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Opinion

Don’t mess with Mel Messmer

My buddy Bill Downes and I were in good spirits. It was 1960, and after enjoying a light movie at the theater, we were strolling along California Avenue, the main street of Avalon, a small suburb north of Pittsburgh. It was a steamy, red-sky summer evening. We were chattering away, when we suddenly heard a …

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Breaking the Ice

When Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak takes the Carnegie Music Hall stage Oct. 10, it will mark the 10th anniversary of what started as the Pittsburgh Middle East Institute and has grown to become the American Middle East Institute. The brainchild of founder Simin Curtis, the Institute has become an important player in the region’s economic …

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You’re Having a Really Bad Day

Marital Secrets

If there is one thing I have learned after being married for 17 years, it is that every marriage has secrets. Anybody who tells you different has never been married. Most secrets can be classified into three categories: Benign: “I don’t see what the big idea is, a lot of middle-aged men collect ‘Hello Kitty’ …

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Investigating a Suicide. Me?

As the sergeant drank cheap whiskey one night at the NCO Club on Incirlik Air Base in southern Turkey, his wife overdosed on pills. Because suicide is a homicide, the Office of Special Investigations on base, meaning my two colleagues and me, got the case. The base security police had roped off their trailer, and …

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The Newspapers & Rico the Baker

Pittsburgh’s old morning newspaper was the small dog in town—feistier, funkier, more colorful, more daring and, compared to the larger afternoon paper, far more fun. Its “personnel department” was Agnes who worked in an alcove full of office machines from the Roosevelt years. The Teddy Roosevelt years. Ray took over. He was bright, funny, had …

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Train Shows & Guys

When they hit male menopause, some men buy a sports car, or a sailboat, or take off with a young woman named Amber. Others take the cheaper and more benign route: buy electric trains and go to train shows. A local volunteer fire department held one Sunday and it was jammed, mainly by men who …

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Reunion-ited (And it Feels OK)

I recently attended my 30-year high school reunion, or as I affectionately call it—Operation “Glory Days.” Quite the surreal experience, and one I approached with a mixture of excitement and anxiety. High school was a weird time for me. I was incredibly self-conscious, didn’t really have a ton of friends, and was never a member …

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Pittsburgh Dark and Light

Depending where you look, you can get two different views of Pittsburgh’s economy. On the gloomy side of the street, Pittsburgh dramatically underperformed its 15 benchmark regions last year. We had virtually zero job growth. We had the highest unemployment rate. And our average weekly wages rose just .8 percent—only a third of the benchmark …

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Journalism 101?

I’ve been a reporter or editor almost continuously since taking over my high school newspaper 39 years ago. So when President Trump called journalists “among the most dishonest human beings on earth,” it did get my attention. But journalists get attacked so often that rather than take it personally, I considered whether any truth lurked …

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Confession: Cops and Kids

I done got busted for breaking-and-entering (cue the blues harp and slide guitar). This is a sad tale but I must spare all young people the same sordid fate. One sunny Saturday morning six decades ago in Seattle’s Ballard district, two kids blew open the door of a playground field house, and the rest of …

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Passing the Torch

Earlier this fall, a group of about 250 civic and cultural leaders gathered to pay tribute to Teresa Heinz Kerry on the occasion of her handing over the chairmanship of The Heinz Endowments to her sons. From creating Riverlife, to championing causes from the environment to social equity to the Cultural District among many others, …

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On a Lonely Stretch of Road

I had occasion recently to pet a wild animal for the first time. For 55 straight summers, I’ve visited Michigan’s eastern Upper Peninsula, but I’d never driven to its rugged, western side, which borders Lake Superior and Canada. Pittsburgh friends were celebrating the relaunch of an old family boat they’d restored, at the top of …

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Smart City

Certainly, it’s not great news that Pittsburgh didn’t win a $50 million federal Smart City Challenge grant to redesign its transportation system. The grant would have helped “plan, design and build the next Pittsburgh,” Mayor Bill Peduto said. Pittsburgh’s proposal envisioned a combination of big data working with electricity microgrids to create an “electric avenue” …

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The Best of Intentions

I just hope my mother doesn’t testify against me… if she does, I am in deep trouble. I was gathering all the necessary items to bring into my son Joe’s preschool class for his “birthday week” extravaganza: “Manuelo the Playing Mantis” book to read aloud? Check. Praying mantis “hat” craft kits for all 25 students? …

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Advice to a Would-Be Reporter

I was talking recently with a friend’s son who’s interested in journalism, which today seems like a very uncertain proposition. Perhaps it always has been— my parents certainly thought so. I gave him the lay of the land and noted the difficulty of making any money, but I added that reporting does provide great training …

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The British Vote and Pittsburgh’s Demographics

We’re all trying to figure out the implications of the somewhat surprising news that UK voters decided by a comfortable majority to leave the European Union. No matter what side you identified with in this grand referendum, it’s always invigorating when democracy’s voices speak. With a record high voter turn out – over 70% of …

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Mark

About 10 years ago, a six-inch bust appeared suddenly on top of a retaining wall in my back yard in Highland Park. How it got there was a mystery. Left by someone moving from the area? An abandoned kid’s toy? Or…something magical? The bust was creamy white and from a distance seemed likely a noble …

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Giant Eagle Misadventures

I appear to be a fully functioning, generally normal human being. I have friends, a family, a job, and some interesting hobbies. No felonies, no spectacular talents, no debilitating weaknesses, either. Just your basic person. But as the old song goes, “Everybody plays the fool, sometimes…” My time was not long ago, at the Market …

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Thank You for 10 Great Years

It was a cold January day 10 years ago when I got the call that the truck with our first issue of the magazine was stuck on a small South Side street. When I found the driver, his truck was snared in an impossible turn, stopping traffic. On the sidewalk at my feet was a …

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Cleaner Air for Pittsburgh and More

When a Detroit company announced earlier this year that it would close its Shenango Coke Works on Neville Island, the news accounts led with the loss of 173 jobs. While we don’t cheer job losses in Pittsburgh, there is another, more important side to this story. Shenango was the smaller of the two coke works …

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Covering 10 Years

With the exception of our second and third editions back in 2006, all of our covers have featured illustrations. We’ve benefited from a tremendous wealth of artistic talent in Pittsburgh and have sought to bring readers of each issue a colorful introduction to a different kind of magazine.
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