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.

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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.

We

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.