanity being the thing at stake?
  5. Where will you be heading this weekend? Last weekend, we picked up my youngest sister-in-law, who turned 21 a couple week ago, and had a small party for her. She stayed her pretty much all weekend, then we took her back to her college. This coming weekend, I’ve got my heart set on Rocky Horror!

As always, from Friday 5.

It seems like it’s been a few years since we’ve made it to the Buckeye Pancake breakfast up at Ohiopyle, an annual tradition for Paul’s family. One year it was because of Katie and Jacob’s wedding, and if I’m right and we didn’t go last year, either, I’m gonna guess it was because of a wedding then, too.

The breakfast was nice, and so was the brief walk we took by the river. The weather here kind of went from the 80s down to the 50s in, like, days, so it was a pretty chilly and kind of dark, rainy morning up there, but still nice to go.

My mom had heard about a talk at a local church about human trafficking and wanted me to go with her that evening, so Paul took a case of beer over to his parents’ house and Mother and I went to the church. Paul and I kept joking that it was gonna be the self-defense class from King of the Hill, but in reality, it was more of an informative session about what to look out for. I actually kind of feel like I learned something.

We were pretty hungry when it was over, so we decided to have dinner at Meloni’s, the best Italian in the area, and then Paul met up with us and we went back to his parents’ house to enjoy a beer with his dad for his birthday.

Normally, I’d want Sunday to just hang out at home, but Row House was in the middle of a witch-themed week of movies with a solid like three or four I was interested in seeing. We settled on Suspiria, partly because of the remake, and it was the only one I hadn’t already seen. We both really like it. It’s a very colorful, visually stunning movie, and while I didn’t find it to be super scary or, like, an outstanding movie, we still enjoyed it.

The area has a bunch of interesting restaurants and we’ve only ever eaten there once, so we picked a random place for dinner. We went with a Middle Eastern place, and I’m glad that at this point, there’s not much we haven’t tried, so we were familiar with a lot on the menu. Paul tried a couple appetizers and a dessert he’d never had before, and I went for a simple wrap, but all of it was really good and we were glad we tried the place.

This weekend, we celebrate Emily’s 21st birthday a couple weeks late with a casual night of drinking and playing with the cat at our house.

Saturday 9: Unbreak My Heart

Saturday 9: Unbreak My Heart (1996)

Unfamiliar with this week’s tune? Hear it here.

1) Songs like this are enduringly popular in part because each of us has had our heart broken. Give us the name of a heartbreaker from your own life. I think I gave a similar answer last week, but I’ve been put through worse, more difficult things emotionally than romantic heartbreak.

2) Toni Braxton sings that “nights are so unkind.” What did you do last night? Went to the gym after I wrote an article and hung out a bit, got stuck in construction traffic for a half-hour on my way back, showered, went to bed after watching some John Oliver segments.

3) While this song has Toni singing the blues, in real life her love life is happier. Now aged 50, she’s engaged and has been sporting a diamond on her left hand. Do you believe that a bride is ever too old to have a big wedding? No! A wedding is a celebration, and that shouldn’t have an age limit. I understand why some people who are remarrying decide not to do a big wedding, but I still think if they want to do it up big, go for it.

4) Growing up, Toni Braxton’s parents severely restricted how much TV their children could watch each day. Ironically, today Toni and her sisters participate in a reality TV show on the WE-TV network, so TV cameras are a big part of their daily adult lives. What TV show do you try not to miss? I don’t watch anything regularly because I don’t have cable. We stick to one or two shows we stream, then move on to the next.

5) She is prone to dry skin and applies Kiehl’s Hand Salve to her hands and arms throughout the day. Tell us about a product you’re brand loyal to. Man, I’m the queen of brand loyalty. If I find something that I like and that works, I stick to it. We’ll stick with the skincare theme–I, too, have dry skin, and I use Simple Sugars scrubs. Plus they’re local!

6) Toni admits to being “a bit of a germaphobe,” and always maintains a supply of hand sanitizer and wipes. What is always on your shopping list? Food staples and things we eat a lot–milk and yogurt I’d say are the two biggest ones.

7) While she is not shy about her body and has worn revealing outfits on the red carpet, Toni Braxton refused a 2011 offer from Hugh Hefner and Playboy to pose nude. What’s the last thing you said “no” to? A small task at work. I was right up against a deadline and couldn’t spare the time.

8) In 1996, the year this song was popular, Mattel introduced a Star Trek Barbie and Ken set. Have you ever fantasized about space travel? For a brief period, I wanted to be an astronaut as a kid. I wanted to be just about everything at one point or another, really.

9) Random question — Would you (or did you) invite an ex to your wedding? I didn’t because neither of us had seriously dated anyone else. I would depending on how things ended and what the current relationship was. It’s one of those things I see both sides of, though–I think it’s kind of weird to invite exes at all unless you’re good friends with them, to be honest, but I also think people can be a little too jealous and that sometimes, too much is made of an ex at a wedding.

Friday 5: Again or Not Again

  1. What is the story behind one of your scars? I don’t really have any. I was more of an indoor kid who never did anything that could cause an injury, and I’ve been fortunate as an adult to not get seriously hurt, either. I do currently have small scratches from the cat everywhere, though.
  2. What’s an example of your being pretty much like everyone else? My husband jokes that at heart, I’m pretty basic. I’m pretty easygoing and predictable.
  3. What’s an example of your being pretty much unlike everyone else? I have purple hair, and although that’s a growing trend, it’s still pretty rare. I think my attitudes about things are different from a lot of people, too. Money isn’t a priority. I followed my dreams, so to speak, instead of a high-paying career. I do my own thing.
  4. Of websites you look at daily (or almost daily), which have you been paying attention to longest? Ooh, I don’t know. But I think most of them have pretty much stayed the same for a long time. Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, some news sites.
  5. What’s something you wish a smartphone was capable of? I don’t know, but I do have a great idea for an app for fellow frequent concertgoers.

As always, from Friday 5.

Virginia Is for Lovers

This was one of those weekends that feels like a long way off for months and months and next thing you know, you’re like, “Oh, shit, I’m going out of town and haven’t packed.”

One of Paul’s cousins decided to do a destination wedding at Virginia Beach. We were on the fence about going for a good while, having just bought a house and all, but I figured we could swing it. Plus, being a destination wedding, most of the family couldn’t go, so it kind of feels like if you can go and be there for them, you should.

It’s also the off-season, so that made things considerably cheaper and easier. And honestly? If I were to plan another beach vacation, I’d do it in the off-season. The only issue we had was traffic on the interstates driving down, and I blame that on slow driving more than anything else.

We decided to make a long weekend of it and booked the hotel Friday night through Sunday night, and being fans of sleeping, we also decided not to do the usual thing where you get up and leave super early. Instead, we let ourselves sleep in, then loaded up and left. We didn’t get on the road until almost noon, but we didn’t think it would be so bad–we were due to get in in the evening, so we figured we’d have time for dinner and maybe a quick beach visit. Wrong. Said traffic killed us, putting us two hours behind. Ultimately, we got in after 9. Jacob and Katie drove down Thursday and we were originally gonna go to dinner together, but once we figured out we weren’t gonna make it in time for dinner, we told them to go on without us. Instead, we met up in their hotel bar for a drink, then moved up to their room for wine. And we walked there and back. I opted for a cheaper hotel than they did, so we were on opposite ends of the boardwalk, but the plus is we got a lot of exercise. And we still had a beachfront room, so, I mean…

We slept in Saturday and got up for breakfast down the road–our hotel was pretty affordable, but it didn’t include free breakfast. Then we needed to run some errands, and by the time we were done with that, it was time to get ready for the wedding. Fortunately, the rain held off for the nice, short beach ceremony, and the reception was essentially just a party in a beach house. The four of us hung out a lot with each other, plus one of Paul’s cousins. Normally, I’d spend the evening dancing, but we all kind of seemed to enjoy just hanging out, especially on the beach. How can you not walk down there around sunset and just kind of…stay there until it’s so dark you’re being harassed by small crabs?

It was an early wedding, too, so we’re at this beach house for hours, thinking that it must be like 1 a.m., and turns out when we were all getting sleepy by the pool, it was like 9 p.m. The music did have to be shut off around then, so we decided to get going and enjoy the hot tub in our hotel room, the other selling point of the place.

I learned pretty fast that if we wanted to do anything down there, I was gonna have to wake Paul up, so I started doing it a little earlier each day. So Sunday, we went out for breakfast again, and with pretty limited time for the rest of our stay, we settled on visiting the Virginia Aquarium a few miles away, which we enjoyed. It wasn’t a huge place, but they had pretty cool exhibits and we had a good time. And then we hit the beach proper–getting splashed in a dress at a wedding doesn’t really count for me. I mean, yeah, sure, I went in the water, but feet barely count. You need to go play in the waves, so we got ourselves beach ready then walked from our room down to the beach and had ourselves a great time. Then we hit a dinner buffet, because it’s the beach and you have to and Paul gets our money’s worth. Hard to argue with six plates of basically everything on the thing.

The one downside to the off-season is a lot of places close early, so when I wanted ice cream at 10 p.m. on a Sunday, it took a few blocks to find it. But Ben & Jerry’s came through for me. And then I had another round in the hot tub.

I really wish we could’ve gotten in one last round of proper ocean fun, but we just didn’t have the time for it. I thought I got us up early enough Monday morning to have a little bit of time, and really, we probably could’ve done it and left later, but after the hassle we had getting down there, I wanted to leave earlier than we had on Friday. By the time we were showered and packed, it was about time to go, but I walked down for one last quick dip in the ocean before we left.

The good news is we didn’t lose to hours to traffic, but the bad news is we still probably lost one hour and did stop more, so there went another hour. We got home around 8 after leaving at 11, much to the chagrin of the cat, who had Brandon and my parents checking on her over the weekend. I don’t think she was very pleased with us, but she got over it pretty quick.

It was a really nice, fun weekend, but it went by way too fast–even just one more day of sun and sand would’ve been nice, but our vacation days for the year are dwindling. It was the first real trip we’ve taken on our own, not counting weekends in State College, and we definitely needed the downtime, but it wasn’t enough. Hopefully, now that wedding planning and moving are over and done, we’ll have more time and money next year and can take another trip to a beach, or anywhere, really.