Friday, April 23, 2010

2 lbs

Never in my life have I had such a packed schedule. There are shows to go to, races to compete in, garage sales and flea markets, seed swaps, keg parties and weddings. Business meetings with shrewd neurologists are up there, too. This spring, I've found myself caught in a whirlwind of masonry, Pabst Blue Ribbon, embroidery and medical politics.

I started the garden a few weeks back. I'm hoping it's not too early. It's been an awfully temperate spring thus far with no frost in April whatsoever, so I'm optimistic things will survive just fine. Seeds were started indoors this year, in pizza boxes filled with baked earth from the East Liberty backyard. As usual, I was pretty determined to avoid spending any money on gimmicky yuppie-planting stuff, i.e. special soil, vermiculite, moss, little compostable planters. I built a table out of plywood and spare 2x4s in the basement, and hung flourescent lights from tied-up bicycle inner tubes. Everything sprouted rather well, despite a little mold at the beginning, which I attributed to not filling my containers up with enough dirt. Not enough airflow over the surface.

Cherry tomatoes, cabbage, broccoli, swiss chard, and peppers. I busted up the plot with the help of my buddy's cousin, a Marietta, Ohio native with a penchant for pedaling through the mountains. I liked him. He works fast food and doesn't use the internet.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

you kinda beat the shit out of me last night

Still up to the same thing. Yesterday, I purchased the most meat in one trip in my recent memory: six pig's hearts, a pound of beef tripe, pork neckbones, a slab of bacon, a pound of fresh chorizo, a pound of blood sausage, and a lot of chicken necks and backs.

Yesterday was offal day. It was also wassail and rum day and bullshittin' with your friends day, a weekly winter event I never tire of. It really feels good to be hanging out with a group of people in this city that is collectively grandfathered in with every butcher, cheese counter employee, or barista worth visiting.

Thursday, January 07, 2010


Hangover season seems to be over. The holidays, as much as I regret to admit, are just one big excuse to drink, especially if you're an atheist. Wassail, egg nog, seasonal beers, and getting booze for Christmas have all contributed to a light haze that is still interfering with my yuletide memory.

They're also a good excuse to eat. We actually managed to get pretty professional with our dinners in December, creating a recipe involving a pork loin, a lot of bacon and butcher's twine, and three or four heads' worth of garlic confit. I bought an entire half of a lamb with a friend, braised a shank with clementines and a lot of sage, made chili, ate a lot of chops, etc. I can't really complain about any of that. I also showed up to the old restaurant about 15 seconds before midnight on New Year's Eve.

2009 was a really great mess. I managed to work a full year at a nine to five office job and not lose it; I sustained only minor injuries, related, as usual, to arm wrestling and cycling; and I also moved again, to the seventh place I've lived in Pittsburgh in the past four and a half years. I live with three of my good friends now, in a very large house in East Liberty that I've spent a lot of hours fixing up. It feels good to live with other people again. It also feels good to turn a creaking hellhole into a really nice place to live with a lot of paint, spackle and tools. Maybe remodeling is my next career.

I probably rode a good 3,000 miles, maybe a little less. Moving has doubled my commute--I ride six miles to work and six miles back five days a week--so assuming I stay in the medical biz this year I'll ride 3,000 just commuting. Honestly, I feel pretty damn smug about doing that on a 38 year-old red bicycle that doesn't coast.

I feel 45, post-mid-life crisis. Like I've finally learned how to be friends with people.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

thanks giving.

I have a friend named John White. He's a Scotsman in his fifties now living in Wilkinsburg.

"Let's all go around the table, and tell everyone about the best thing that happened today," he says, unfailingly, every single time I see him. I see him often. He lives three blocks away from my best friend, Justin. He believes in this daily ritual so much that he has proposed a religion based on it. The Church of John White, held in an abandoned church, with weed and cheap beer and nostalgia, is an idea we revisit as often as our good days. It'll probably happen.

I am lucky enough to come up with something easily every day.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


I know I haven't written awhile despite vowing to do so.

I'll start with this gem:

it sucks that ppl themselves have to make everything harder on the other person when things could be so simple and better

That's a Facebook update from a former classmate of mine at culinary school. Oof. As if the ITT Tech-style commercials weren't enough to make my loans an issue of major consternation in my life.

Speaking of which, I think I have a plan to be financially responsible. I opened a savings account today, and I'm going to attempt to dump at least 50 bucks in there per month. Aside from being there to help me out in case I take another Volkswagen to the face, it'll enable me to actually do something cool one of these days. In addition, I've been really putting more money into my student loans. I'm trying to pay off the small one (about six grand) within a year or two, to eliminate a pretty big monthly payment from my life. I'd then like to really throw a lot of money at the big loan (about 45 grand or so right now) so I won't in my forties by the time it goes away. The education I'm paying for is really the only thing preventing me from doing some cool shit with my life, at least financially speaking. My life, overall and despite financial troubles, is pretty cool.

I think, realistically, if I stay with this goofy medical company for another couple of years and make them pay me enough for what I'm doing for them (I'm making ten bucks an hour or so less than the guy previously doing my job, and doing way better), I could not only kill my loans and enable myself to do whatever I want--whether it's pro cooking again, working as a bike mechanic, whatever--I could also conceivably buy a house in Pittsburgh and quit paying rent. I love it here. The climate is perfect for me, the people are incredibly laid back, I'm in as far as the restaurant business goes, and it's a great city for not giving a shit about having a driver's license. I could get a sweet old house in Wilkinsburg, or anywhere in the East End for that matter, fix it up, have a huge enough garden to never buy produce again, and either live alone or invite my good friends to live with me and help with what will likely be a pretty timid mortgage, considering the market here.

My other recent financial achievement: health insurance. And I mean full, company-paid benefits. I finally signed up for the company's plan, and there's not a cent deducted from my paycheck. Medical, dental, vision, drug, life insurance, disability coverage, and I'm even reimbursed for the deductibles after I pay them. Not that I've even got any shit to take care of, but next time I'm impaled by a Swiss DT double-butted spoke, it'll definitely come in handy.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

That's the news from Lake Wobegon; where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

another ride

Alright, it's time to start writing more. It's getting cold, and I spend enough time dicking around on the computer as is, so I might as well produce something worth reading when I'm ten years older than I am now.

Last Sunday I made the trip to Ohiopyle again, this time with a friend. We rode the full 80-85 miles this time rather than camping out near Connellsville, so it ends up being the longest I've ever been on a bike. It was a pretty intense test of endurance at times, mostly because we tend to ride at a fast pace (there was a pretty nasty headwind the entire time, so we drafted each other at 20 minute intervals or so). We also got drunk the whole way there. Here's a rough timeline:

1. Packed up, last minute maintenance on the bikes, new pedals for Shaver's fixie (his new clipless shoes were causing some numbness). Bought two big Stellas at D's in Regent Square, started heading towards McKeesport and the trailhead.

2. Dairy Queen in West Mifflin. Blizzards and burgers. Onwards across the McKeesport-Duquesne bridge.

3. We reached the trailhead, and five miles in I got a pretty rough flat. There had been a sizable hole in my rear tire that I had booted, but the tube finally pushed its way out. Patched the tube, put a new boot inside, pumped up and rode on. Drank Stella Artois while waiting for the glue to dry.

4. Slightly buzzed and about five miles outside of West Newton (roughly the halfway point). Shaver's rear tire literally explodes. We determine the tube was mounted incorrectly. The force of the impact was so much that threads were hanging out of the hole in the tire. With no tire boots left, I got out my knife to cut a square section out of my leather wallet and mounted a new tube underneath it. It held quite well until we got to the bike shop in West Newton.

5. Lunch at the old coke silos. PB&J and apples. Hip flask of vodka. Also time to smoke a little bit. Onward towards Connellsville and past my previous campsite.

6. Connellsville. Feeling a little bit beat, we decided it was an excellent idea to drink four pitchers of beer at a townie bar. It was. Getting dark on the last 17 mile stretch. Moving fast now.

7. Quick break at a road intersecting the trail. Trail cop pulls up and says he shouldn't let us ride in the dark. We convince him we're good and start the ascension to Ohiopyle, headlights on. It's nearly pitch black outside except for the moonlight. It's a pretty steep hill for several miles but we really don't notice. I have a mild hallucination and skid to a stop in the road after thinking I'm about to run into a giant pile of rocks. Despite this, we're having a lot of fun crushing the trail in the dark with no other cyclists out. The noise of crickets is deafening.

8. Ohiopyle. Time to sit around the campfire, delirious, and eat some bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches.

Not a bad deal. We basically ate, drank, and bullshitted (bullshat?) the rest of the weekend, though we were able to get on the river for a short hour with our friend Carl, the river guide.

What else have I been doing? I'm currently sanding down an old mixte frame to paint it white and make a dedicated snow bike out of it. I've got a real 700c fork on my main ride now, and the studded tires most likely won't fit--not to mention I'd rather salt up a bike I don't care about too much this winter. I also saw a pretty wonderful bluegrass show a couple of weekends ago at one of my new favorite bars, Howlers. It caused me, directly, to stomp on the ground and yell a lot. I'm also still working on playing my banjo.

Looking forward to wearing scarves...