The Making of the Mafia

There’s a scene in season one of “the Sopranos” when teen daughter Meadow asks, “Who invented the Mafia?” The question leaves Tony to consider how to respond with a mouthful of mu shu pork. That she then names those five New York City families with ease exemplifies the way La Cosa Nostra has become ingrained …

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Avoiding the Demographic Cliff

Editor’s Note: We’ve asked the Presidents of this region’s colleges and universities to respond in 250 words or less to the following question:Given that attracting young people is critically important to this area and your institution, how will you overcome declining enrollment trends and how might civic efforts help you do that? MARY C. FINGER, …

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Medical Emergency

Meg and I had been enjoying some serious quality time on the couch in VA’s front room when Meg suddenly froze – she’d heard something. Previously in this series Disaster StrikesI froze, too, and we both listened. I said, “It sounds like a girl crying,” and as far as I was concerned she could cry …

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Is Life Ahead or Within

After meeting his doctor for his annual checkup, a 70-year-old patient told the doctor, “Checkups or no checkups, we all have to die one day. It’s just a question of when.” The doctor shook his patient’s hand and said, “Not when, but how.” That brief exchange reveals not only two different attitudes toward life but …

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From Basket Ball to the NBA

While the debate over Pittsburgh’s status as a basketball town continues on barstools and radio waves across the region, what’s been settled by Claude Johnson, Carnegie Mellon University grad and author of The Black Fives: The Epic Story of Basketball’s Forgotten Era, is the important role that a black player from Homestead, once a “basket …

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Hello Neighbor

Basel Knaineh and Maisaa Jamal Eddin fled their native Syria after Basel was imprisoned — for no reason and with no timeline, he says — at the start of the Syrian War in 2011. He spent a month in jail, frantic and bewildered, before being released as suddenly as he was detained. Desperate, he and …

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The Allman Brothers Band – and Me

The road may go on forever, but it began in my brother’s bedroom on Inverness Avenue, where he handed me a copy of the Allman Brothers Band’s Eat A Peach and told me to listen to it, when I was in seventh grade. I put on some headphones, lay down on the yellow shag carpet, …

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Disaster Strikes

As I’ve mentioned, from my first day at VA I’d been flirting vigorously with Meg Petronius, albeit to no avail. What I didn’t know was that Meg had recently ended a troubled, long-term relationship and the last thing she wanted was to fall into another one. Previously in this series: The Resignation But as the …

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A Victim of the Life He Led

Pittsburgh is unquestionably one of the great fighting cities in the United States. The city and its surrounding boroughs have produced world champions Billy Conn, Michael Moorer, Paul Spadafora, and a whole host of other world-class pugilists. Experts in the fight business place two-time world champion Harry Greb on top of Pittsburgh’s pugilistic slag pile. …

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Jedlinski, Filippini-Fantoni, Riley, Rodriguez, Garvey, Sen

Jason Jedlinski, a veteran broadcasting and publishing executive, will become WQED’s next president and CEO. He arrives from Washington, D.C., where he was general manager of The Hill, launching a new streaming channel and setting audience records. He has spent nearly 25 years growing digital reach and engagement for The Wall Street Journal, USA TODAY and …

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The Resignation

Meg had asked me to tell the girls they could get out of their beds, but I’d told her I couldn’t, “Because I don’t work here anymore.” Previously in this series: End of the Line“What the hell are you talking about?” she said. Still sitting under the pine tree, I said, “I quit. I’ll turn …

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Colors

Colors Blood-red was all the rage that year — in the fashion magazines and the furniture showrooms.  So, now we had the new loveseat, my mother’s find — the fabric called blood-red, but it looked older and dried up. Something closer to rust. The walls of my room were a perfect sky blue and my …

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The Rebellious Spirits Still Haunting Pittsburgh

Some historical events seem so fantastical that they sound like myths when retold, while others are so intrinsic to our nature that they could be today’s news, and actually help us understand our contemporaneous existence more deeply. After reading The Whiskey Rebellion: A Distilled History of an American Crisis by Brady J. Crytzer, I would …

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A Second Chapter

When most people become empty-nesters, they think about downsizing, buying a vacation home, perhaps, or seeing the world with their newfound freedom. But one Fox Chapel couple decided to pursue a different dream — staying home and making the renovations to their 1965 Colonial that years spent traveling with two children active in sports had …

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A Fascinating New Museum

While you probably have never heard of David Karpeles, his accomplishments likely have affected your life. Born in Santa Barbara, Calif., he lived there until he was 6. In 1942, his mother saw a Japanese submarine in the water and decided that it would be safer to move the family to Duluth, Minn. He earned …

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Empty Hands

Empty Hands I dream you naked in a worldwhere touch is forbidden this is death, this is longingempty hands squeezing air.

All Aboard

Hulking steam engines, nearly a century old, await repairs in their original roundhouse in Rockhill Furnace, Pa. The crisp country air fades into the smell of an industrial past next to No. 14, a “snappy engine,” according to Linn Moedinger, a mechanical advisor at East Broad Top Railroad, who works on restoring the machines. “It’s …

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End of the Line

I’d just broken up a fight between Earl and Eddie – I was seriously disappointed in Earl and had sent him to the front room to serve a time-out until bedtime. Earl had been a good Head Boy, he had a good job at a sawmill and he was on his way to being a …

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Roaring Run Natural Area

A beautiful place for hiking and exploring is the Roaring Run Natural Area within Forbes State Forest in the Laurel Highlands. Roaring Run is a 3,600-acre wild and rugged expanse of forest on the western slope of Laurel Ridge in southern Westmoreland County. The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy protected this land in 1970 and transferred it …

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The Ruins

When Rachel Sager bought a house, she didn’t know it came with a coal mine. Obscured by woods in her “backyard,” and flanking the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) bike trail, are the sprawling ruins of the once robust Banning No. 2 coal mine: a labyrinth of crumbling brick and weathered concrete, wedged between bluffs and …

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Evacuate My Brain

Evacuate My BrainAlong that wallI could be quietin the dark—club kids, drag queensbrush by in a stiff hitof hairspray, cigarettes,something candysweethoney bring it close to my lipsI’d stand there smoking,watch the crowd on the floormove as a whole, look for facesI know, faces that surprise me,faces I might want—honey bring it close to my lips …

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It Came to Blows

I’d returned to VA after visiting a crazy lady’s house and was heading up to my room to sleep off all the beer I’d drunk. Unfortunately, Meg and Terry had heard the Vespa and they came rushing through the kitchen calling my name. My heart sank. Previously in this series: Genny Cream Ale“Thank God you’re …

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