Friday, June 25, 2010

Skoolz Out and Life's Poetry

Special Note:
As many of you know, I am currently celebrating this portion of the academic calendar. WooHoo.
Here I am, writing just a little early. Please know that I do it just for you, my sweet.

On with the show:
I saw a sign today that read "Poetry is everywhere."
I have to agree. It is in the written word, movements, and even the food we experience on a daily basis.

Does this man really need make up to impress you?
I'd like to start this blog with a quick nod to one of my favorite poetic interpreters: Alice Cooper.
Let's review class:
"School's out for summer       (Mr. Cooper is pushing the apostrophe usage here: poetic license is at play.)
 School's out forever
 School's been blown to pieces   (Figurative expression. Please don't report me to Homeland Security.)
 Well we got no class
 And we got no principles         (I would spell it princiPALS like Sister Regina suggested as a memory trick.)
 And we got no innocence        (Sure, go ahead and remind me AGAIN.)
 We can't even think of a word that rhymes (Quite possibly my favorite line in this piece.)

Thank you, Alice. Now take a seat and get your homework and notebook out. Opps, sorry for the seasonal slip. It takes about a week for any teacher to physically unfurl and to mentally shift gears.

Years ago, back when the Earth was green and oil-ball-beach free, a dear friend of mine, who will remain nameless (Kae Lewis) moved from the Keystone State's Steel City (back when it earned its name with belching chimneys) to the Golden State, and all that the 1969 Western Expansion program promised. A few years following, and when the airlines were permitted to have "youth" fares without being accused of age discrimination, two of us followed suit just to do a quality check.
Disney's frozen bananas were met with great trepidation at first; but after a taste sample, it was adopted as a new favorite, but VERY unconventional, treat. Cuisine was much less exotic in those days. Bananas had only been witnessed in cereal bowls, ice cream splits, or directly from the peel. This was a culinary awakening at the time. Look at our clothes folks. We needed an awakening. And I needed to return the altar boy's smock to the church where I stole it. God help me, who let me loose back then?

Through the years, many other Pittsburghers moved. Some went west such as Miss Lewis ( left, center, Photo credit: Constance Lewis) and her family. Some of us scampered south-bound to Virginia like the carpetbaggers we are. Some were off to, well, you spin the globe and point your finger. We, the people from Pittsburgh, are everywhere you can name. Most of us participating in the search for economic liberation and gainful employment.

We search for each other and seek reminders of our home with the reliability of a Garvin GPS. Decades later, our necks reflexively snap at the very sight of the black and gold color combination. We love the Steelers. We worship the Penguins. We even pretend to still like the Pirates, especially if a non-Pittsburgher is talking smack about them. If you follow baseball, you know that we needn't go further to pledge our allegiance. More importantly, every town has a Pittsburgh bar. You can depend on it. Next time you travel, ask the concierge and they will direct you for a small fee and you won't need to go all that far.

Example: Enter Mike and his shop in Warrenton, Virginia.  Check out a map to see where this is located. Hint: it isn't near Pittsburgh.
On The Run Sports and The Iron City Hot Dog Shop 
The text color doesn't fully indicate that this is a link to his web site. [Please scan down Mike's web page for a view of current western expansion results.]

 Once you cross the threshold of ON THE RUN SPORTS or THE IRON CITY HOT DOG SHOP, you're traveling through another dimension -- a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That's a signpost up ahead: your next stop: the STEELER NATION!

Mike has a fantastic sports store on one side of his enterprise and a Pittsburgh style "hang out" on the other, complete with an extensive inventory of black and gold gear. [Sorry Digital Ghost, I thought this one photo of you in disguise would pass muster.  By the way, Troy Polamalu wants his hair back.]

Talking with Mike over an authentic chipped ham bar-b-q sandwich, and a cold beverage, he waxed poetic (see it fits into today's theme) about the town we love. His philosophy is that none of us really WANTED to leave; we all were pressured into it for the love of an income. We didn't hate it. We didn't leave because we were angry. We left because we were forced during the tremendous economic shift that began in the late 1960s and early 1970s. That is when the gun fired for the state of the race to search for a new home. It marks the time when America, as a nation, started losing its industrial base as milked factories were closing in favor of golden parachutes and foreign profit margins. That was the last decade when the news reported on the Gross National Product. In a service-based economy there really isn't a product, so that isn't reported. We use unemployment to gauge things now. To me, it is a scary proposition for the U.S. to not have more manufacturing and be able to be more self-reliant for raw goods. That is a blog in and of itself.

But as Mike waxed, it is why we have the STEELER NATION. That is why we are still so incredibly loyal. It is why we still proudly sport black and gold well into the territory of other gang colors. We do so with the confidence that we will meet members of the cavalry who will readily back us up. Our tribe is there, flying the colors and sending the safety signal. Once we see and greet each other, we are home again, if only in our hearts.


Mike proudly serves nothing but products created in Pittsburgh. He has a secret recipe for his bar-b-que sauce for his chipped ham sandwiches served on potato bread buns. His preference is the classified blend of ingredients passed on to him by his parish priest at Holy Trinity Church in McKeesport, Father Bunchek. It is sinfully delicious. (you saw that coming, didn't you. I mean, really.)  Well, Father, if Mike is true to your recipe, I worship at  your altar.

This is where we come nearly full-circle with our little story. After receiving an emailed copy of the pink notice on the left, Kae, now residing in Cally-four-knee-a, decided to gather her posse and give them a taste of her home town. It was a resounding success.

If I may, I'd like to quote Ms. Lewis: "We got inspired by your Isaly's memento (in pink no less) and Greg decided to best ol' Fr. Bunchek (our very own) in the kitchen. We gathered friends and family for chipped ham BBQ samiches, slaw and the works.  We all toasted you with a beer or three (but alas not Irons). And attached is the evidence.... Here's pal, Kansas-Sue, ready for her finger-lickin treat!!"

Even at a distance of 2,737 miles, it is apparent Mr. Greg nailed the sauce. If you check the strategically placed dribbles on the plate just near "Kansas-Sue's" right thumb, you can see it had reach the right consistency. Quite properly presented too, Mr. Greg.... Heck's Kitchen would be proud of you, my brother.

My last entry in the Food Poetry Segment can be found on the outskirts of Luray, VA, just near the amazing Luray Caverns. It is the one and only Flotzie's Soft Serve!!!! No, that is not me at the counter window; but that is not to say that I haven't frequented it.

As you head further west from Mike's Steel City Hot Dog Shop in Warrenton, VA, traveling about 35-40 more miles, you will probably be ripe for a cool confection and Flotzie's is the place. As you can see, they are no strangers to the art of marketing. Okay, so they aren't the only raconteurs to put the "e" in sundae, they are the ones angling those bargain hunting consumers out of their pews and into their line. I'm impressed that they go the distance to ensure that you are worshiping God as you know her that day as they check the date on your bulletin or it is no discount for you, you sinful loser. You just might have to wait until Tuesday when we're not sure if you are just glad to see us or if you are only interested in a split of another kind. (Photo: my design consultant and niece, Kerry)

My buddy and monk, Father Mark told me that "People are hell. You don't have to wait to die and go anywhere. You deal with hell right now." To that there is a corollary: Perhaps heaven is here and you needn't wait to die for it either. Sometimes people are heavenly. Special among them are card carrying members of the STEELER NATION.

Thanks for your time reading my poetic missive. If you need directions to any of the locations mentioned, try Mapquest.Com.  As for me, I'm heading west, young man. Straight on to Mike's, making a right to Flotzie's, on to the third star on the left and then going straight til morning. See you next week, unless I am inspired to be in touch earlier. Of course, if you need to reach me before then, call the switchboard and leave a message. Gertrude, our trusted operator, will help you the best she can until I can return the call. God bless and Go Steelers.

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