Culture

Hoopie: A Haibun

The Starcher’s used the word everywhere—In the confined spaces of the one-story home, the living room floor accommodating all fifteen of the cousins for bed. Hoopie sat with us in that house on top of the rolling hills, overlooking Easter Flower Hollow. It circled the round oak dining room table, just barely big enough to …

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Appalachian Reckoning: An Antidote to Hillbilly Elegy?

Tasteless jokes abound on the internet, including one I recently read: “Did you know the toothbrush was invented in West Virginia? Anywhere else and it would have been called a teeth brush.” I chuckled before considering the misguided notion that it’s still OK to trash poor whites. Writing for NPR’s “Code Switch,” Leah Donnella explains …

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Charlie’s Village Turns 100

It all started after Charles Bowdish returned to his hometown of Brookville, Jefferson County, after a stint in the U.S. Army during World War I. Exposed to mustard gas during the war and left with respiratory illness, he commenced building a miniature railroad and village so finely detailed that it was an instant hit when …

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Nuts About Nutcrackers

When Steubenville comes to mind, you probably don’t think of the Rust Belt town as a travel destination. Mayor Jerry Barilla has been intent on changing that and the narrative of industrial decline that has dominated the town. Its population of 18,000 is less than half what it was in 1940—between 1980 and 2000, Weirton-Steubenville …

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Hard Times in Yellow Dog

In 2014, Joe Meyer moved across Pennsylvania with a dream of transforming Yellow Dog Village, an abandoned limestone mining town in Armstrong County, into a living historic site where tourists could experience life in the early 1900s. Five years later, facing tax liens and unable to secure financing, Meyer’s dream of restoring Yellow Dog into …

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Holiday Thoughts from the Dalai Lama’s Physician

Dr. Barry Kerzin, Buddhist Monk and physician to the Dalai Lama, is back in Pittsburgh, continuing his work with UPMC nurses, building compassion, resilience and mindfulness into their daily activities, with the goal of decreasing stress and increasing fulfillment. (See a longer PQ story on Kerzin here). He is in discussions to possibly begin similar …

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Andy Warhol Returns to Pittsburgh

On an autumn evening in Pittsburgh 40 years ago, a larger than usual, fancier than typical, and more expensive than ever event was staged as an acquisition benefit for the Carnegie Museum of Art. On this special Saturday night, 250 formally dressed ladies and gentlemen entered the Heinz Galleries to find a simply decorated space …

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It’s This Rain

Looking out the window of my sixth-grade classroom following noon recess, it seemed as if the entire St. Michael’s School playground was going to float away in the chill, driving rain that had been falling steadily in Indianapolis since early morning. It was a slow Friday in late November, the week before Thanksgiving vacation, and …

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Short Takes: “The Secret History of KGB Spy Cameras,” “Threads Around the World”

Deep in a secret location cloaked by trees and rolling hills—well, to be precise, inside a home in the leafy suburb of Upper St. Clair—exists a notable collection of Soviet spy equipment. It belongs to Michael M. Hasco, a former Heinz executive whose interest in photography blossomed into full-fledged expertise in the history of espionage …

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An Uncommon Life in an Ordinary Place

It would be a shame if this strange and glorious book set in Greene County becomes pigeonholed as “a voice from the heartland” or “a rare glimpse inside the Other America.” Sarah Elaine Smith, a Greene County native now living in Pittsburgh, has surely drawn on observed experience for her first novel. But the Carnegie …

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PICT Conjures a Ghostly Godot with “The Woman in Black”

“The Woman in Black” is one of those rare creations, like “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” that has found success in multivarious forms as a novel, play, and film. Based on Susan Hill’s 1983 book, PICT Classic Theatre’s production uses Stephen Mallatratt’s 1987 adaptation (an unusually safe bet for this company that even wrote …

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My Flawed Church: A Treasure in an Earthen Vessel

Pittsburgh Catholics have had a really tough year. Changing the parish configurations of churches around the city at the same time we Catholics were dealing with the painful grand jury report was one crisis too many. Our home parishes were shuffled, our beloved priests reassigned, Sunday Mass schedules upended. Meetings and activities took place to …

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Still Squonky After All These Years

Leave your preconceived notion of an opera in the car. Whatever Squonk Opera is, it certainly isn’t what you’re thinking. A description that succinctly encapsulates this Pittsburgh native is futile. Not quite a rock band, anything but an opera. So, what then? Squonk’s strength lies in its innate pliability. Each show is built atop a …

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Finding Solitude in Westinghouse Park

Its pastoral charms are pleasant but unremarkable: 10 acres of well-tended lawn sprinkled with mature trees, a children’s play area and a utilitarian cement block park building. Other than the name, there is no reason to suspect that Westinghouse Park in the city’s Point Breeze North neighborhood was once the beating heart of a web …

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Exploring Andy Warhol’s Ancestral Home

Andy Warhol once said that he came “from nowhere.” And if ever you find yourself exploring the Lower Beskid mountains along the Polish-Slovak border, you might think he was right. At first glance, it appears there are no signs human beings were ever there. But if you look closer, you’ll realize that the holes and …

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The New MuseumLab: Past Transformed for Future

At nearly 130 years old, the building is an antique, but the Carnegie Free Library of Allegheny, known casually as the Carnegie Library of the North Side, was built to look centuries old from the start. Following the Romanesque Revival style of H.H. Richardson’s recent Allegheny County Courthouse and Jail, cut stone, rhythmic arches and …

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On a Pedestal: Fallingwater, Allegheny Conference, Natural Areas Association, Healthcare Truce

Now, a world treasure: Fallingwater has gone global. Thanks to efforts from the Western Pa. Conservancy, Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpiece of modern architecture nestled in the verdant Laurel Highlands has been added to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization World Heritage List. It’s recognition that in our backyard is a treasure considered in …

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Highland Meadows, Allegheny County, 1979

Sunday afternoons, we escaped across green waves of fenceless yards, hopscotched streets with split- level homes—their windowed eyes and garages’ open mouths. We screamed past the chained dog’s bark, lawns skirted with azaleas or crowned with the Virgin Mary. We lifted animals like bracelets from creeks and sat on Central Pharmacy’s curb snapping twigs of …

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George Washington DID Sleep Here

Forbes. Grant. Braddock. Duquesne. Washington. While these read like a list of Pittsburgh streets, they have immense significance to both Pittsburgh and its place in American and world history. But that history began around 50 miles away in Westmoreland County, in what is now the borough of Ligonier. It’s been kept alive and can be …

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Barebones Brings Sam Shepard’s “True West” to Life in a Stunning Production

We tend to think of the American West as director John Ford portrayed it: a vast, mysterious space as cosmic as the Egyptian desert, with the Rockies as our pyramids. The West is an ideal we all hold, a collective mythic dream, something verging on the spiritual the way our conception of patriotism verges on …

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Close to Home: Local Poets Get Personal

If all politics is local, perhaps all good poetry might be considered local, as well. Consider how setting and description flavor the Homestead poems of Robert Gibb and the Detroit poems of Jim Daniels. In his seminal essay collection on poetic craft, “The Triggering Town,” poet Richard Hugo asks writers to ground their work, saying …

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Lost and Found

Some days are memorable for obvious reasons: births, deaths, weddings and funerals. Occasionally, however, a day is noteworthy not for any dramatic event but for what you suddenly understand. For 58 summers in a row, I’ve gone to a little town in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula called Cedarville. What has turned out, in retrospect, to be …

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