Thursday, August 5, 2010

The "Other" Event

While judging from the previous post, you’d think I was only in Pittsburgh to meet up with a bunch of bloggers, the weekend was actually about something totally different; family.

Saturday was the big family dinner to celebrate my parents’ 50th anniversary.  My dad’s family is all right there in Pittsburgh.  Mom’s family had to come from Chapel Hill NC, Madison WI and San Jose CA. 

Mom’s brother Joe drove out in his Prius.  He drove.  From California to Pittsburgh.  Uncle Joe is a “car guy.”  Loves cars and driving… always has, always will.  I remember one time he drove out to Green Bay WI to visit the folks back in the mid 80’s.  That time, he took his Ferrari.

In that circumstance, I understand making the drive.

Anyway, we’ve had a number of family get-togethers over the years, but it’s always one side of the family or the other.  Nary does the twain meet, at least not since the ‘60s, when so many of us left Pittsburgh.

I was late coming into town… I got a late start and using Cassie’s directions, took a bit of a longer route, but avoided any major traffic snafus.  Immediately upon landing at the hotel, I was summoned to go directly to Segnari’s for the weekend’s first monster fish sandwich.

After dinner we all went back to my Aunt and Uncle’s place, about 10 minutes away.  We retired to the deck, had some drinks and noshed on the usual snacks… (as if it was possible that we didn’t get enough to eat at the restaurant!)  But there was fruit, a bowl of nuts, pepperoni cheese and crackers, etc.  OK, that’s what most of us ate, except for my brother Ed and brother-in-law Scott.  It seems Tastykakes are a bit of a delicacy to Scotty and are hard to come by where he lives.  So Ed picked him up about 9 boxes, 3 of which they opened right there on the deck.  There was quite a compare and contrast session, with a discussion of the merits of white cream filling vs. chocolate cream filling vs. solid cake.  Rather, make that “kake.”

My poor aunt couldn’t believe her eyes.  She doesn’t understand the chocoholic tendencies of my brother.  (His specialty is opening up two Oreos with double-stuff and making one with quadruple-stuff.)

The next morning, Mom, Ed and the boys went down to the Strip District, where mom’s siblings and their kids were staying.  I originally thought we would all go down to the shops and eateries in the Strip District market, but they had decided that it would be best to visit Schenley Park, near the campus of Carnegie Mellon University and University of Pittsburgh, so the kids could run around some.

The first order of business was to get a picture of all the second-generation cousins, none of whom had met each other before.  It probably would have been a better idea to take the pictures later, after everyone had acclimated, because at that point, it was like herding cats.  Every time my cousin’s wife got one uncooperative kid in place, another one would bolt.
Times like this make me glad I’m just an uncle.

Soon, we got a soccer game going, which I did everything in my power to avoid.  I was successful, too, until my Uncle Gordon came out of the game, very firmly put the clamp on my shoulder and said, “You’re in.”
Not exactly a regulation soccer ball…

We played 5 on 3, kids against the grownups.  By my scoring, we won.  (My scoring = I didn’t pass out.)  I am NOT a soccer player… never played as a kid except for once in gym class… but I had at least one semi-moment of glory.

A ball popped way up in the air, right to me.  I had no choice but to try to head it, which I did, and it turned into a reasonable shot on goal.  Don’t laugh!  How many shots on goal did YOU see during the World Cup?  Hours could go by without one, and I had one in my first 5 minutes.  So there!  And so what if I saw stars for the next couple of minutes!  Remind me never to try that with an actual soccer ball.

After the soccer, Uncle Joe decided we needed hot dogs, so we made our way by car and on foot to a hot dog/burger/beer place near the Pitt campus. 
The Cathedral of Learning, on the campus of the University of Pittsburgh.

On the way, we also crossed through Carnegie Mellon and encountered this… thing/sculpture/bit of pop-art.

I don’t know what it’s trying to be, probably trying to intimate that an education would lead you to the top, but it was cool. 

Another thing I noticed lots of in downtown Pittsburgh that I don’t see so much of in downtown Baltimore; flowers.

Once settled in for lunch, I sat across from my nephew, Daniel, who ordered a cheesesteak.  Who knew it would be as big as a horse’s leg?  I told him, “you have to expect ‘Pittsburgh proportions” when you order a sandwich here.”

The thing must have been 14” long.  I’d have liked to know for sure, but I didn’t have anything handy to measure it against.  Well, OK, I did, but it would have been rude to bring that out in public.

On the walk back, Ed and I found the last remaining remnant of the old Forbes Field.

You don’t see many ballparks anymore with outfield walls that are 457’ away from home plate.

We went back to the hotel to fetch Mom, who had ridden with the others.  This led to the line of the night:

We were trying to peel Mom away so we could get going.  Ed still had to load a bunch of pictures from our thumb drives onto his laptop, for display during the dinner.  He told Mom, “Come on… I still have to set up the audio-visual stuff.”

Mom said, “What audio-visual stuff?

I said, “The Count Basie Orchestra is very specific with their PA demands.”

Riffing on that, Ed said, “And I have to show Tony Bennett to his room.”

To which Mom said, “Show him to my room.”

We got back to the hotel and got cleaned up for the big soiree.  The room was done up very nicely.  My sister and sister-in-law did a beautiful job with the decorations.  Plus, they’d gotten the hotel to give us a projector and screen to use for the old picture slide show.  (We were just going to set the laptop up on a table.)  This way, we could just let the old shots run all night and everyone had the chance to see them.

Ed approached me and suggested that since I’m the oldest, I should do a toast.  I wasn’t sure… I didn’t think that just because I came along first that I should automatically get to be spokesperson, and said as much.  I didn’t exactly decline, but I didn’t exactly jump at it either.  I spent the next hour chewing on what I’d say, and trying not to get too many drinks into me and making the notion of my speaking clearly to the group, moot.

Right after we sat down for dinner, I began to wonder where I should stand, so I wouldn’t have my back to half the people in the room.  Just as I was about to seek Ed’s opinion, he got up, went to the front of the room, dinged a glass and began the toast.

I know I’m not the oldest, but Bluz deferred, so you can probably read his toast in his blog…”

Great opener… He then went on to give a far more collected, funny, elegant and perfect toast than what I had been tossing around in my head.  Sometimes things just work out for the best.  No regrets!

Still, I know I have to work on giving clearer signals.

After Ed spoke, my dad got up to say a few things.  He said, “There are two reasons we’ve managed to be married for 50 years.  For one, I married an angel.  And the other… I traveled a lot….”

Afterwards, Mom got up and said, “Everything he said is true…”

The rest of the night was a yummy dinner (prime rib for me… no fish sandwich tonight), then circulating and trying to talk to so many people that I haven’t seen in ages.

Daniel was killing me though.  First he spent dinner talking with me about his new-found love for AC/DC and 80s music.  Then he killed the night by entertaining his much older cousins with more music talk and discussion of the Revolutionary War.
Daniel being entertaining.

We also managed to get a more coherent and cooperative kid cousin picture:
Daniel and Sammy bookend the lineup in their coordinated outfits.  Daniel’s “Spiccoli shoes” kill me.

Throughout the night, I found myself violating one of my primary rules… you know… the one about mixing alcohol that I wrote about here?  I was mostly drinking gin & tonics, which are my go-to wedding drinks.  But then there were bottles of red and white wine on the tables too, so I latched onto the white wine during and after dinner.  Once the event was over, Ed, our sister Ann, Scotty and I went over to the hotel bar for a couple late beers. 

Now I don’t mean to sound like I was really drunk, but by the end of the night, I had a crush on this chick in a beer ad:

Nah, I’m just kidding… But back when I used to collect beer cans as a kid, we loved finding new “Olde Frothingslosh” cans.  There was a whole series with this lady on the front.  It was kind of a joke beer: “Olde Frothingslosh, the pale, stale ale.”  I got a kick out of seeing an ad for it in the bar.

But the next morning was a little brutal.  Like I mentioned in the prior post, I woke up with a cracking headache.  Luckily it was nothing that a breakfast buffet and a little time didn’t cure.

Well, you already heard all about Sunday so no rehashing is needed here.  My initial plans called for staying around on Monday to go see the Pirates/Reds game at PNC Park.  The only drawback was that there was no one to go with… all my out of town relatives were heading back home, and my Pittsburgh relatives were either occupied or had jobs and stuff.  So I ended up just coming back home early, which worked out because it gave me a whole day to write the D-fish Fry post.

With all the traffic troubles and construction that had been tying Pittsburgh in knots all weekend, I opted for a different route home.  I took I-79 south to I-68, which took me back east across the northern border of Maryland.  That’s a much more scenic route than the dreary old PA Turnpike, but the real up side is a complete lack of traffic!

This is what it looked like, practically the whole way home.  It was about 40 miles longer, but I made it in 45 minutes less time, with almost no stress.  Had the cruise control on about 75% of the time.  On the other hand, I would never use this route without cruise control!  The whole time you are either going up or down a hill.  Maintaining a consistent speed is almost impossible to do manually.

So… it was a great weekend all around.  Friends!  Family! Fish Sandwiches!

Now what am I going to look forward to?

Ooh, I know… Podcamp!

We’ll see…


Jennifer Juniper said...

Just one question.. what the hell is a tastykake??

Mary Ann said...

A TastyKake is an oversized Twinkie with absolutely no natural ingredients or nutritional value. But they are ambrosia, food for the gods, to sweets lovers ad chocoholics. Because their distribution is limited, those in non TastyKake areas prize them. Hence Scott's birthday gift from Buddy, Ed, was a bag of these delicacies.
Olde Frothingslosh beer is Rege Cordic's creation. Rege hosted the funniest morning radio show ever on KDKA for many years. He had a cast of characters, Carmen Monoxide, Louie the Garbageman, many more whose names escape me now. Once Carmen ran for president and Rege organized a campaign train down through West Virginia. Anyone could go. We were greeted at every little burg by bands, cheerleaders and speeches. Carmen lost but we won a fabulous day. Rege finally went to Los Angelus to launch an acting career. He had a wonderful, deep radio voice and when he intoned "Olde Frothingslosh" everyone listened.
Good to see the Forbes Field plaque. The King Maker park. When the Pirates stunk, for so many seasons, we'd go out to watch Ralph Kiner belt home runs.
Now I'm still waiting for Tony Bennet.

Gina said...

The conservancy does a great job with flowers around the city.

Also - Yes! Come to podcamp!

Where did you have lunch?

Jessica R. said...

I too was wondering what the heck a Tastykake was. Neat.

Glad you had a good trip. I've told Cassie this before, but Pittsburgh looks absolutely beautiful!

Anonymous said...

Love the pic of the kids on the steps. No one wants to be too close to anyone else. Classic.

And what a pity there was no awkward, drunken Will Farrell-style toast.

bluzdude said...

I was going to answer your question but my mom beat me to it.

Mary Ann,
Thanks for the assist!

I had no idea about the origin of Olde Frothingslosh… that’s too funny!

Wish I could have seen a game at Forbes Field before it was taken down. I wonder how anyone was able to hit a homer out of that cavernous ballpark…

It was called Essies’ Hot Dog Shop, or something like that… there were different counters to go to depending on whether you wanted burgers or dogs or beer.

I had a couple of dogs and they were really good. (OK, and I had half of Daniel’s sandwich. Always willing to help, I am.)

I’m trying to see what I can arrange for Podcamp. The rub is that my boss is on vacation on the surrounding Monday and Friday and we’re just a 2-person operation. It takes some serious “negotiating” for us both to be out at the same time.

You know, it really is beautiful there. I’ve actually spent very little time downtown… my family is from the outskirts, but every time I’m there, I marvel at how much cool stuff there is, and how pretty it is. The comparison is especially stark, comparing it to where I work in downtown Baltimore, which while it does have its picturesque parts, doesn’t hold a candle to The Burgh.

Next time, you and Bachelor Girl will have to book a Southwest Airlines flight and join the party!

Two kids were cooperative. Two sat still but whined about it. And two wanted no part of it at all. But by the end of the night, they were fine with it. I guess they just needed a chance to smell each other’s butts.

Oh, and the drunken, awkward toast? That would have been mine. That’s what happens when I’m not 100% prepared. The things that sound good in my head don’t necessarily translate to the general public.

Cher Duncombe said...

It sounds like a fabulous celebration of your parents' anniversary. My own best wishes to them both! They seem like awesome people. Fab photo of what's left of Forbes field, too Bluz.

@Mary Ann: You really brought back great memories of Rege Cordic! My father would awaken every morning at 5:00 and turn the kitchen radio on to Cordic's crew. It wouldn't be long, since we lived in a ranch-style house, that the whole family was awakened by my Dad's howling laughter at Cordic's schtick. It would then become fodder for dinner conversation. My parents love him and anyone who made my parents laugh that much made us kids love him too. Thanks for the sweet memories. You have a special son, as I'm sure you know, in Bluz.

vange said...

Fifty years is one heck of a milestone! Wow. Huge congrats to them. I'm glad so many people were able to help them celebrate. What an awesome family you have, bluz. xoxooxx

bluzdude said...

We did have a grand time. I sent your comment to Mom (because she rarely comes back to the same place twice) and she said this:

"Bless Cher for remembering Reger. He's a little spindly guy with wild wiggy red hair and a wonderful voice. On Wednesdays he'd say, "Hump Day! Over the hump and downhill towards the weekend." We depended on Rege.

Even my Duquesne mentor, Dr. Sam Hazo, loved him, a fellow of Lebanese descent.

Rege was/is a Pgh icon."

bluzdude said...

I can't even fathom being with one person for 50 years. Thats, like, every day I've been alive, plus a year. How can one ever have something new to talk about after all that time?

Except that they do... I'm forever amazed.

Lastly, you're the reason Bugs Bunny always missed his turn at Albuquerque.

Miley said...

Oh behalf of the citizens of Pitt, as well as the rest of the united state (excluding Pinky), I would like to thank you for not taking our your schlong to measure.
On behalf of everyone INCLUDING Pinky, thank you for not doing it in public.

It's funny b/c I am reading a book right now (JUST set it down to do the blog thing) and someone wanted a tastykake and I wondered the same damn thing. Now I know! And knowing is half the battle.

bluzdude said...

Thank you for being the only person to acknowledge that line! I thought it was hilarious, but then we guys like our dick jokes.

I once bought a book that Drew Carey wrote, just because it had a chapter called 101 Big Dick Jokes.

Bachelor Girl said...

"The Count Basie Orchestra is very specific with their PA demands.”

I'd give ANYTHING to be able to think that fast.

Also? Your mom ROCKS.

bluzdude said...

Bachelor Girl,
Eh, just a brain fart. In fact, I kind of had that one "in the chamber." The Count Basie Orchestra (and Duke Ellington and the like) used to play the campus dances my parents went to.

But thank you. And yes, she does rock, not including in her chair.

Miley said...

I like your dick jokes too. However, you don't have to be so damn penisy about it.
I bet when you play golf there's a lot of jokes about the "back 9".

bluzdude said...

Never… because I almost never play golf. But when I did, everyone was too busy quoting Caddyshack to worry about the “back 9.”

And it's a good thing you explained that by "penisy" you meant "cocky." Cuz I was totally "WTF?"

Miley said...

Ahhh, you love me anyway :D
You're going to be using the "penisy" thing in the future. I just know it. It'll probably be in one of those drunken nights when things get crazy and there's a midget hooker-turned-bartender around, a feather boa, some goats and a LOT of alcohol... Wait, are you planning on going to New Orleans on halloween for the Steelers game?

bluzdude said...

I was pushing for that game as our annual Steelers road trip, because I’ve never been to N.O. But it doesn’t look good because it coincides with my brother’s 20th Anniversary weekend. He would NOT be able to get his permission slip signed for THAT weekend. We’ll probably end up going to Miami (again) because that’s my brother-in-law’s favorite team, making it a mutually beneficial arrangement (and tickets aren’t too tough to come by).

Miley said...

Aw, bummer. I was hoping to stalk you...

Anonymous said...

Okay, this probably isn't as funny to other people, but one of the reasons I so enjoy reading your posts are lines like:

"Uncle Joe decided we needed hot dogs"

It's just such a great commentary style. Thanks for adding that to my life. :)

Congrats to your parents! I agree with Bachelor Girl, your mom ROCKS! What an awesome line!

bluzdude said...

Thanks, Cristy.

I your words mean a lot to me. Of course, I have to disclaim, because I just write what happens. Uncle Joe is like that. He just decided that we all needed to go get hot dogs. Maybe they don't have hot dogs in San Jose, where he lives.

But when Uncle Joe decides something, you learn to just get out of the way. And it's almost always the right call.