Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Polish Hill, Russian icons

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

Entering Polish Hill under the Bloomfield Bridge

Entering Polish Hill under the Bloomfield Bridge

I love my tiny neighborhood of Polish Hill. Nestled between the Strip District, Lawrenceville, Oakland, and the Hill District, it often feels like a little village in the middle of the city. At the top of the hill on Bethoven Street, birds chirp in rambling gardens behind brick houses, and all is quiet (except for the brass band practicing in the old garage). Slightly crumbling  public stairways make their way through leafy hills, popping out between houses. Porches face north, with an incredible panoramic view of valley, rivers, train tracks, and city. There are hidden houses at the bottom of gullies. An outdoor gallery of graffiti under the Bloomfield Bridge gives way to a community garden. I live next door to a three-story building housing Lili Coffee Shop (a café that often hosts good live music),  the excellent record store Mind Cure Records on the second floor, and Copacetic Comics on the third, with its great selection of graphic novels, comics, used and new books, cds, and the wise council of its owner Bill Boichel. And there’s almost no need to mention Gooski’s—definitely the best dive bar in a hundred-mile radius…

The neighborhood is home to a fair number of artists, musicans, chefs, filmmakers, etc. I recently came accross this short film by Julie Sokolow about the neighborhood’s resident Russian Orthodox icon painter. Pretty fascinating stuff.

And a great set of photos of the recent May Day celebrations by Polish Hill man-about-town Mark Knobil.

Summer Is Over. Back to Work, You Lazy Sunglasses.

Sunday, August 19th, 2012

Back to Work You Lazy Sunglass

Heppenstall is found!

Thursday, July 12th, 2012

heppenstall sign 2

On June 7th Daniel Baumann posted on the mysterious disappearance of the Heppenstall sign near the Lawrenceville apartment. I am pleased to report that this weekend, on a trip to Carrie Furnace with visiting artist Zoe Strauss (more on Zoe’s visit soon!), Dan Byers and I happened upon the dismantled remains of ol’ Heppie. Nestled in the dusty corner of an old Steel Work’s engine house seems the perfect resting place for this venerable marker of industry. Certainly, much better than the Wall Street bar Daniel had predicted.

heppenstall sign 3

Suzie Silver/Jasdeep Khaira and William E. Jones at Apartment Talks

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

Apartment Talk #9: Suzie Silver/Jasdeep Khaira and William E. Jones

I am pleased to report that, with two recent literary events, things are really heating up at the 2013 Carnegie International Apartment Talks.


The Bayernhof or Little Bavaria, Pittsburgh, PA

Saturday, June 23rd, 2012

Have 3 free hours and $10 to burn in Pittsburgh on a Saturday? You could easily put down 6.67 drafts of cheap beer and while away the hours in a dark smoky dive bar. But here, I give you a far superior alternative, one that is possibly just as cave-like and trippy: the Bayernhof Museum. Perched on a hill overlooking the Allegheny River sits a beautifully elaborate and, at times, awkward mansion built to house one of the largest privately owned collections of antique mechanical musical instruments. Outside the main entrance, an ominous sign greets visitors: if you arrive early, kindly wait in your car until the tour begins. On the dot, the door creaks open and you think you’ve entered the Neuschwanstein Castle—if the Bavarian kingdom abutted the era of 1980s home entertainment technology. Each room of the Bayernhof houses a different enchanting machine for listening: nickelodeon player pianos, nickel-operated Wurlitzer organs, harps and banjos, phonographs, an enormous pipe organ orchestra made for silent films, even a dainty singing bird cage. The tour, led by the museum’s curator, takes a circuitous path from room to room of German kitsch, beer steins, and Hummel figurines, past the 18 stocked bars of the house, a shower with over 10 shower heads, an observatory, down a small hidden staircase into a subterranean lair through a cool, dark wine grotto that leads to a large pool room littered with colorful, rustic wallpaper murals and faux flower arrangements. There is even a purple felt billiards table along the way, but alas, I’ve already said too much. Advanced reservations recommended, no nickels required. In one final word: magical.