Kate Benz

Kate Benz has been a professional writer for the past fifteen years with bylines appearing in The Tribune-Review, Pittsburgh Magazine, Table Magazine, Pittsburgh Quarterly, and LOCAL Pittsburgh Magazine. She is also the author of an "Images of America" book on the history of Cranberry Township. When she is not writing, you can find her thoroughly enjoying a co-dependent relationship with her dog or taking long, romantic walks down the makeup aisle.

The Neighbors

The cookies had come out of the oven earlier in the week. Delicious and gooey and way too tempting. Free range brown eggs, Amish butter flavored with sea salt, and semi-sweet chocolate chips that had tumbled out of a shimmering gold bag from Ghirardelli, the same chocolate chips that had been pillaged from the shelves …

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Happy Hour

The boxed wine seemed like a good idea. So did the cheese—smoked Gouda and Wisconsin cheddar that came in thick blocks and occupied all the real estate on a fancy cracker dusted with sea salt. So the place mats were arranged on the weathered picnic table that in another lifetime was painted a deep, forest …

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To Thine Own Shelf Be True…

The toilet paper was all gone. An entire aisle. Gone. No Charmin or Scott or Cottonelle. No double rolls or extra soft. Not even a box of Kleenex or paper napkins, either. Nothing but a sign. WE ARE LIMITING TOILET PAPER TO TWO PER CUSTOMER. THANK YOU FOR YOUR COOPERATION. “As soon as we get …

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A Walk in the Park

The lake is stocked with trout. Rainbow trout and golden trout. Scales that manage to shimmer even on an overcast day, when the sun is trying but the clouds are winning. When fishing lines are being cast into water the color of army fatigues, creating a whisper of a ripple with the cast of each …

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The Audition

“Are you getting too thin?” the agent asks from a small, windowless office, where beautiful faces hang, poster sized, all beaming, pouting, posing. “Too thin?” the model repeats, reaching for her Louis Vuitton tote. “Um, I don’t think so. But thank you! I tried on a bathing suit the other day. I was by myself …

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That’s How the Cookie Crumbles

The wood fired oven sits in Dan Cardone’s perfectly manicured back yard in a residential development in the North Hills. A stately, towering thing made of brick, mortar, stone, and some marble that was going to be a headstone for a grave. “They spelled someone’s name wrong and couldn’t use it,” he says. He spent …

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Backstage

The guys are hanging out in the dressing room, the green room, the whatever room. Donnie Iris, Dave Granati, Ricky Granati, Hermie Granati and Joey Granati—five guys occupying subterranean quarters underneath The Strand Theater in Zelienople, 30 minutes before their gig is supposed to begin. The Granatis’ mom should have been here already but she’s …

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It’s a Sip of Wine… It’s Summertime!

Kenny Chesney is at Heinz Field. White cowboy hat. Sleeveless shirt. Jeans. Leader of the “No Shoes Nation” and wearing cowboy boots. Sweating. Singing. And totally irritating the hospital security guards. “I’d like to kick Kenny Chesney’s ass,” says one as he steps outside of the hospital and into the 76-degree night, a few steps …

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They Call Him the Rapper…

Donnie Iris is sitting in what’s supposed to be his dressing room on the second floor of the Rivers Casino. Down the hall from the Grand View Buffet and a line of people waiting behind velvet ropes for the $14.99 crab legs. “This is my cousin Petey… and my other cousin Petey,” he says, pointing …

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The Fight

“Tell me to be brave.” Jarrell “The Samurai” Brackett is in the basement of the Grand Hall of the Priory on Pressley Street in the North Side of Pittsburgh. Sparring. Pacing. Praying. He’s sporting a purple mohawk. Fu man chu mustache. A mouth guard is garbling his speech. He’s got lime green Title boxing gloves …

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The Delay

“Oh, they are getting me to Dallas,” the woman says, white earphones plugged into a black Samsung. “I mean, seriously, a windshield wiper motor? Like, they couldn’t have figured out that was broken last night? When the plane landed?” Welcome to Pittsburgh International Airport! As a reminder, ticketed passengers only are allowed past the ticketed …

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Bad Apples

The people are standing, sitting, heads down, waiting in line, eyes buried in iPhones. Dockers tucked into crisp blue Oxford button downs and rugby ties next to man buns and lip rings, neon yellow fake nails and plaid school uniforms. Black, white, fat, thin, in a rush, using a cane to slowly walk by. Waiting …

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A Passion for Pasta

The handmade, white fettuccini pasta comes in 14 flavors like basil, hot red pepper, black pepper, chive, spinach, sun dried tomato, garlic basil, parsley and squid ink, which everyone always thinks is weird. Because it’s black. Black as ink fettuccini needles. “It’s a learning curve,” says Yvonne Hennigan. “But squid ink is very common in …

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The Meticulous Carpenter

Kevin’s got to get back inside of the house on Marshall Road on Observatory Hill. There’s work he needs to do. But first, he wants to get Donnie some water. “Here, man,” he says, appearing a few minutes later, handing Donnie the water, which has been poured into an empty gallon of Dean’s Dairy Pure …

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In the Smokehouse with Herb

There are 400 pounds of bacon smoking in the smoker. Hickory smoked. With actual hickory. “Not liquid smoke,” says Herb Brittner. “See the hickory sawdust? This is the real deal.” The bacon is going to be sliced tomorrow, probably by Herb’s sister, Sally, as well as Randy, who are already slicing and packing 100 more …

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Anne is All About Cookies

Anne is going to bake some pizzelles, but you get the house tour first. “Bedroom, bathroom, living room, kitchen,” she says, passing by framed photos on the walls: pictures of her on her wedding day to George, 59 years ago, and their son, Ray, during every year of school. Anne and George live in Ray’s …

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Pasta with the Shimkos

There is spaghetti boiling in a big pot on the stove, Led Zeppelin playing on the radio and two silver bowls filled with thick, doughy, slices of bread on the kitchen counter. “From our Panera fairy,” Kate said, rinsing off a handful of red grapes that she transfers to a silver strainer. “She brings us …

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Dwight Sells Worms

The worm truck just arrived. “You know, bait,” Dwight said. “I just got 500 Canadian night crawlers.” The worm truck came from a wholesaler in Ohio that gets the Canadian night crawlers from a guy up in Canada, who everyone knows is a legit Canadian. “Because he said ‘eh’ a lot,” Dwight said. From 7 …

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Clancey Calms the Airport

“Such a beautiful dog!” “Oooh! So cute!” “Look how sweet he is!” It’s Tuesday morning at the Pittsburgh International Airport. There are people dragging suitcases and grabbing lattes and wondering if someone can please point them in the direction of baggage claim because there is a flight to catch and a suitcase to find and …

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Cuckoo for Clocks

The guts of a very cute, very small, and very colorful cuckoo clock with Swiss Miss vibes are splayed out on top of the Whirlpool washing machine next to a container of Gain detergent pods, a bottle of Clear Wood Finish Gloss and a Phillips head screwdriver. “My workbench during the winter,” Chris says, picking …

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Their Patients Are Animals

It’s cold. Damp. Overcast and gray outside. Early on a Tuesday morning and the lions are roaring. “Communicating,” says Kathy, the lead mammal keeper. “That’s how lions communicate.” It’s barely 9:30 a.m. and people are already walking through the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, despite the clouds and the rain. Moms pushing strollers and dads …

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Nick Has Bikes and Jennie

The sidecar finally arrived from Canada. It was supposed to be here yesterday, then at 9 a.m. this morning. Then, there was something about it being stuck in customs in Cleveland, but the customer service rep up in Quebec promised that wasn’t true, although no one was sure because the French accent was thick. But …

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