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Airmen Behind Enemy Lines

As illustrated by the stories of eight Pittsburgh-area natives, downed airmen who bailed out over Yugoslavia during World War II experienced vastly different fates, from daring rescues to drowning and execution. Lost Airmen: The Epic Rescue of WWII Bomber Crews Stranded Behind Enemy Lines tells their stories and many others. Pilot Charles “Scotty” Stewart ordered …

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On a Pedestal, Fall 2022

Sculpture All AroundHats off to two local sculpture efforts. The first, by longtime design innovator Dan Droz is “The Gathering,”(above) the largest sculpture to be installed in a public setting in Pittsburgh in over 20 years. It is sited at the entrance to The Heritage Trail, at 15th Street and Waterfront Place in the Strip …

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The Studied Neglect of the Hill District

The dreariest part of a recent trip to Pittsburgh was not the memorial service I attended, but revisiting the Hill District.  I’ve always felt a connection to the place, first referred to as “Jew’s Hill” during my grandparents time. Then with the great migration of blacks coming north after the Civil War, the named changed …

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A Princess on the Bluff

On February 26, 1978, Princess Grace of Monaco presented a poetry program entitled “Birds, Beasts and Flowers” in the Carnegie Music Hall under the auspices of the International Poetry Forum. This was her first professional appearance in the United States since her marriage in 1954. This would also be her first visit to Pittsburgh. Though …

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The Power and Danger of Storytelling

Sway. for Jonathan Gottschall, author of the riveting nonfiction, The Story Paradox: How Our Love of Storytelling Builds Societies and Tears Them Down, this lone syllable jotted on a bar napkin while watching interactions in a tavern becomes the answer to a question: What are they actually doing? His thesis: human communication stands “to influence …

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Canton – a Great Fall Getaway

For most Pittsburghers, canton, Ohio is synonymous with the Pro Football Hall of Fame. And why not? Thirty-two of the 362 enshrined members are Steeler-related. But the birthplace of the National Football League (originally the American Professional Football Association in 1920), has more to offer than football. Founded in 1963 with two rooms, the Hall …

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Touring Our Industrial Past

Step on board the good ship Explorer and get ready to enjoy your exciting outing on Pittsburgh’s signature rivers. No jazz combo, no dancing here, but there is a tour guide who will introduce you to the stops along your journey. Over there are the former iron-making Carrie Furnaces spanning Rankin and Swissvale, abandoned in …

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Death of the Daily News

Nearly 200 years ago, French social scientist Alexis De’ Tocqueville spent nine months touring America, documenting observations in what became the seminal Democracy in America. His take on the job of newspapers in a bourgeoning new country experimenting in representative democracy could be his most prescient: “’To suppose they only serve to protect freedom would …

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The Blue Continuum

“Every society gets the kind of criminal it deserves. What is equally true is that every community gets the kind of law enforcement it insists on.”— Robert F. Kennedy Policing in any community is only as effective as the elected officials being informed and prudent enough to avoid common mistakes. When officers make mistakes, they jeopardize …

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Behind a Biography

I first got interested in John Kane 20 years ago. I was working at The Heinz Endowments, the large charitable foundation in Pittsburgh, which has a wonderful collection of the work of Pittsburgh artists, going back over 100 years. A local art dealer named Pat McArdle was talking to me about the collection when he …

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Measuring the Law

Many years ago, I worked on a production of Measure for Measure, and many of those lines are still stuck in my head.  Shakespeare is of course supremely quotable on any number of subjects.  But this difficult and brilliant play about the law as it relates to sex has potent language that keeps floating up …

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Consequences of Love

With kidnapping and murder in the storyline, a “whodunit” often ensues. But like the Coen Brothers film masterpiece, Fargo, sometimes the crimes are less interesting than how the characters react to their circumstances and the events that led them astray. Stewart O’ Nan, a Squirrel Hill native and Pittsburgh’s preeminent novelist, uses this tactic to …

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The Pinnacle of My Time at Quantum

Dear reader, I think you may benefit from a pitcher of Bloody Mary’s. Or a pot of coffee. Or a screened-in porch with an ancient comfortable chair for a September afternoon, whatever your version of support props. This story has twists and turns that challenge one’s staying power. But I appreciate your lending an ear …

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Colonial Tea Room

At 5 AM you’re buttering the bagels and waiting for your city sewer man to heave himself out of a hole in Barclay Street and bring you a breakfast order for his crew.  The list is smudged and long and flush with desire: burned bacon on a jelly-smeared bialy, cold brisket on a kaiser, side of gravy, and Flop …

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What Happened to Youngstown?

It’s a hell of a thing to know your birth coincides with a line of demarcation in your hometown. On one side is prosperity. On the other, ruin. I was born in Youngstown in 1977. At the time, it was an industrial city, known for its steel production and a variety of attendant industries. The …

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A Pittsburgh Wedding

It all started in March of 2020, when my daughter’s boyfriend flew to Pittsburgh for lunch to ask for her hand. Liking him a great deal, I said yes, not knowing that, thanks to the vagaries of COVID, we would have 30 months to think and rethink the wedding, and experience all the drama accompanying …

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Getting Published at 70

I could write a book. we’ve all said it one time or another, whether it’s because we know a lot about a certain topic, or because we’ve had it up to here with our circumstances. But in my case, I wrote a book because I couldn’t find any women’s fiction I liked. I’m not all …

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Breaking and Healing

Artists begin with one question regarding any new creative work. Most might think artists ask themselves, “What should I create?” But the question really needs to be, “Why should I create it?” Intention. It is the driving force behind any project, plan or goal. Without it there can be no satisfying end result. Without it …

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Gabriel Welsch Surveys the Human Landscape with “Groundscratchers” Collection

In the world of landscaping, the term “groundscratcher” is derisive. It’s also the title of Gabriel Welsch’s revelatory short story collection from Tolsun Books. In it, the titular story finds Michael Petrin, ground supervisor of a large estate, at odds with the “maximal Minimalist” Japanese Zen Fusion gardener Yoshi Higashide hired by his boss, the …

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Expanding the Strike Zone

Baseball, once considered “America’s pastime,” has increasingly begun to feel irrelevant as games routinely last more than three hours and options for bored eyeballs abound on the internet. This year’s 99-day labor dispute over how to best divide billions of dollars in revenue has further alienated frustrated fans, who in Pittsburgh have only had a …

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In the Mind of the Beholder

Lenka Clayton and Phillip Andrew Lewis came across an unassuming structure, located at the five-point intersection on Lowrie Street in Troy Hill, where they have a studio. Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation had placed a plaque on the structure, informing visitors that it housed the upper level of Pittsburgh’s first incline, founded in 1887, that …

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No Option But One

In a letter to his brother Theo in 1886, Vincent Van Gogh wrote: “It seems to me that you have been suffering to see your youth pass like a drift of smoke, but if it springs up again and comes to life in what you do, nothing has been lost, and the power to work …

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