Guiding Light, the oldest dramatic series on American TV (or maybe any other, for that matter) has been cancelled after seventy-two years on radio and TV. Almost all the shows I watched as an impressionable child while staying with Oleene are long gone now.

I occasionally find myelf looking for old soap opera video online. It’s some of the ultimate TV ephemera, as most of the early shows were done live and are lst forever. Even after the advent of videotape in the 1960s, most sopar operas and game shows (along with Johnny Carson, etc.) were not deemed worthy of longterm preservation and were just recorded over by shortsighted networks. Miraculously, Dark Shadows is one of the few 1960s soaps that survived more or less in its entirety, paving the way for a successful syndication run and DVD release. Match Game is one of the few 1970s game shows that was similarly preserved, essentially giving GSN most of its start-up programming.

Exciting Night at Ed McKay’s

I stopped by Ed McKay’s while I was out on some errands late this afternoon. I didn’t find any books, but there were some oddly obscure 12-inch singles in the bins that tickled my fancy.

There was a boy there who ticked my fancy, too. It was strange. He was not at all my type: a little chubbier than I usually like them. But he had a really dorky grin that I couldn’t resist. And he was looking at vinyl, too. We struck up a conversation about the Soft Cell 12-inch I had in my hand. He’s a fan, apparently. As it turned out, he was in town for a job interview at Kripsy Kreme, of all places. And he’s from Pittsburgh! Who could have predicted that? He was amazed to learn that Mark and I are in the process of buying a house there.

We talked for about fifteen minutes in the store. I really couldn’t get a feel about where he was coming from and what he was looking for. I sort of felt like I was being hit on, but I wasn’t really sure. I’m a little out of practice, after all. But he did keep telling me how much he’d like to hear the Soft Cell 12-inch.

So I invited him over to the house to do just that.

I was really nervous. Like I said, I’m a little out of practice. Mark is understanding about this sort of thing, so I didn’t think he’d mind if we got a little intimate. But I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. I needn’t have worried, though. We got back to the house, one thing led to another, and when I looked at that goofy grin and then took him in my mouth, I knew I hadn’t made a mistake. He was really sweet.

It was fun. I may meet up with him again this weekend when I go up for the inspection.

He let me snap a picture of him, and he said it was OK to use it on the site as long as I didn’t put it on the front page:

Continue reading “Exciting Night at Ed McKay’s”

Crazy-ass White Boy

Why, yes. Now that you ask, that big standoff/shootout in Pittsburgh yesterday was less than a mile from our prospective new house, and was actually going on at the precise moment I was at said house for the home inspection. I even had to pull over on the way to let a line of six cop cars with wailing sirens pass me. your close-up source for breaking news. A day or so after it happens.

The inspection, by the way, went very well. Apparently, the place is in really good shape for a 105-plus year old house.

Happiness Is a Warm Penguin

This is news I’ve been hoping to read for several years.

“Bloom County” was always about the daily strips and bizarre storylines for me, which is why I never really warmed to “Outland” or “Opus”. Evere since the “Peanuts” and “Calvin & Hobbes” collections appeared, I’ve been hoping Milo and Binkley and Opus would get a similar completist treatment, so if anyone is looking for that perfect Hallowe’en gift for me, this would be it.

Why Pittsburgh?

No. I’m not moving to Pittsburgh. At least not anytime in the near future.

I just thought I should get that out of the way right off since some people have no doubt been wondering about it. We’re buying the house in Pittsburgh as a second home (OK, I guess it’s a third one for Mark…), as a way to get into the housing market there, and as an investment that will probably do better than our respective 401K and IRA plans right now. Aside from being one of my favorite places in the country (more on that in a minute), Pittsburgh is one of only a few places in America¬† right now where home prices are really low but are still appreciating, particularly in the neighborhood we’ve selected. And yes, I could very well see living there full-time at some point in the future; from a career perspective, it’s probably equal to or even better than the Triad for me.

So now on to the bigger and more interesting question of why I would consider a place like Pittsburgh, and how I could assume I might like it better there than, say, San Francisco, given all the relief I felt upon leaving that particular urban area. It’s a valid question, and it’s one that even my husband asked me at one point.

To start, I’m happy in Winston-Salem. I like the area, and I love our house. Yes, the Triad lacks a certain urban excitement, and since one of my favorite hobbies is urban exploration, I sometimes wish there were more “urban” to explore here. But that hobby occupies a relatively small part of my life, and this area fits nicely into most of the other parts; it’s convenient, cheap, and generally a low-stress environment, and I don’t really think I’m missing anything here.

Pittsburgh gives me that “urban” that I crave. I fell in love with the city on my first visit in 1997, and I love it a little more each time I visit. Unlike most sunbelt “boom towns”, the texture is decidedly urban, with a diversity of building types, people, and incomes. Unlike San Francisco and other “sophisticated urban areas”, the mood is neither expensive nor pretentious. And unlike such rust belt icons as Cleveland and Detroit, there’s an actual economy; in fact, Pittsburgh has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country.

Until about sixty-five years ago, San Francisco and Pittsburgh had similar population numbers. Now, Pittsburgh has fewer than half as many people as San Francisco, which means that the people in Pittsburgh have a lot more room to spread out and get comfortable now. And Pittsburgh has depopulated in a very functional manner; things were rough twenty or thirty years ago, and even today, it’s far from a boom town, but crime and unemployment are both relatively low. Even better, housing costs are really low, which affords the large middle and working class population the chance to live in a place that has the truly urban amenities and infrastructure of a much “bigger” city for a fraction of the cost.

The simple fact of lower housing costs contributes greatly to Pittsburgh’s diversity and sustainability; it is not merely a city for the very rich and the very poor, and for urban hipsters in their twenties who are willing to settle for living in a rented hovel just so they can be close to lots of bars. Mind you, all of those classes are present, but they’re not the only classes present. There are old people and families with children and even misanthropic homosexual couples as well.

The structure of the city is still largely pedestrian and neighborhood based, and the transit infrastructure is in place. That means it is quite possible to live there without a car, but it’s also quite possible and realistic to live there with a car. Or to do both, depending on one’s mood on a given day. That’s something I’ve always wanted in a city. Pittsburgh also has the universities and libraries, and bookstores and thrift stores, and diners and cheap ethnic restaurants of a real urban center, but it also has supermarkets and chain stores as needed. While there are boutiques, Pittsburgh is not a boutique city. Even the upscale neighborhoods are more likely to be anchored by a supermarket and a kosher deli than by a Pottery Barn and some chic restaurant with an insipid name and a tasting menu.

I’ll no doubt have more to say in the coming months. For now, I’ll just say again that I’m really looking forward to exploring and seeing what my new second home has to offer while being happy and comfy in my first one as well.

Naked Airports


A great thing about having lots of credit at the local used book emporium is that you sometimes take a chance on a¬† book you might not have grabbed if you’d had to pay cash for it. This one is a good example that I picked up last night. Apparently, it even comes with its own website (one that really annoyingly tries to resize your browser window when you launch it).

Interestingly enough, I was reading coverage last year about the reopening of Eero Saarinen’s TWA Terminal at Idlewild Kennedy and have really been itching to see it, even if the renovation was less than desirable, and also involved the demolition of an important part of the structure.


Have I mentioned how much I fucking hate this time of year?

Aside from the pollen covering every surface, which makes using my nose or my eyes damned near impossible, there’s also the developing heat that reminds me that summer is on the way. I don’t like summer. Never have. Summer depresses me. I’d be happy as a clam if the temperature never got far above 65F, and if the sun only came out on days when I specifically planned to be out taking pictures. That’s why I always liked the weather in SF when I lived there, but this week has been one of those weeks where you couldn’t even count on that.

It seemed we had an extra long and extra cold winter this year around these parts. In fact, I was using the space heaters off and on well into April. I liked it. Maybe we’ll have a nice, short, cooler than average summer, too. That would be nice. But I’m not holding my breath.

San Francsico Economics 101

“Saving money” by cutting street sweeping without realizing that it’s actually costing more money to do so, because of lost parking ticket revenue? San Francisco always forgets about how its primary revenue source is the Department of Parking and Traffic.

Like Pulling Teeth

That’s what it’s been like trying to instill a sense of urgency in several of the participants in our little episode of “House Hunters”. There were stressful moments when we bought the house in Winston-Salem too, but they pale in comparison to our Pittsburgh adventure.

To start, we were pre-approved for a mortgage of three times the amount we ultimately applied for, and it still took weeks of emailing check stubs, statements, blood samples, and everything else you can name before we were finally approved. And of course, the mortgage broker blew pretty much every deadline he’d given us, leaving us hanging several times along the way as we tried to schedule around a closing we couldn’t guarantee was going to happen. It’s great that they’re giving mortgages extra scrutiny now, but that’s not an excuse for bad customer service.

And now, I can’t get anyone to cough up a finalized HUD-1 form, even though I have to pick up a certified check tomorrow morning for whatever amount will be printed at the bottom of this elusive form so that I can actually make it to Thursday’s closing. The settlement officer says she can’t really promise I’ll have it tomorrow morning. Frankly, I think it’s reasonable to expect something like this would be taken care of a little sooner than twenty-four fucking hours before closing. I’d like to be able to look over the damned thing at least for a few minutes before I’m actually seated at the table with pen in hand.

You’d think that people in the real estate industry would be anxious and practically bending over backward to make the process as painless as possible right now. You’d be wrong.