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!