Filed Under: Mon Valley Miscellany || By
Category: Mon Valley Miscellany || By
Category: News || By
Port Authority's proposed "transit development plan" would add express service between the city and Oakland's hospitals and universities, and transform the Downtown bus terminal into a park-and-ride facility.
Those and other improvements have the potential to make the Mon-Yough area more attractive as a "bedroom community" for people who work in downtown Pittsburgh.
They also would allow residents to ride directly from one side of the Mon Valley to another without changing buses on Lysle Boulevard.
But the reorganization comes at a cost --- namely the elimination of lightly-used bus routes in areas such as Elizabeth Township and Lincoln Borough.
And it will force many buses to be renamed or renumbered, which could confuse longtime riders.
The Port Authority's board of directors will take a final vote on the rationalization plan on Oct. 23.
. . .
Tearing Up Traditional Routes: The plan, released Friday, suggests a sweeping reorganization of Port Authority's bus routes --- some of which have been virtually unchanged since the agency's 1964 creation.
"This proposal would improve service for the majority of our riders by adding more trips, cutting travel times and offering new high-frequency options," Steve Bland, Port Authority's chief executive officer, said Friday.
Devised by Nelson-Nygaard Consulting Associates, a San Francisco-based engineering firm, the plan is the product of more than two years of study and several public hearings, including one at the Palisades, Downtown.
. . .
Many Mon-Yough Changes: Noticeable changes recommended to local bus service include:
Category: Events || By
Hoerr Reads From 'Dusk': City native and author John Hoerr will read from his new novel Monongahela Dusk (reviewed in Monday's Almanac) on Saturday afternoon at the Pump House in Munhall.
Hoerr will be joined by poet and Homestead resident Robert Gibb, who will read excerpts from his new collection of poetry, What the Heart Can Bear: Selected and Uncollected Poems, 1979-1993.
Both books are published by Pittsburgh's Autumn House Press. Sponsored by the Battle of Homestead Foundation, the events are free and open to the public and begin at 1:30 p.m.
The Pump House --- site of a bloody skirmish during the Homestead steel strike of 1892 --- is one of the few remaining locations from Carnegie's original Homestead Works. It is located at the east end of the Waterfront shopping complex on Route 837.
Visit the foundation's website or call (412) 782-0171.
. . .
Skyliners Under the Stars: Jimmy Beaumont and the Skyliners close out the city's summer concert series in Renzie Park with a free performance at 7 p.m. Sunday night.
Best known for their 1958 hit "Since I Don't Have You," the Skyliners hit the Billboard Magazine Top 40 twice more with 1959's "This I Swear" and a 1960 uptempo version of "Pennies From Heaven."
Beaumont is the only original member of the 1958-60 Skyliners still performing, though some members of the current lineup have been with the group for decades. The quartet currently includes Donna Groom, Dick Muse and Nick Pociask.
The concert will be held at the bandshell (bring a blanket or lawn chair); in case of rain, it may be moved to the Palisades, Downtown.
Category: Commentary/Editorial || By
The more I hear about the protests surrounding the upcoming G-20 summit, the less I understand.
The Thomas Merton Center, a Pittsburgh-based anti-war collective that's serving as a clearinghouse for G-20 demonstrators, has posted a list of its demands for the leaders of the G-20 nations:
Category: Commentary/Editorial || By
Book Review: Of Youngstown, a notorious hotbed of organized crime, talk-show host Doug Hoerth has said: "In some cities, the forces of good are constantly at war with the forces of evil. But in Youngstown, everyone gets along."
That also describes the McKeesport of John Hoerr's novel Monongahela Dusk, just released this month by Autumn House Press.
Throughout Hoerr's story --- which spans the Great Depression and World War II --- it's hard to tell the heroes from the villains.
There's the union organizer who blows up coal tipples, but draws the line at murder. There are the company police officers, sworn to keep the peace, who instead break legs first and question suspects later.
And there's the small-time racketeer who's offended when outsiders wire a car bomb on his turf. ("Who do they think they are, bombing people in my f--king town!" he rails.)
. . .
The McKeesport of Monongahela Dusk is not the misty sepia-toned city of ice cream sundaes at Isaly's, horse-drawn Menzie Dairy wagons and twinkling lights at the Memorial Theater. It's not even the carefully airbrushed "city on the go" of photos in the Mansfields' Daily News.
Instead, this is the McKeesport that my grandfathers used to remember ruefully after a few drinks --- a place where mobsters and mill bosses bought and sold politicians, vice was as plentiful as "Allegheny whitefish" on the Monongahela, and African-Americans were welcome to hold the crummiest jobs in the open hearth, but not to eat in the restaurants on Fifth Avenue.
A native of McKeesport and a former editor of Business Week, Hoerr is best known for his seminal study of the decline of steelmaking in the Mon Valley, And the Wolf Finally Came, considered a classic of labor and business history.
Another book, Harry, Tom and Father Rice, examined the connections between one-time McKeesport congressman Harry Davenport, "labor priest" Charles Owen Rice, and the communist witch-hunts of the early Cold War era.
. . .
With Monongahela Dusk, his first novel, Hoerr uses his same reporter's eye to weave a tale from his childhood memories of McKeesport. The result is a re-creation so vivid, you can feel the soot on the pages.
This is not a novel that uses florid description to tell its story; instead, Hoerr employs a journalist's simple, solid nouns and verbs, and creates a fictional world all the more realistic because of it.
Dusk is the story of Albert "Pete" Bonner, a traveling salesman for Fort Pitt Beer, who in 1937 accidentally gets entangled with Joe Miravich, an organizer for the United Mine Workers.
After foiling a plot to assassinate steel union leader Philip Murray, they wind up targets both of the criminals hired to deliver the hit, and of the mysterious steel boss --- "Mr. Buck" --- who paid for it.
. . .
Bonner and Miravich avoid immediate retribution and use wartime's prosperity to build successful (though opposing) careers, but the knowledge that "Buck" is waiting to extract his revenge hangs over their heads like a blast furnace charge that refuses to drop.
Readers need not be McKeesporters to appreciate Monongahela Dusk, though natives will enjoy the local references.
Characters see one of the legendary brawls after a McKeesport-Duquesne football game at Tech High field, steal a Pittsburgh Railways trolley for a joyride, and "play the numbers" in a candy store near the old Ringgold Street waiting room.
. . .
Although this is a fictionalized McKeesport, it doesn't take much imagination to see that stiff-necked union-busting Republican Mayor D.R. Shoaf is inspired by McKeesport's real life stiff-necked union-busting Republican Mayor George H. Lysle.
Some of the other characters are clearly inspired by real-life figures as well --- Miravich seems to be an amalgam of former Steelworkers local union presidents Tony Tomko of McKeesport and Ron Weisen of Homestead.
Incidentally, this is at least the second novel --- David Chacko's Brick Alley is the other --- set against the rackets and politics of the "good ol' days" in McKeesport.
Those novels and K.C. Constantine's Rocksburg mysteries, which are set in a thinly disguised Greensburg, tell more about life in Western Pennsylvania in the 20th century than all of Rick Sebak's specials combined.
. . .
If there's a criticism to be leveled at Monongahela Dusk, it's that Hoerr's impartial, journalistic style doesn't always allow him to imagine what's inside the heads of his characters. Instead of getting their motivation, readers are often observers watching events unfold through Hoerr's neutral eyes.
The distance makes it tough to develop an emotional bond with some characters. Bonner's attempts to ingratiate himself with McKeesport's businessmen, for instance, have less of the pathos of Willy Loman and more of the shallowness of George Babbitt.
Miravich is one of Dusk's better-rounded characters --- brooding, conflicted, torn between his ideals and his practical goals.
Some readers might also complain that the central mystery of Buck's identity is a meaningless MacGuffin, there only so that Hoerr can sketch his warts-and-all portrait of McKeesport, and that the resolution is too off-handed to be truly satisfying.
. . .
But complaining that a novel about McKeesport's rough-and-rowdy past is "too workmanlike" or "too detached" is like complaining that the Westinghouse Bridge is "too concrete-y."
It's the detail and the detachment of Hoerr's no-bull prose that make Monongahela Dusk as valuable as history as it is enjoyable as a study of a bygone era.
If the resolution lacks an "ah-ha!" moment, that's because we were there for the journey, not the destination.
And though it's been many years since Hoerr lived here, his insights about the Mon Valley ring true. During a car trip down Route 837 to Donora, Miravich's girlfriend mentions that she's never been this far away in her life: "We never even took a streetcar to Pittsburgh."
Too many of us still have that lack of curiosity today. Though the mills and the rackets have faded, the parochial attitudes persist.
Sometimes, the more things stay the same, the more they should change.
Category: Rants a.k.a. Commentary || By
In case you've been living in a cave for the past several days, "PittGirl" --- the anonymous blogger whose Burgh Blog captured the hearts of thousands of Pittsburghers with her snarky commentary on politics, life, the Steelers and other weighty topics --- revealed her real name last week.
This was greeted with front-page coverage in both of Pittsburgh's newspapers and stories on TV and radio.
The Tribune-Review almost broke out the "WAR IS DECLARED" style headline type that it's previously reserved for such scoops as the news that Russ Grimm was the new coach of the Steelers.
The announcement even made CNN.
Many of those same media outlets did follow-up stories the next day when PittGirl --- whose real name turns out to be Virginia Montanez, 35, of North Huntingdon Township --- was dismissed from her job at a Pittsburgh non-profit agency that deals with many of the same elected officials that The Burgh Blog has been deftly skewering for four years.
. . .
You may remember that Tube City Almanac two years ago correctly guessed that PittGirl was from North Huntingdon, which led to people actually threatening me for "outing" Montanez.
Sorry, but when she mentioned that she lived 16 miles from downtown Pittsburgh and then started posting pictures of the North Huntingdon Giant Eagle and Berks' Men's Wear (the official sweater-vest supplier of Tube City Online), well, she was just daring me to note that she was from North Huntingdon, or as we like to say, "the McKeesport suburbs."
Naturally, when the news broke that PittGirl was Montanez, several (OK, two) people emailed me to ask if it was true that I had figured out who PittGirl really was.
I replied, no, I hadn't, and that actually ... I didn't really care.
. . .
Make no mistake --- I think Montanez is a talented writer. I also think she's demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt that blogging provides a chance for independent voices to have an impact.
Think about it: With some free software and probably $200 worth of bandwidth, she's generated more buzz since 2005 than any of the Post-Gazette's stable of highly paid columnists. (And a little birdie tells the Almanac that PittGirl has been seen inside 34 Blvd. of the Allies, which could mean that she's about to move on up to the big time, to a deluxe apartment, or at least cubicle.)
But I just don't understand the fascination with her or with her real identity.
I'm really, truly not the least bit jealous. You may recall that I wrote a book, and I've been on TV, radio and in print promoting the dad-blamed thing, so it's not like I'm attention-starved.
. . .
Wasn't it enough for her to be writing funny things? Does knowing her real name make her any funnier? Does knowing that Little Richard's real name is "Richard Penniman" make "Good Golly, Miss Molly" a better song?
(And who owns more stiletto heels, Little Richard or PittGirl? But I digress.)
Also, without being unkind, PittGirl --- for all of her talent --- wouldn't be a celebrity in any other city. Try to imagine Chicago newspapers and TV reporters breathlessly announcing the identity of an anonymous blogger.
For that matter, I'm not sure she's a big celebrity in Pittsburgh, either. If I went to Monroeville Mall or Olympia Shopping Center and stopped the first 10 people I met, could eight of them correctly identify PittGirl as a local blogger?
. . .
Maybe the problem I'm having is that Pittsburgh is such a small media market that our reporters are obsessed with trivial nonsense --- and don't otherwise dig very hard for any stories that aren't Steelers related.
Honestly, with hard-hitting stories like last week's PittGirl revelations, it's hard to understand why newspaper circulation is in freefall, and why TV news viewership is down, too.
(Personally, I blame Google and Craigslist. Damn you, Craigslist!)
But since the media seems to be so hard up for blog-related news, I guess I should finally reveal my secret, too.
I've actually been writing for Tube City Almanac under a pseudonym for all of these years.
Yes, I'm actually the late Sen. William D. Mansfield. Alert Jim Lokay!
Category: Events, News || By
The 50th edition of the city's signature summer event ended Thursday night with both a bang and a whimper.
With the International Village audience soaked by a torrential downpour and the skies threatening to deliver a severe electrical storm, officials canceled last night's headline entertainer, Irish folk singer Cahal Dunne.
But the closing fireworks over Renziehausen Park --- a display costing $10,000, according to City Councilman Darryl Segina, the outgoing chairman of International Village --- went off as planned, albeit about an hour early.
As it turned out, much of the severe storm that everyone was expecting bypassed the city. By the time that became apparent, unfortunately, many food and craft vendors were already closed. (One vendor told us privately she lost about two-thirds of her expected Thursday sales.)
With the infield at Stephen Barry Field already turning into a swamp --- and with a terrific lightning storm on the horizon --- the decision to close was probably a prudent one. But besides Dunne's performance, it also forced the city to skip a planned tribute to police, fire and emergency personnel.
During a break in the rain, Mayor Jim Brewster and Council President Regis McLaughlin honored longtime softball coach Eddie Stanko; the Daily News on the occasion of its 125th anniversary; and Segina, who served as chairman of International Village for 16 years.
Segina thanked his wife Barbara ("still the love of my life," he said) and International Village coordinator Dorothy Kuharski for their support and predicted "the Village" would remain a regional tradition for another 50 years "as long as the integrity of the ethnic food, music and dancing is maintained."
Noting that 30 different ethnic traditions had come together in harmony in Renziehausen Park this year, Segina also issued a heartfelt prayer that nations around the world would someday be able to live in similar peace.
Audio report from Day 3 (2.8 MB, MP3)
Category: Events, News || By
It turns out that other things have been happening besides International Village ...
. . .
Penn State 'Pinning' Ceremony: Incoming students at Penn State's campus in McKeesport will be "pinned" during the annual academic convocation Friday morning in the Wunderley Gymnasium.
Chief Academic Officer Kurt Torell will welcome each student, who will receive a pin from Greater Allegheny Campus signifying their entrance into the university.
Torell says the convocation is the first day for students and their families to become "acclimated" to the campus.
The keynote speaker will be Veronica Montecinos, professor of sociology at the Greater Allegheny Campus, a spokeswoman said.
More details at Penn State's website.
. . .
Now Hear This: Mike Mauer, housing counselor at the Mon Valley Initiative, was a guest last Saturday on the Rev. Jay Geisler's talk show, "Focus on the Mon Valley."
Also interviewed was City Councilman Darryl Segina, who is retiring as chairman of the International Village Committee.
You can download the program at the TalkShoe website. "Focus on the Mon Valley" airs at 6 a.m. on McKeesport-licensed (but Greentree-based) WMNY (1360).
. . .
Blues Festival Successful: Joyce Rothermel, chief executive officer of Duquesne's Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, reports that last weekend's Pittsburgh Blues Festival was a success, despite the threat of rain on Saturday.
Although the financial reports aren't yet complete, she says, "the weekend was well attended, and revenues should be good." About 12 tons of food was donated on Friday by Blues Festival concertgoers, Rothermel says.
(A slideshow of the Blues Festival --- held at Hartwood Acres county park, north of Pittsburgh --- is available online.)
Meanwhile, the federal stimulus package has allowed the food bank to hire five workers through the AmeriCorps VISTA program. The workers will help other organizations that distribute food to improve their volunteer support and public relations.
Despite the fact that the economy seems to be recovering slowly, demand at the food bank remains high --- Rothermel says the August food distribution in Duquesne supported 750 families, up approximately 200 households from the month before.
. . .
Farm Stands Open Thru Nov. 12: In a related story, farm stands remain open on Wednesdays and Thursdays throughout the Mon-Yough area, according to the Food Bank's Iris Valanti.
The Mon Yough Community Services Farm Stand at 500 Market St., Downtown, is open from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Wednesdays, while another at the Westinghouse Valley Human Services Center, 519 Penn Ave., Turtle Creek, is open from 12 noon to 3 p.m. Wednesdays.
On Thursdays, a farm stand is open at the Dairy Mart on Second Avenue in Hazelwood from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m, and at Lifespan Senior Center, 530 Miller Ave., Clairton, from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
The farm stands are designed to provide fresh, Pennsylvania-grown produce to urban communities and are open to the public. They accept cash, WIC coupons, senior citizen nutrition coupons and EBT cards. Call (412) 460-3663, extension 216, for details.
. . .
Eat'n Park Threatened?: Pat Cloonan of the Daily News reports that Eat'n Park's city location --- a fixture Downtown from the very beginnings of the chain --- may close as a result of construction of the new "flyover" ramp connecting the Industrial Center of McKeesport to Lysle Boulevard.
Part of the restaurant's parking lot is likely to be taken by Allegheny County in an eminent domain proceeding.
City and county officials claim they're close to an agreement to trade Eat'n Park a portion of a neighboring alley for creation of a new parking lot. But Cloonan reported Wednesday that Eat'n Park executives aren't happy with the proposed swap but are "hopeful" they can come to an agreement.
An Eat'n Park spokesman told Cloonan that the restaurant chain would like to remain in the city, but "losing a good portion of our property is going to make it difficult."
Opened in 1952, the city location is the sixth-oldest in the Homestead-based chain.
Creation of the flyover ramp is considered crucial to marketing the industrial park on the former U.S. Steel National Works site. Access is currently limited to two narrow railroad crossings at Locust and Center streets.
Category: News || By
It just wouldn't be International Village without at least one night of rain, and for the 50th annual event, the weather didn't disappoint.
Mikey Dee and the Internationals were about 30 minutes into their set on Wednesday when the traditional International Village deluge began, drenching the audience and knocking LightningFM.org's webcast off the net for about an hour.
The good news is that once the skies cleared, the temperature and humidity dropped and a nice breeze dried things out. And the crowds seemed to return pretty quickly.
At 5:30, city officials and representatives of McKeesport Heritage Center went across Eden Park Boulevard to Helen Richey Field to rededicate a monument to the field's namesake. Pioneering aviatrix Helen Richey was the world's first female commercial airline pilot.
Thursday night, several longtime Village volunteers --- including city Councilman Darryl Segina, who is retiring as Village chairman --- will be honored, along with police, fire and emergency medical services personnel. And then --- boom! --- there's going to be fireworks.
Our traveling microphone caught up with city Mayor Jim Brewster after the Richey monument dedication:
Interview: McKeesport Mayor Jim Brewster, Aug. 19, 2009 (2.3 MB, MP3)*
Category: Mon Valley Miscellany, News || By
We will be broadcasting from International Village from 3 to 11 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 18 to Thursday, Aug. 20. At other times, the stream will be down (or may be live for testing purposes).
To listen during broadcast hours, click on this link: http://listen.lightningfm.org:8000/listen.pls
It's an MP3 stream which should work in Winamp, iTunes, Quicktime, RealPlayer and other popular media players. It's also been tested --- and seems to work --- with popular brands of cell phones that can support streaming media. Sorry --- we can't guarantee it will work with your computer, and we can't provide technical support.
If the stream doesn't open:
If the stream doesn't open when you click the link, then open your streaming player (Winamp, iTunes, Quicktime, RealPlayer, etc.) manually.
Then select the option that allows you to "Open Stream" or "Open URL" and either "cut and paste" the above information, or manually type in the URL: http://listen.lightningfm.org:8000/listen.pls
If the stream goes down:
We are using a broadband wi-fi network to connect to the Internet from Renzie Park. At times, the connection could go down, and the stream will disappear. If that happens, disconnect, wait a few minutes, and try reconnecting.
Bring a portable radio!
If you're coming to International Village, then bring a portable AM or FM radio with you and listen along! We'll be using low-power "Part 15" transmitters on 88.9 FM or 1640 AM that should cover Stephen Barry Field.
And make sure to stop by the Lightning FM/Tube City Online booth --- we're to the right of the main stage, along Eden Park Boulevard. And we'll see you at the Village!
Category: General Nonsense || By
I'm still buried under preparation for the International Village broadcast, so here's another "pearl" of "wisdom" from the Tube City Almanac archives. This entry originally appeared Jan. 28, 2005:
Category: Mon Valley Miscellany || By
(Editor's note: As a public service to the thousands of people who will be attending the 50th International Village next week, as well as the tens of dozens who read Tube City Almanac, we are reprinting our annual handy guide to attending the area's premier food and music festival. As always, it's been updated slightly.
Feel free to clip and save it, or if you can't clip things from your monitor, just carry your computer around with you.
You may also enjoy this 1972 look at the Village, reprinted from Ford Times.)
. . .
Every year, tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians descend on Our Fair City's Renziehausen Park for the ethnic food, dancing, food, music and food festival known as "International Village." Though other communities have imitated it (and I'm looking at you, Picksberg), they have not been able to duplicate the experience.
For months ahead of time, churches, ethnic clubs and other associations prepare foods and crafts for sale, while performance groups prepare traditional costumes and practice folk songs and dances. And there's great ethnic food.
Did I mention food? I did? Good.
Well, that time is almost here again! Next Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, the balalaikas, tamburas and bass guitars will be plunking, the dancers will be twirling, and thousands of Westinghouse electric roasters will have emerged from pantries and basements and been pressed into service to keep pierogies, pirohis, perogis, pirozhkis and pirogies warm.
Some people will even be making piroghies.
In the past, International Village was mostly made up of those "nations" that stretched from, oh, say, Dublin to Minsk, and south to Palermo. But over the years, as different ethnic groups have settled in Western Pennsylvania, more and more traditions of Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa are being represented at the "Village." For those of us who enjoy eating sweet and sour pork, cheese ravioli and halushki while listening to Slovenian music, this is a definite plus.
Lifelong residents of the Mon-Yough area know that the Village represents a great time and a chance to get in touch with your ethnic roots. But for those unfortunate Almanac visitors who didn't grow up within in the McKeesport area, here's an insider's guide to International Village, telling you the kinds of things that you don't get in the free souvenir program.
. . .
International Village is held at Stephen Barry Field in McKeesport's Renziehausen Park for three days every August.
Contrary to the belief of many Pittsburghers, you can reach McKeesport quickly and easily, and we do have paved roads in the Mon Valley. Renzie Park is particularly easy to get to --- from Westmoreland County, take Route 30 west to Route 48 south. Take Route 48 south to Route 148 north. Follow Route 148 north about three blocks to Eden Park Boulevard.
From Pittsburgh, you may take the Parkway East to Forest Hills, then take Route 30 east to East McKeesport. Turn right onto Route 148 south and follow Route 148 to Hartman Street, then turn left.
Unlike what you may have seen reported on the Pittsburgh TV news, we are largely friendly and harmless, and we do have such conveniences as electricity, telephones and indoor toilets. We don't have a Starbucks yet, but we're hopeful. (That trend is dead now, anyway, which means we'll get one any minute.)
. . .
Parking is at a premium during International Village. Some of the local churches offer paid parking in their lots, but any free parking near Stephen Barry Field tends to fill up quickly.
Luckily, Renzie Park is a large, regional park, so there are spaces available, but they're not necessarily adjacent to Stephen Barry Field. If you can walk, simply plan to wear comfortable shoes, and give yourself plenty of time. You will enjoy the stroll. Renzie is lovely on a summer evening.
If you are elderly or disabled, I hope you can find a space close to the entrances.
But if you're able-bodied, and you insist on circling the parking lots near the tennis courts endlessly for hours hoping that a space opens up, I reserve the right to steal your hubcaps.
. . .
In a related matter, have some common courtesy --- for crying out loud, don't park on the end of the aisle and block other people in. Your legs aren't broken. But maybe they should be. At the very least, someone should steal your hubcaps.
Also, there is no valet parking at International Village. So if you give your car keys to someone, I sure hope you have a bus schedule handy.
. . .
Other Activities: McKeesport Heritage Center, located on Arboretum Drive, will have special extended hours during International Village. If you haven't purchased a copy of Images of America: McKeesport, this is an ideal time to do so.
The Heritage Center also has copies of a recent documentary on the life of pioneer aviator Helen Richey and other memorabilia on sale, as well as exhibits documenting life around the Mon-Yough area and McKeesport's first school house. It's well worth a visit, and I say that not just because I'm on the board of directors.
Also, the Renzie Park Arboretum, which is surprisingly also located on Arboretum Drive, is open until sunset. It's one of only about 100 nationally recognized rose gardens in the United States, so take a break from the Village and stop to smell the roses. (Rimshot.)
. . .
Do: Wear your "Kiss Me, I'm Irish," "Treat Me, I'm Dutch," "Proud to Be Italian," etc., T-shirt.
Don't: Tell Polish jokes, or say something like, "Wow! Look at all the (insert ethnic group name here)!" And speaking in an exaggerated, "Mamma-mia! That's-a speecy-spicy meatsaballa!" accent around the Italian booth is considered bad form.
. . .
If you are over the age of 10, and are eating hot dogs at the "American" booth, you should be ashamed of yourself. You probably think burritos heated in the microwave at Uni-Mart are "authentic Mexican cuisine."
. . .
The food prices at the Village are set by the individual groups doing the vending. You may find $5 for a kolbassi sandwich too much to pay, and decide to eat somewhere else. That is your prerogative.
But for some of the groups exhibiting at International Village, this is the one big fundraising event they have each year. They will no doubt invest the profits from your $5 kolbassi sandwich into silly, frivolous extras like the water bill, the gas bill, the light bill, and educational and cultural programs.
Choose instead to stop for a 99-cent "extra value" cheeseburger on the way home, and contemplate all of the ethnic and social programs the Wendy's Corporation has funded in your community over the last year. I hope the mustard and pickles turn to ashes in your mouth, you cheapskate.
Or, buy something at the Village to eat. It's your choice. There's no pressure.
. . .
Admission: There is a small admission charge to enter International Village. For a long time, it was 50 cents, and before that, it was free.
There are still people who think it should be free, and mark the city's "decline" to the year that they started charging people four bits to walk around International Village. Many of these people are also still upset that CBS cancelled "Ed Sullivan."
If you're one of the people, I'm wondering how you made it onto the Web to read the Almanac, so please write to us from the library or wherever you've been sponging free Internet access.
A postcard to P.O. Box 94, McKeesport, PA 15134 is acceptable. Feel free to steam a stamp off of a Christmas card, or just send Bob Cratchit over to deliver it.
Category: Commentary/Editorial || By
Is there anyone out there who's happy with their current health insurance? (Besides members of Congress and executives at health insurance companies, that is.)
I have a friend in her early 30s who's happily employed, generally healthy and has good credit. She can't get health insurance at any price on the free market.
She used to have fainting spells. Blue Shield, UPMC Health Plan, HealthAmerica and the rest huffed that was a "pre-existing condition" and turned her down flat.
So, please, spare me any complaints that a federal health insurance program would be run by "bureaucrats who would deny you coverage!"
Bureaucrats are already denying us coverage. They just work for UPMC Health Plan or HealthAmerica, not the federal government.
. . .
Last month, the Almanac reported on the Ninth Street Clinic, located in the former YWCA, Downtown.
Most of their patients are working people who can't get insurance from their employers, or who can't afford $600 or $700 per month for insurance on the open market, or have been denied coverage.
Consequently, when they get sick, all they can do is wait until their illnesses get so bad that they have to go to the emergency room.
Hospital emergency rooms are required to treat them, so they cover their expenses by increasing the prices they charge to everyone else, including Medicare and private insurance companies.
. . .
Guess who pays for that? Taxpayers and people with health insurance!
In other words, we're already paying for a de facto national health insurance program. It just doesn't have any accountability or checks and balances.
And guess what else? If many of the conditions being treated in emergency rooms had been treated months or years earlier in a doctor's office --- before they became chronic or life threatening --- the treatments wouldn't have cost so much.
Last year, as reported in the Almanac and elsewhere, the city of McKeesport was faced with an 83 percent increase in its health insurance premiums.
The city isn't unique --- every municipality, school district and private business that offers health insurance is bearing the costs of an out-of-control health care system that costs too much and does too little.
. . .
Some people who object to the federal government taking any role in health care say that the United States has "the best health care system in the world." To this I say: Bull.
Take a look at this story from The Economist: We pay a far higher percentage of our Gross Domestic Product for health care than people in any other civilized nation.
In exchange for paying all of this money, the United States is ranked 50th in life expectancy, ahead of Albania, Kuwait and Cuba.
The United States is ranked 44th in infant mortality, below Cuba, Portugal and Slovenia.
Do you think that health care would get worse or more expensive if the federal government ran it? I guess it could get worse ... but it's hard to see where private companies are doing such a great job when left to their own devices.
. . .
There are legitimate questions that people can ask about a national health insurance program. Such as: Who should be covered? How should we pay for it?
But those aren't the questions being discussed. Instead, a group of far-right loonies --- many of whom dislike the president because he's black, or because they think he's a Muslim (for the nth time, he's not) --- have hijacked the debate to rant about crazy topics.
Notes Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo:
The health care debate is now being driven by a perverse nonsense feedback loop in which the Palin/Limbaugh crowd says all sorts of completely insane lies, gets a lot of ... how shall we put it, impressionable people totally jacked up over a bunch of complete nonsense ...
I see no evidence that even close to a majority of Americans believe completely preposterous things like this. But journalists have no capacity to deal with this stuff.
In any sane civic discourse Sarah Palin's comments about 'death panels' would have permanently written her out of any public debate about anything. But even though very few people actually believe this stuff, the entire debate gets knocked off the rails by this sort of freak show which allows the organized interests who want to prevent reform to gain the upper hand.
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c|
Category: Commentary/Editorial || By
Editor's Note: Much of the brain power --- such as it is --- at Tube City Online World News Headquarters on Dravosburg Hill has been diverted to planning for next week's International Village broadcast. We'll be filling the gaps by reprinting some "classic" (read: old) Almanac entries from the past.
This one's from five years ago --- Aug. 31, 2004, to be exact. You may recall that there was a presidential election that year, and that the Democratic candidate was Yawn ... I mean, John ... Kerry.
. . .
Here's what I see when I look at the Steeler hard hat ... I see a tribute to two industries --- steel and mining --- which have their best days behind them. I see an idealization of Pittsburgh's history. Does it hold Pittsburgh back to say that this is still a steel town, even metaphorically? Ask your friends around the country and around the world about their impressions of Pittsburgh. Are they good ones? I hope so. Are those positive associations based on the history (and continuing presence) of steel? I'd like to know the answer, but I'd wager that the answer is no.
Category: History || By
From 35 years ago this weekend, it's a special historical treat for folks on the Duquesne-West Mifflin side of the river.
These are the front pages of the late, lamented Homestead Daily Messenger from Thursday, Aug. 8, 1974 and Friday, Aug. 9, 1974 --- the day that President Nixon left office in disgrace and his successor, Gerald Ford, took office.
Click either front page to enlarge it.
Incidentally, you may be wondering what major stories were sharing the front page of the Messenger on Aug. 9, 1974 besides the resignation of the leader of the free world?
Those stories were a discussion of whether Whitaker Borough would pave Riverview and Hamilton avenues, and Munhall Borough Council's approval of a sewer line extension. Paul Shaffer --- cue up that "Small Town News" theme!
. . .
In case you were wondering, the Messenger was founded in 1882 as a weekly, went daily in 1899, went back to weekly publication in August 1979 and folded in December of that year.
(One of the Messenger's editors in the '70s was a youthful Kevin G. Barkes, better known these days as editor of Fayette City's most popular blog, the KGB Report.)
The weekly Valley Mirror, founded by former Messenger Editor Earle Wittpenn, picked up the baton in 1981.
Then, in 1983, new owners tried to revive the paper, but they unfortunately went bankrupt two years later.
The Valley Mirror has continued, and although Wittpenn sold the paper to Tony Munson, publisher of the Braddock Free Press, back in 1998, he has continued to write his weekly column, "Earle's Pearls."
. . .
Alas, community journalism in the Homestead-Munhall-West Mifflin area could be in danger yet again. Munson recently announced that he intends to retire, and he's looking for a buyer for the newspaper.
Here's a sincere wish that some budding entrepreneur steps up to keep the Mirror in business and independent.
Remember, Nixon said the "press was the enemy," and that's reason enough to keep as many news outlets in business as possible.
Let's make Dick as miserable as possible in the afterlife ... as if the demons sticking him with pitchforks for all eternity weren't enough.
Category: Events || By
Irwin Heritage Days: Five Guys Named Moe and The Dallas Marks Band headline a weekend of entertainment, food and crafts in downtown Irwin.
Irwin Heritage Days runs from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and 12 to 8 p.m. Sunday and is sponsored by The Irwin Project, the collective name for a group of community development projects aimed at revitalizing the borough's downtown.
The concerts are slated for 6:30 p.m. each night in Irwin Park, with Five Guys Named Moe on Saturday and Dallas Marks on Sunday.
Middle Earth Studios will have costumed storytelling for children at 11 a.m. Saturday and at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
. . .
Relay for Life at Stadium: American Cancer Society is sponsoring a Relay for Life Saturday and Sunday on the walking track at Weigle-Schaeffer Memorial Stadium, McKeesport Area High School, 1960 Eden Park Blvd.
We counted nine teams registered already on Friday night. The walk gets underway at 12 p.m. Saturday. Visit the website for details.
. . .
Shakespeare in the Park: See "Romeo and Juliet" where it was meant to be seen --- in Monroeville.
Poor Yorick's Players present Shakespeare's timeless tragedy at 6:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at Tall Trees Amphitheater in Monroeville Park. (From McKeesport, take Route 48 north across Route 130 to the left turn at Cambridge Square Drive, then take the next left onto Tilbrook Road.)
Performances are free, but visitors must bring a lawn chair or blanket to sit on. Call (412) 537-1705 or visit the website. Just don't mention the Scottish play.
. . .
To list your weekend event in Tube City Almanac, email j togyer at gmail dot com or write to P.O. Box 94, McKeesport 15134. Enclose $1 million for a chance to win 25 words or less about why we like Tube City Almanac. Employees of Tube City Community Media Inc. are eligible to participate, but extremely unlikely to exist.
Category: History || By
Category: History, News || By
Category: Shameless Horn-Tooting || By P.R. Flack
"International Village" will be really "international" this year when it takes to the World Wide Web.
Lightning Community Broadcasting and Tube City Online will provide live, streaming coverage of McKeesport's 50th annual International Village, a spokesman said.
The coverage will begin daily at 3 p.m. Aug. 18, 19 and 20 and will be available online at www.lightningfm.org.
In addition, two small radio transmitters will provide additional coverage in the Renzie Park area on AM and FM. Visitors in the vicinity of Stephen Barry Field will be able to listen on 1640 AM and 88.9 FM using portable or car radios.
The groups received permission last week to stream the event from Village Co-Chair and City Councilman Darryl Segina and Mayor James Brewster.
An annual ethnic food and music festival that attracts tens of thousands of visitors to McKeesport's Renziehausen Park, International Village presents live entertainment from 6 to 11 p.m. nightly, with fireworks on the final night.
One of the largest ethnic festivals in Western Pennsylvania, International Village evolved from McKeesport's "Old Home Week," first held in 1960. The festival moved to Renzie a few years later.
International Village will be held this year on Aug. 18, 19 and 20.
Lightning, which merged into Tube City Online's parent organization earlier this year, will present interviews and a live feed of the entertainment on the main stage at International Village, says Jason Togyer, editor of Tube City Almanac and executive director of Tube City Community Media Inc.
The two radio transmitters in Renzie will operate under the restrictions of the Federal Communications Commission's so-called "Part 15" regulations, which allow groups to provide limited, ultra-low-power AM and FM service to restricted areas such as public parks and college campuses.
Lightning, as a subsidiary of Tube City, plans to seek one of the FCC's low-power FM licenses when applications are accepted, hopefully later this year.
If such a license is granted by the FCC, the group will operate --- either by itself or in partnership with other local organizations --- a 100-watt, non-profit, non-commercial FM transmitter to provide public service programming to the McKeesport area.
The station's goals will be to promote the McKeesport area and provide an outlet for local residents --- especially young people --- to learn about radio.