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Anne and the Album

She could sit here all day, really. On the upholstered, wooden chair without wheels that she’ll push from keyboard to keyboard while she’s creating songs in the studio she has set up in her living room. It’s a sunken space with hardwood floors and a wood beam ceiling, anchored by a stone fireplace that feels …

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Relentless Russ and the Virtue of a Work Ethic

Russ has been at the gym for like, 31 years. “Since 1987,” he says. White New Balance sneakers. Red track suit jacket with the words PERSONAL TRAINER written across the back. Handing people the kettle bells and the medicine balls and the 10-pound weights and the resistance bands and asking for one, come on, just …

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Ten Minutes of Lovely

“Okay, so I’ll do two hundred of the Hey Rosemary,” Samantha says, tying a white, plastic apron around her waist before opening two, overflowing three-ring binders. “Wait… three hundred Hey Rosemary. We are really low on Hey Rosemary. I need to make Lady Macbeth again… and I’m out of Gertrude! I’m completely out of Gertrude!” …

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The Singing Barista

No one complains when they come into Jitters Café in Shadyside for their frappuccinos and cappuccinos and caffeinated hot/iced whatevers and barista Liz starts singing. Deas Vail, Mew, Jon Bellion, Issues…artists with melodic vocals that she can harmonize with while she’s working behind the counter, pouring things like Lavender White Mochas and Gingerbread Chai Lattes …

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Bob and Fritz Together

Fritz is wearing a contraption. Two black, rubber wheels attached to a harness that allows him to bark and roll and bark and roll his way across the grass. He’s been wearing it for four years. Ever since he jumped and missed and fell off one of the concrete steps in the back yard. “Well,” …

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Rocky’s World Behind the Diner Counter

Where’s Apollo Creed? Oh, hardy, har, har. Like he hasn’t heard that one like, ten thousand times before. “I also get a lot of ‘Yo, Adrian!’” Rocky says from behind the counter of his corner diner in Bloomfield. The counter is short. Really short. Not even waist-high short. “About four and a half feet tall,” …

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Donna’s Dream and a Life of Roller Skating

Donna’s knee has been bothering her lately. Which is why she isn’t lacing up her white roller skates right now, the pair her late husband bought for her in 1963 for, geez, it must have been five hundred dollars. The same pair she was wearing 10 years ago when she was 71 and broke her …

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An Antique Point of View

Someday, Jim Barricella will retire from antiquing. Well, maybe not retire literally, but definitely do something else with his life. Something other than the never-ending hours he spends at his antique shop, Off the Avenue. If someone bought the place, Jim would set up a booth and stick some antiques in there. No worry. None …

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Nate and His Bees

The bees arrived yesterday, via Two Day Priority, from an apiary in Ohio. Three pounds of them. Five thousand bees and one queen buzzing around in a wooden crate made of scrap wood kinda stapled together. There are screens on either side so that you can actually see the bees. And hear them. All 5,001 …

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The Gowns She’s Known

There’s less than a month left to liquidate, oh geez, like, 1,000 gowns. Rows and rows of them. Satin and lace all hanging pretty in clear garment bags with a hand-written tag attached: 60% off! “You can get a twelve hundred dollar gown for five hundred dollars,” says Mary. “That’s a good deal.” One thousand …

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Trading Licks with Dave: The Wisdom from a Lifetime of Music

“You want a speedball?” Dave asks. “No, not that,” he adds, laughing at the blank stares. “Not coke and Quaaludes like they used to offer us in L.A. Espresso and wine. One of my clients got me this espresso machine. Fun. Oh man, have you heard of this? Beaver Valley Blend. Amazing. Really, really smooth.” …

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Market Square Frankie Sings His Song of Life

The stroller is one of those sporty, three-wheeled versions, the kind that athletic moms like to push around suburban neighborhoods while huffing out a cardio burn. This one is parked in a crosswalk, about two feet from the curb, right on the corner of Market and Fifth in the shadow of the Fairmont Hotel. In …

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Flo’s Wisdom—on the Eve of 50 Years as a Waitress at Pamela’s

Around 1 p.m., right after the lunch rush, 87-year old Flo Silbach will start slowing down. She won’t quit, though. Oh no, no way she’s quitting. Her shift at Pamela’s Diner in Millvale doesn’t end until four. So, instead of shuffling around the tables and booths, jotting down orders in neat cursive and clearing empty …

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Sarah’s Wisdom Behind the Counter

“Okay, what’s today’s joke?” The guy at the counter orders his Americano, sits down, lets the anticipation build for a few seconds. His eyes are dancing behind thick black glasses, grinning like he’s about to bubble over into a thousand little joy bubbles, because he’s got a joke. Today’s joke. “Okay, ready? Why do restaurants …

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Tommy the Unlikely Donut Man

Tommy Gozion had never made a donut in his entire life. Which was weird, given the fact that he tacked some neon to the storefront along Route 8 and announced to the world that Valencia Donut was open for business. The idea of donuts popped into his head when he was at the beach a …

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All Quiet on the Ohio—Just the Way He Likes It

There’s a lot of sitting and waiting, on a day like this. The water in the Ohio is calm, running chocolate-brown like something out of Willy Wonka’s Factory. Clear, blue sky. A handful of cottony clouds skirting by. Nothing like the winter, when the damned ice ensures you can barely move. When you worry about …

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Thrifty Tom and His Peanut Butter

The 52-ounce can of Planter’s Peanuts came from Sam’s Club. Because they’re the best, really. Extra Large Virginia Peanuts. You’ll never find a bad one in the bunch. And the food processor? Well, yeah, originally it rolled off some assembly line at GE with an outrageous price tag, but here’s the secret: buy them at …

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A Baker’s Ways

Calling it “Joe’s Bakery” would never work. Who wants to buy pastries from some guy named Joe? At least, that’s what Joe thought. And if Joe thought it, others might be thinking it, too. So, he named his bakery in honor of his daughter, Dana. For the past 37 years, Joe has been turning on …

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Walking the Dog with Dave

Dave has his boss’s dog on a leash. A yippy little black and brown dog the size of a football that is completely oblivious to its unimpressive size, snorting and slobbering its way down the sidewalk near its home on Observatory Hill. It looks like Dave is walking the dog. But the dog is walking …

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The Corner Barber Shop

The guy currently occupying the Emil C. Paidar barber chair circa 1932 showed up at 11:30 a.m., half an hour before the Humble Barber Co. opened for the day. He thought he’d be the first in line. Turns out, he’s second. Which might have seemed odd. But the last time he walked through the doors …

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A Fine Suit of Clothes

You’re never going to see him cross his arms. Why risk wrinkling his suit? You’ll also never see him walking around with scuffs on his shoes, covered in dirt from the last steps he took. No chance he’s going to ruin his soles. Has about a gazillion of them. He likes the suedes. Likes his …

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The Voice of…Living

It’s that voice. Like smoldering embers from a raging bonfire, three ice-cold rocks swimming in aged whiskey. No, make that scotch. Deep. Mysterious. Alluring. The no-way-in-hell-you-can-or-want-to-ignore-that voice. “Yeah, all coming from a short, skinny guy in Baden.” The short, skinny guy in Baden is leaning out of his kitchen door, taking a few long drags …

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