American Spirit

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.

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.…

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!

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…

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…

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…

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.

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.

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…

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.

A Baker’s Ways

Calling it “Joe’s Bakery” would never work. Who wants to buy pastries from some guy named Joe?

Walking the Dog with Dave

by Kate Benz, photography by John Altdorfer
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.

The Corner Barber Shop

by Kate Benz, photography by John Altdorfer
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.

A Fine Suit of Clothes

by Kate Benz, photography by John Altdorfer
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…

The Voice of…Living

by Kate Benz, photography by John Altdorfer
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.
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