Pennsylvania Pitstop: The Heinz Museum, Bowling, Church Brew Works, and Howlers Metal Bar

Last winter I went home to the States for five weeks. One of those weeks was spent criss-crossing the great state of Pennsylvania – a series of adventures now collectively referred to as the Pennsylvania Pitstop.

Saturday, January 7th, 2017: Mr. Rogers is a Saint, but Betty White is Fucking Metal!

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When I woke up on an air mattress at Keith’s place the next morning (at some point you just have to accept the fact that your habits have become your lifestyle) it slowly began to dawn on me that I hadn’t actually met his girlfriend Ashley the night before. She was sick when I came in and didn’t want to meet one of Keith’s A-list friends while she was all congested and crudded up. (Translation: if you’re friends with Keith and you’ve seen Ashley sick, you’re probably not on the expensive Christmas gift list. You’ll be lucky if you even get a card, loser.) I felt a little strange creeping into the kitchen to introduce myself, especially when I realized that Keith wasn’t there. But, our first meeting went exceptionally well – how Keith landed either of us in his life is a mystery to us both – and Ashley wasted no time introducing me to her dog Presley, easily the coolest dog north of the Mason-Dixon Line.


When Keith got back from some early morning bullshit at the airport, we headed out for lunch at Essie’s Hot Dog Shop, which was basically a ballpark concession stand writ large. Hot dogs, Coke, and french fries in a red plastic basket. It was amazing. And it served as proof of my earlier observation that Pittsburgh was indeed a small town at heart.

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After lunch, we did a little bit of sightseeing before meeting up with Keith’s friend Josh at the Heinz History Museum. I’ve done enough traveling to know that museums are extremely hit and miss, so believe me when I tell you that this one was a definite hit. Honestly, if you ever spend time in Pittsburgh try to visit this museum near the beginning of your trip. It’ll give you a nice overview of the city’s history and culture.

The first few floors were dedicated to Pittsburgh’s NFL team, the Steelers, as well as the industrial history which gave them their name. Among other things, we saw the shoes Franco Harris was wearing when he made the Immaculate Reception:


An exhibit honoring steel/textile tycoon Andrew Carnegie (more on him later):


Elektro and Sparko, a robot man-and-dog team that I first saw in one of my favorite books when I was a kid:


An electric chair that made me blurt out “Oh shit!” when I first saw it, much to the amusement of Keith and Josh.

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A stuffed bear that I did my best impression of:

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Rosie the Riveter:


And, most exciting for a horror movie fan like me, George A. Romero’s director’s chair from the set of The Dark Half.


Then we got to the upper floors, which is where the magic really started to happen. Turns out, the museum has a whole floor showcasing the history of the Heinz Company and its long timeline of products. (I know that’s probably hard to believe with a name like ‘The Heinz History Museum,’ but believe me, it’s true.) I’m a huge fan of food labels, packaging, and marketing – especially for vintage products – so this was like Disney World for me. Old bottles and crates and posters and collectible items galore. (Yes, I’m one of those people who spends an hour in the Cracker Barrel store every time I drop in for chicken ‘n dumplings.)


And then – then! – just when we thought we’d seen it all and were about to leave, Keith wondered aloud, “Hey, I wonder what’s on the next floor.” …To think we’d almost missed our chance to see the set of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.


The exhibit was set up in such a way that we didn’t see the set as soon as we came off the elevator. First, we had to go around a corner and pass the tree where Mister Rogers’s owl friend used to live.


Then
 we saw the set, complete with the living room where Mister Rogers would always change into his trademark shoes and cardigans, the Land of Make Believe ruled by good King Friday, and the tiny trolley that shuttled viewers back and forth between the two.


It’s weird to admit this, dear readers, but the three of us actually fell into a state of reverential awe at the sight of these things. It was like we had all walked back into our kindergarten classrooms 30 years later and found nothing out of place. After all the changes and difficulties and disappointments that have taken place in our lives between childhood and the present day, it was incredible to see that this good, gentle little world where we all grew up still existed. I think we all got a little misty-eyed.

Feel free to poke fun at us about that if you want to, but first I encourage you to watch this video of Mister Rogers at his Hall of Fame induction. Hopefully you’ll understand that it wasn’t an act with this man. Fred Rogers was truly a saint. Get your Kleenex ready, bitches.

It was a nearly impossible act to follow, but there were a few other things worth seeing on the Mister Rogers floor, including some old carnival attractions and religious iconography.

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I imagine these are the kinds of paintings Andy Warhol’s devoutly Catholic mother Julia Warhola had in her home.

After the museum we headed off for a Big Lebowski-style bowling alley.

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Had drinks and bowled a few games with some of Keith’s other friends – all great people who then joined us for dinner at the Church Brew Works.


Now, the Church Brew Works. This might take a little explaining. As its name suggests, it’s a brew pub built inside a deconsecrated Catholic church. This means that people can now eat, drink, have conversations, and take selfies in the very spots where other people once knelt, prayed, and confessed their sins. It’s huge. Clearly, this wasn’t just some little tourist-y church for people in t-shirts and shorts back in the day. This was a church where immigrants and steel workers came for some real-ass CatholicismI’m talkin’ about that serious pre-Vatican II, Baltimore Catechism, Latin mass, women wearing veils, fasting all day on Sunday, burning incense, and side altars kind of stuff.

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Here’s Andy Warhol meeting Pope John Paul II. Warhol attended daily mass throughout his life.

Somehow, even on a Saturday night, we ended up in one of the best seats in the house: a semi-circular booth inside a large alcove that probably housed devotional candles or statues at one time. I had the buffalo meatloaf and a local beer I can’t remember the name of.


After patiently listening to me explain the architecture and purpose of various parts of the building, Keith grinned and asked if I thought we were going to Hell for eating there. “Not yet,” I said…But an hour or so later, we were well on our way.


Most of our party decided to head home after dinner, but, Keith being Keith, he was determined that we should do a little bar-hopping first. Specifically, he wanted to take me to a metal bar called Howlers. He said he’d always wanted to go there, but he needed me to come with him for “cred” (as if my appearance screams “Metal!” any more than his does). Sure enough, though, I was immediately embraced by all the show promoters and musicians, who couldn’t believe that “a guy from fucking South Korea” was in the audience.

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It Is Written.

I caught the second half of a stoner/sludge metal set and then a full show by It Is Written. (Follow the link and check them out, fellow metalheads.)

Keith and Josh, not even remotely interested in the music, passed the time at the bar in the next room where, of all things, The Golden Girls was playing on two large-screen TVs. That’s right. Songs of death and carnage in one room; “Thank You for Being a Friend” in the other.

“You know something?” Keith told me as we staggered out a few hours later. “Betty White is fucking metal!” And just like that, the Pennsylvania Pitstop had its first official catch phrase.

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Pennsylvania Pitstop: Pittsburgh Steelers Football

Last winter I went home to the States for five weeks. One of those weeks was spent criss-crossing the great state of Pennsylvania – a series of adventures now collectively referred to as the Pennsylvania Pitstop.

Sunday, January 8th, 2017: Steelers Football and the Milkshake of Shame

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Having spent the previous night eating dinner in a heavenly church building and jamming to the soundtrack of Hell, it was only fitting that we should end up having lunch at a place called Burgatory the next day.

I’m sure you don’t need this explained to you, but Burgatory serves burgers. Damn good burgers. All kinds of damn good burgers.

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I had the Elk Gone Wild – because, seriously, when’s the next time I’m gonna have a chance to order elk?

We weren’t there just to eat burgers, though. Our main mission was to watch a Pittsburgh Steelers game up close and personal. Burgatory, you see, is only a couple of blocks away from Heinz Field – home of the Steelers. We couldn’t get tickets, so we went to Burgatory and watched the game on television instead. It was pretty cool that we could simultaneously hear the crowd noise on TV and in the air outside the restaurant. It was like a 4-D movie without all the annoying blasts of wind to the face.

Equally cool was the overall atmosphere of the game. When I lived in New Orleans I lived among Saints fans, which means I’m accustomed to NFL Game Day being a very loud, drunken, debaucherous sort of event filled with cops, arrests, and the occasional murder. The Steelers game was more like a blue-collar version of Ole Miss football. People (including us) were drinking of course, but no one was belligerent about it. Mostly it was parents lined up with their kids on the subway and outside the stadium. But instead of ties and dresses (customary Ole Miss wear) they were all wearing Steelers jerseys and t-shirts. It was a beautiful thing to see.

The only setback of the day came when I ordered a milkshake after lunch. From the look of Burgatory’s menu they were apparently famous for the damn things, so I thought I’d try one out. After several minutes of careful deliberation and menu research (including an in-depth Q&A with our waitress), I finally settled for the Fluffer Nutter, made with marshmallow fluff and Nutter Butter cookies. Hell. Yeah. I didn’t even care that its name was clearly porn-inspired. Now, maybe was this naive on my part, but I assumed they’d bring it to me in one of those silver milkshake mixing cups so I could inconspicuously sip it while watching the game. No. They brought it out in a huge beer glass piled obnoxiously high with whipped cream and cookie crumbs.

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If I’d had a girl with me, it would have been disgustingly cute. But all I had was Keith, who made no secret that he didn’t want to be seen with me as long as I was drinking that shit. He went outside (“to make a call” – yeah right), and suddenly I found myself all alone, sad, fat, and desperate, as if I’d wandered up from my mom’s basement just long enough to get a milkshake before heading back down to watch more hentai. The only way it could possibly have been more embarrassing is if they’d made me wear some kind of horned cow hat and sung a novelty birthday song. I noticed a couple of guys across the bar motioning to me and laughing. I just shrugged and nodded. Yup, go ahead and laugh, assholes. I’d probably do the same thing if it was the other way around. What else could I do but hide behind a menu and question all my life decisions?

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This moment of self-doubt didn’t last long, though. Despite its considerable cost in social currency, the Fluffer Nutter was an undeniable masterpiece of the dairy arts. Given even half a chance, I’d go back to Burgatory, sit at a quiet side table, hide behind a menu, and do it all over again.

Oh, and the Steelers won, so that was good too.


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Pennsylvania Pitstop: The Flight 93 Memorial

Last winter I went home to the States for five weeks. One of those weeks was spent criss-crossing the great state of Pennsylvania – a series of adventures now collectively referred to as the Pennsylvania Pitstop.

Monday, January 9th, 2017: Jewish delis, Islamic terrorism, and Mexican food. 

Food for Thought…

If you’re waiting for me to say something thought-provoking or profound, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. I didn’t mean I was going to give you any food for thought; I was telling you the name of the Jewish deli where Keith and I grabbed an early lunch on Monday before heading out of Pittsburgh.

With the possible exception of New Orleans, none of the cities where I’ve lived have had very visible Jewish communities. I say New Orleans is only a possible exception despite the fact that I used to work for Tulane University, which is sometimes jokingly referred to as “Jew-lane.”

JewlaneI’m sure many of the students there did come from Jewish families, but I never saw anyone so much as wear a yarmulke on campus.

Before Hurricane Katrina there was a synagogue in Biloxi, but it was tucked away in a quiet neighborhood behind a bowling alley. I didn’t even know it was there until I was in sixth or seventh grade. Needless to say, my friends and I were completely unfamiliar with Jewish culture, and, once the synagogue was discovered, we just assumed it was a “devil worshiper church” and the Star of David outside was a pentagram.

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That probably sounds a little crazy or anti-Semitic to anyone reading this now, but you have to remember that this was the era of Satanic Panic. According to the media and popular culture of the time, there were devil worshipers everywhere, drinking the blood of children, sacrificing small animals, and putting hidden messages in heavy metal albums. We heard a lot more about “devil worshipers” than we ever heard about Jews.

My point in mentioning these things is that day-to-day Jewish culture is still very new to me, which is why I’m always excited to end up in a place like Food for Thought. It’s interesting to see people observing traditional dietary laws, kvetching without irony, and speaking in honest-to-Yahweh Yiddish idioms. The owner of the place is a Pittsburgh legend named Bob, a hell of a guy who makes a hell of a corned beef sandwich.

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Bob seemed to know (and be known by) everyone who came through his door.  Here’s hoping I make it back to that door one of these days.

After we left I felt a powerful urge to listen to Leonard Cohen and watch Krusty the Clown.


But Leonard and Krusty would have to wait. First, we were hitting the road for the Flight 93 Memorial in Stoystown.

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Flight 93, for those of you drawing a blank, was the “fourth plane” on 9-11. Two hit the World Trade Center, one hit the Pentagon, and one (Flight 93) crashed in a field in rural Pennsylvania after the passengers fought back against the hijackers.


Before we arrived, I bet Keith a dollar that there would be at least one 9-11 Truther nut-job standing outside picketing or handing out literature. I lost that dollar. Apart from the front desk lady and security guard at the visitors center, we were the only ones there that afternoon.

The exhibit inside the visitors center was relatively small, starting with a September 11th timeline and then snaking around in an S-pattern to a final panel featuring pictures of all the flowers and gifts left at the crash site. In-between were some of the victims‘ belongings and, most tragically, a phone bank where we could pick up plastic receivers and listen to some of the messages the victims had sent to their families.

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One thing that really grabbed Keith’s attention was a notation on the timeline that said United 93 had been delayed for 20 minutes before taking off that morning. “Just think,” he said solemnly, “if they had taken off on time the passengers never would have found out about the other planes. They would have crashed into the White House or Congress.” Leave it to an airline executive to find an upside to a flight delay. But I had to hand it to him – he was right.

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I’m glad there were boxes of tissue all around the exhibit. I needed one or two.

We got through the visitors center in 15-20 minutes and then headed outside to tour the crash site. The weather was extremely cold that day and the site was 0.7 miles away down a snow-covered trail. That’s why I laughed out loud when I noticed the “No Horses” sign.

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I kept imagining a horse with a bad attitude not wanting to walk across the snow in the freezing cold, saying, “Yeah! No horses! Now get off my back and walk this trail by your damn self!”

About halfway down we came to the observation area where the victims’ friends and family members stood when the wreckage was being cleared. From there we could see a few houses scattered around in the distance, and I began to wonder if the families living there were the same families who lived there on 9-11. I can’t imagine what that must have been like, living in this peaceful Grant Wood painting of a community – the kind of place where dentists still have their offices in their homes – and having it marred by such incredible violence.

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At the end of the trail we came to the memorial plaza where all the victims’ names have been carved into white stone.

When we looked closely we saw shadow writing indicating the pregnant mothers and flight attendants.

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We also paid special attention to Todd Beamer, the passenger famous for asking an Airfone operator to pray the Lord’s Prayer with him before saying “Let’s roll” and leading the charge to overtake the terrorists.

Not far beyond the plaza, after several failed attempts to read our maps correctly, we finally located the crash site behind a short wall. There was nothing especially remarkable about it – no pieces of the plane on display or indentation in the ground or anything like that. Like a Civil War battlefield, its significance came strictly from the memory of what happened there.


The whole experience was unreal in a way, mostly because the location was so remote and the atmosphere was so unbelievably quiet. I told Keith how I had seen the Pentagon when I visited D.C. and assumed I’d eventually make my way to New York and see the footprints of the Twin Towers; but I could honestly say it had never even crossed my mind that I might one day be standing in the field where Flight 93 went down. Life takes strange detours sometimes.

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We stood around and talked for a while, remembering how we’d announced the news of the September 11th attacks during our college radio show at Ole Miss. It was hard to wrap our heads around the idea that fifteen years – a whole decade and a half – have passed since then. Most of today’s high school students probably don’t even remember it. This must be how our grandparents felt about Pearl Harbor, or how our parents feel about the JFK assassination. These massive world-changing events that younger generations can read or watch old news footage about but never really experience.

We were both a little melancholy as we turned around to leave – until we noticed the large parking lot situated directly behind us. I could see the annoyed amusement in Keith’s face when he turned to look at me. “Could we have driven down here?” he asked.

I told him I didn’t know. I wasn’t paying attention to the signs.

It was dark by the time we made it back up the hill and into the warmth of Keith’s car, so we had to read the answer to his question by the light of his headlights. Turning out of the parking lot, we saw a sign pointing the way to a paved road that led straight down to the crash site. Our trek through the freezing cold had been completely unnecessary.

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It would have been easy to bitch, but Keith quickly brought the situation down to Earth with his usual optimism. “Well,” he said, “if they can give their lives, we can walk a mile through the fucking snow.”

I agreed. And as soon as we got back to Pittsburgh, we drank to the memory of Flight 93 over an awesome meal at El Patron.

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Pennsylvania Pitstop: Hershey, PA

Last winter I went home to the States for five weeks. One of those weeks was spent criss-crossing the great state of Pennsylvania – a series of adventures now collectively referred to as the Pennsylvania Pitstop.

Tuesday, January 10th, 2017: There’s a Smile in Every Trip to Hershey

If Monday’s trip to the Flight 93 Memorial had dredged up bitter memories of September 11th, Tuesday’s trip to Hershey was a nice reminder that life has a sweet side too.

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You’re free to punch me in the face for that little bout of cheesiness next time you see me, dear readers. But no kidding, our trip to Hershey was awesome.

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From Pittsburgh it would have taken us nearly 4 hours to reach Hershey by car, assuming we didn’t stop for bathroom breaks, lunch, heavy traffic, or speeding tickets. Good thing Keith’s an upstart airline mogul. We flew one of his planes into tiny Lancaster Airport in the heart of Amish country in a quarter of that time, and from there we rented a car and made our way to the self-proclaimed sweetest place on Earth –

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Please don’t confuse this with Disneyland, the self-proclaimed happiest place on Earth. Apparently being sweet and being happy are two different things. That’s why sweet people are often depressed and jerks go to sleep with big smiles on their faces. The more you know.

My interest in seeing Hershey began in elementary school when my neighbor, Mrs. Susie Bass (“Miss Susie”), told me about the trip she had taken there with her family (shout-out to Mr.Mike, Clare, and Michele). “J, we could smell chocolate everywhere we went!” she shouted. “They had Hershey bars that weighed 5 pounds! And the street lights were shaped like Hershey’s Kisses!” All of this was music to a fat kid’s ears. Hard to believe, but somewhere out there in America was a town – not an amusement park (though of course there is an amusement park in Hershey), but an actual town where people lived – that smelled like chocolate and had Hershey Kiss street lights. I had to know more about it.

Over the next few years I read several books about Hershey and its founder Milton. (I’ve used Who Was Milton Hershey? in several of my elementary English lessons here in Korea.)

At one point I even owned a Hershey’s watch. (I would kill to have another one. If anyone has one for sale, I’m your man.)

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And now here I was, finally seeing it with my own eyes. Hershey Park was closed for the winter (all the more reason to go back someday), but we still got to see all the cool stuff I’d been reading about since I was a kid.

The Willy Wonka-esque chocolate factory:

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The streets with names like “Cocoa” and “Chocolate.”

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And of course those legendary Hershey’s Kiss streetlights:

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Even better, we accidentally came across The Hershey Story, an amazing museum dedicated to Milton Hershey and the chocolate that bears his name.

Milton Hershey has long been a hero of mine, largely because, like Scrooge McDuckhe embodies the spirit of hard work, creativity, and free enterprise that once defined the American Dream. Born to a simple Mennonite family, he grew up to become a businessman, failing in several endeavors before striking it rich with his Lancaster Caramel Company.

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After discovering a chocolate-making machine at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, he turned his attention to chocolate – and well, you know what happened next.

But was that enough for him? Did he sit back on his thumbs and say, “Well, I’m swimming in money and chocolate, guess I’ll buy a Bugatti and call it a day?” Not even close. Hershey kept going and built an entire community around his factory, complete with hospitals, affordable housing for his workers, and the Milton Hershey School, which he considered his greatest achievement. He implemented high standards of safety for all of his businesses and even helped his competitor H.B. Reese develop his own candy company in Hershey. (Fun fact: Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are made with Reese’s peanut butter and Hershey’s chocolate.)

It might surprise some people that a man with so much personal wealth would be so invested in the well-being of others. Aren’t rich people, the hated 1%, supposed to be mean and greedy? Well, no, not according to Hershey’s fellow Pennsylvanian tycoon Andrew Carnegie. In The Gospel of Wealth (1889), Carnegie asserted that the rich – and especially the uber-rich – have a responsibility to be generous with their wealth. He believed they should use it to improve the lives of the less fortunate. (It’s important to note that he was advocating charity, not socialism.) Milton Hershey’s entire life was an illustration of this principle. I wish more people were familiar with his incredible legacy.

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Keith and I soaked all of this in for at least two hours, reminiscing about discontinued Hershey’s products like Bar None and getting our visitor cards stamped every time we successfully completed “work” in a different area of chocolate production.

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Before heading back to the airport, we went for a late lunch at the General Sutter Inn, an English pub in Lititz, PA, where I had fish-and-chips, drank the strongest beer I’ve ever had –

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and got scared half to death by Pearl, a creepy-as-hell mannequin inexplicably stretched out in a bathtub downstairs.

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During the last leg of the trip, we passed a restaurant with a red-and-white exterior on the interstate.

“Dude!” Keith cried out. “That’s the biggest Chick-Fil-A I’ve ever seen!”

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“Dude!” I replied. “That’s a Friendly’s.”

It was a great laugh to end a great trip, and the Pennsylvania Pitstop now had its second official catch phrase.

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Pennsylvania Pitstop: Exploring Pittsburgh

Last winter I went home to the States for five weeks. One of those weeks was spent criss-crossing the great state of Pennsylvania – a series of adventures now collectively referred to as the Pennsylvania Pitstop.

Wednesday, January 11th, 2017: Merrily On Our Way to Nowhere at All

Every vacation schedule needs a day where nothing specific is planned and you’re free just to relax and wander around. Wednesday was that day.

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I spent most of the morning lounging around in Keith’s living room, struggling not to tell Ashley that she was gonna get engaged on Groundhog Day, then headed down the street with Keith to explore bookstores, candy and novelty shops (Pittsburgh is loaded with them), and interesting restaurants.

Among other things, we found a place that serves nothing but different kinds of peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches –

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a candy store named after one of the characters in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

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a pretty cool statue of St. Michael –

and a one-stop horror shop called The House of the Dead where I found the perfect shirt for a Pittsburgh tourist who likes zombie shit.


That night we had dinner at the Pleasure Bar, a place that sounds like a strip club/brothel/bathhouse but is actually a crazy-good Italian restaurant that serves crazy-good Italian food.

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Went back to Keith’s place and fell asleep watching South Park re-runs. Not the most eventful day on the travel calendar, but you’ll hear no complaints from me about that. Every teacher in the world knows the value of a quiet day.

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Pennsylvania Pitstop: The Andy Warhol Museum

Last winter I went home to the States for five weeks. One of those weeks was spent criss-crossing the great state of Pennsylvania – a series of adventures now collectively referred to as the Pennsylvania Pitstop.

Thursday, January 12th, 2017: Pop Goes the Pitstop / Epilogue

And then came Grand Finale Thursday, the event that turned my attention to Pittsburgh in the first place. Yes, after 20 years and one week, the day had finally come for me to visit the Andy Warhol Museum.

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The day started off with Keith handing me his car keys and announcing, “I don’t wanna see that shit, but I don’t wanna rush you through it. Go down there, take your time, and call me when you’re done.” A part of me felt bad for leaving him behind, but the other part was like, Awesome. I’ve got the whole place to myself! I took a few wrong turns and got lost a couple of times before I finally made it, but once I saw the parking lot with the Brillo box attendant stand I knew I was in the right place.


The first thing I spotted when I stepped into the lobby was a large picture of Andy Warhol lying on his famous red sofa. Directly below this picture – creating a nice Warholian “copy” effect – was the sofa itself.

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Warhol’s friends often accused him of being cheap – no doubt a side effect of his growing up during the Great Depression. His critics often accused him of tricking or conning people into believing ordinary objects were works of art. If you felt so inclined, you might think of this sofa as a combination of those two things. A top-tier art museum (the largest single-artist museum in the world) is saving money on furniture by having guests sit on a 50-60 year old sofa. I love it.

Inside the museum itself, Warhol’s artwork was arranged chronologically by decade, beginning with the early work he made in art school and later as an illustrator in New York.

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The work he is best known for, it goes without saying, was made in the 1960s. This was the period when he made his famous Campbell’s Soup and Coca Cola paintings, as well as his three-dimensional Brillo and Heinz Ketchup boxes. (Pop quiz: where is the Heinz Company headquartered? Could it be in Warhol’s boyhood home of Pittsburgh, PA?)

 


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He also painted a lot of celebrities during this time, including Marilyn Monroe, Jackie Kennedy, and Elvis.

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Another of his most famous images from this era was the Velvet Underground & Nico album cover.

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The Velvet Underground was the house band at Warhol’s studio, “The Factory.” (Who but a Pittsburgh native would give an art studio such an industrial-sounding name?) During Factory parties, the Velvet Underground would play music while multiple Warhol films were projected on walls around the room. This is what was happening in the scene from The Doors that I mentioned in my prologue. The Andy Warhol Museum has an entire room set up to recreate this experience.

There’s also another room filled with his well-known silver cloud balloons:

The other floors are largely dedicated to the portraits and character paintings Warhol made from the heyday of Studio 54 in the late 1970s until his untimely death in 1987.


My favorite part of the museum was the part that was probably easiest to miss. Off to the side, sort of hidden away in a corner, was an audio-visual room where you could sit down in front of a television and watch virtually any movie or television appearance Andy Warhol ever made.

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Andy Warhol’s guest appearance on The Love Boat

This little room was a great relief to me. Anyone who’s seriously interested in movies has undoubtedly heard about Warhol’s underground films from the 1960s – like Poor Little Rich Girl (starring the beautiful/tragic Edie Sedgwick) and Empire (a single eight-hour shot of the Empire State Building) –

but these films have never, to my knowledge, been officially released to the general public. There are a lot of umpteenth-generation bootlegs on YouTube, but I had to wonder if the original reels still existed or if maybe they had been lost or destroyed sometime during the last 50 years. I guess not. All of them were at my fingertips at the Andy Warhol Museum, along with a large selection of “screen tests.” (Warhol asked everyone who visited the Factory to stare silently into a camera for 3-5 minutes.) Here’s Bob Dylan’s. It’s interesting to watch, because he and Andy Warhol hated each other at the time and he was obviously pissed off.

I was there for at least 4 hours before I finally forced myself to leave, but that wasn’t the end of the adventure. First I drove back to Keith’s place and told him there was one more thing I wanted to see. Not too long after, we were driving through the rain looking for a Byzantine Catholic cemetery in Bethel Park.

warhol grave

Andy Warhol’s burial site. No, we didn’t put those soup cans (or anything else) there.


We were so stupid, dear readers. When we first pulled into the cemetery we saw a few cameras mounted to a post and (correctly) assumed they were there for security reasons. Then, after we parked, we devised an elaborate plan to split up and look for Warhol’s grave, complete with signals we would send each other once we found it. We must have walked around with our umbrellas for at least three or four minutes before realizing he was “probably” buried near the cameras…Because why else would this little cemetery even need them?

And we were right. The line of the cameras led directly to his headstone, which, in true Warholian fashion, can be viewed online 24 hours a day. His parents are buried directly behind him, though their headstone bears the original Polish spelling of their last name: Warhola.

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Andy’s portrait of his mother Julia.

I’m glad I saw these Warhol sights on my last day in Pennsylvania. I don’t know if I would have fully appreciated them if I had seen them any sooner.

After decades of learning about him, I can tell you quite a bit about how his art is popularly interpreted, how he profoundly influenced modern culture, and how he basically invented the art of trolling the media (video below):

But in order to get a truly good look behind Andy’s sunglasses, I think I had to visit Pittsburgh first. I read somewhere that he was confused when someone first proposed the idea of opening his museum in Pittsburgh. Why not New York, the city where he lived and worked for the great bulk of his professional career?

It’s a good question, but the answer makes sense once you’ve been there. So much of what made Warhol successful – the brands he depicted in his art, his work ethic, his industrial style of art production, his glorification of ordinary things – is firmly rooted in his Steel City background. It was only right for him to come home.

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Your Humble Narrator attempts a selfie in front of Andy Warhol’s most famous work.

After paying our respects, Keith and I went and had our last supper at an incredible German restaurant. Lots of meat, cheese, accordion music, and waitresses in sexy Bavarian outfits. A meal fit for superstars. If Andy Warhol had been there, I’m sure he would have agreed that it was greeeeaaat.

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Friday, January 13th, 2017: The Epilogue

The next day I said farewell to Keith, Ashley, and Presley and flew to New Orleans on an incredibly affordable Allegiant flight. (That’s right. I boarded a flight on Friday the 13th. I ain’t superstitious.) When I landed, my old buddy Giuliano (of Mount Fuji fame) picked me up at the airport and drove me straight to the horse races. The next morning we went to Biloxi, met up with our long-MIA friend Steve Morris, and had lunch at the Olive Garden with my mom.

As for Keith back in Pennsylvania, well…

engagement

she said yes…But only after she said, “What the hell are you doing, Keith?” 🙂

Looking back on my time in Pennsylvania now, I can say with absolute certainty that Jackie O (a character in Wendy Mcleod’s The House of Yes) was wrong when she said all those terrible things about it.


Pennsylvania is not “just this state that gets in your way when you have to go someplace else.” It’s actually a great state filled with good people, awesome sights, and a wide variety of amazing food. A very worthwhile place to make a pitstop.

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My Last 4 Months Explained in 10 Questions

Alright, dear readers, let’s cut to the chase here. I haven’t posted an update for four solid months now. By regular standards, that’s a pretty long time – a full third of a year! – but online, it’s practically an eternity. I’ve got a lot of ground to cover, and I’m on limited time at the moment, so let’s make this easy for everyone by using a Q&A format. Cool? Cool.
Here you go.

 My Last 4 Months Explained in 10 Questions

1. Where have you been?

where you been
All over the place. My school got out for Christmas vacation on December 23rd, and I flew home to the States the very next day: Seoul to Seattle. Seattle to Atlanta. Atlanta to Gulfport. (I’ll explain this rather roundabout flight plan in a separate post.) It was the first time I’ve been home for Christmas in five years, and it was awesome. I got to spend time with my dear old friend Jeff Delapp during my layover in Seattle, visit with my family and friends in Biloxi and Jackson, and even take a week-long trip to Pittsburgh to see my old friend and former radio co-host Keith Sisson. I flew back to Seoul near the end of January and have been preparing for the new school year ever since.

2. How is Kimchi?

Kimchi passport
Kimchi is an American now. Because this is probably my last year in Korea (one more at most), I decided to leave him with my parents when I went home for Christmas. This will spare him the stress of another overseas flight, as well as the mind-numbing boredom of sitting alone in our apartment all day while I’m at work. Also, my new school offers much longer vacations than my old school did, so I don’t want to board poor Kimchi for months at a time while I go sightseeing around the world.

I’m not gonna lie. I ugly-cried on the night before I left home, and the first few weeks without him have been depressing as hell. But, I know he’s in good hands and it’s ultimately for the best. And from what my mom tells me, he’s doing just fine.

Actual conversation:

Me: I’m just worried about him. I’ve heard about these dogs whose separation anxiety is so severe that they basically go into mourning, stop eating, and have to be put on an I.V. to survive.

Mom: (in a “you’re being ridiculous” tone) J, he’s nowhere near that.

3. You said you’re going “sightseeing around the world.” Where are you planning to go?

Traveling around the world clipart
I have big plans to visit England and Scotland at some point, but I think I’ll probably keep that trip on the back burner until I leave Korea for good. This year I’m looking into visiting Moscow and St.Petersburg. And possibly Hawaii or Australia. We’ll see.

4. You also said you went to Pittsburgh. How was it?

Pittsburgh
Amazing! I’ll be posting several updates about my adventures in Pittsburgh (and Pennsylvania at large) in the near future. Stay tuned.

5. So now you’re back in Seoul. Are you still teaching at the same school?

Yes, but this year I’m teaching 6th grade. (I taught 2nd grade last year.) The 6th grade English program at my school mainly consists of writing practice and novel study, which makes it the perfect fit for someone with my background and interests. My students are incredibly smart this year. Gotta stay on my toes!

6. Any big changes in 2017?

resolutions
It’s kind of embarrassing to list my New Year’s resolutions, because I realize that they’re basically identical to the ones I made 4 years ago. The difference is, I’m really sticking to them this time. With a less strenuous work schedule and no pet-owner responsibilities for the coming year, I now have time to put all of these plans into motion.

a. Lose weight – It’s a big goal, but I’ve done it before. After some trial and error, I’ve finally come up with a diet/exercise plan that works for me and that helps me lose weight at a healthy rate. I’ve already dropped 8 pounds in the first month alone. Just gotta keep it up.

b. Write something every day – I’m trying to set aside 2 hours for writing every day. Whether it’s a story, an essay, a book review, or a blog post, I just need to write something. I’m happy with the progress I’ve been making on a project that’s been sitting around for years, and I’m hoping to post at least one blog a week. Hold me to it!

c. Become more sociable – I know, it’s hard for those of you who know me to imagine me needing to add “become more sociable” to a list of New Year’s resolutions. But, there’s definitely something to be said for total exhaustion. For the past few years, my weekday schedule has basically consisted of work, dinner, going home and getting Kimchi situated, and then passing out. This year I’m trying to remedy that by making more plans, accepting more invitations, and staying in better touch with friends and family.

d. Complete a daily task – At the beginning of the year I bought a small planner and started writing down little goals to complete each day. These goals might be something simple like “Listen to Elvis” or “Eat Indian food,” or something a little more challenging like “Learn the Bill of Rights.” Whatever it is, I’m always doing something to try and break out of my usual routine. I’m open to suggestion if you can think of any worthwhile additions to the list.

7. Still single?
single
Yup, but with any luck the aforementioned weight loss and improved social calendar will be changing that before too long.

8. What are you reading these days?

moviegoer
I just finished Stephen King’s Revivalwhich I’ll review at Those Sentences in the next couple of weeks, and now I’m three or four chapters into Walker Percy’s The Moviegoer. On weekends I take a break from whatever novel I’m reading and read an essay or short story. Current faves include: Nikolai Gogol, Wendell Berry, Orrin Grey, and Bill Kauffman. Good stuff.

9. What are you listening to these days?

In the spirit of breaking out of my usual routines I’ve recently created two new iTunes playlists, one called Swingabilly and the other called Sawdust. Swingabilly is a collection of big band jazz, classic and neo-swing, rockabilly, and hulabilly songs. In case you’re wondering, “hulabilly” – I admit this was a new one for me too – is like rockabilly with a Hawaiian twist. Dig it:

“Sawdust” is a collection of Delta blues, classic and neo-bluegrass, and old country. What can I say? I’m feeling old-fashioned these days.

10. Last question. What do you think of what’s going on with Donald Trump?

almost like trump
The truth is, I try very hard not to think of what’s going on with Donald Trump. But of course that’s nearly impossible, because, just as I predicted, a lot of my liberal friends on Facebook overreact to every single thing he does. Seriously, if Trump took an aspirin liberals would declare headaches a victimized minority and start breaking Starbucks windows somewhere. #StandWithHeadaches #HeadacheJustice #MyHeadacheGrabsBack
Is there a None of the Above Club I can join to be with other people who don’t like the president OR the “resistance?” Please? Come on. They did it in Brewster’s Millions!

Anyway, I hope this brings everything up to speed. Like I said, I’m gonna be posting about my Pittsburgh trip very soon and then trying to post at least one update every week. Drop me a line and let me know what’s up. ‘Til then, my friends, be well.

J.
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/J-Wiltz-142761115744236/
IG: poms_are_metal

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