Rustbelt Fables

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But some of the heritage food did get carried on. We loved his potato pancakes, Latkes Page XX. The trick is to wring out as much liquid from the grated potatoes as you can. So dad would be standing over the sink wringing the hell out of a dish towel full of potatoes.

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Then you mix in minced onions, egg and a little flour and fry up on a griddle. Top with applesauce and sour cream. If you do it right, the latkes are golden brown and crisp. Matzoh Ball Soup. Brisket is a tougher cut of meat that you braise and stew on low heat with carrots and potatoes.

He said they gave away liver when he was growing up.

Diamonds in the Rust: Fairy-Tales, Myths & Fables

Actually our neighbor in Highland Park, Mrs. Rothman, came to wear the brisket crown. Mom got her recipe and it became a family favorite. The Squirrel Hill neighborhood is the center of Jewish culture. This polish mainstay is a dough dumpling stuffed with cheese, potato and sauerkraut. After boiling they are often browned in a skillet with butter and mushrooms. I have early memories of dad making wine in the basement. Over the years he continued this hobby in the various apartments and houses he moved through. The Strip District. The Pennsylvania Macaroni Company was at the center of it, a lively wholesale Italian deli of endless blocks of cheese, meats and canned items.

He ate a healthy diet and jogged way before it was cool. One his defining things was jogging around the Highland Park reservoir, with us three boys tagging along behind. This spot dates back to the s, way before the Strip went retail, when it was strictly a loading dock for produce and other wholesale commodities. The legend has it that this all-in-one sando was a one-handed meal that allowed the truckers to steer and eat at the same time. Primanti's Sandwich. So it became a big late night scene on the weekends, with wasted kids spilling out into the little alley in front, crushing cheese steaks and Iron City Beers.

You got the sense that in the Strip, things ran according to their own set of rules. In recent decades the restaurant has opened several suburban satellite locations, and has become a real Pittsburgh trademark. Pittsburgh Brewing Company. Polish Hill. For a time it was one of the largest and most advanced brewery operations in the country. It was brewed in an old red brick factory at the foot of Polish Hill, up until the beer industry consolidation of the late twentieth century. Today, after a bankruptcy and several ownership changes, the brand is now produced at another location.

It was an era where a guy was loyal to the local brand, before today's endless consumer choice and the following of short term trends. For the record, Iron is a fairly low-grade watery swill.


But hey, its the hometown brew! Blue Laws had religious origins maybe an artifact all the way back to Puritan thinking. Back in the high school days we might have gone on a few runs to beer distributors, playing out various schemes to get served underage. This ice cream, cheese and sandwich purveyor was really big when mom was growing up, with locations in neighborhoods across the city. She would take us to a few of the fading locations that remained and relive the old days.

They had two claims to fame. One was a summer favorite, the Klondike Bar , a palm sized block of vanilla ice cream dipped in chocolate and wrapped in silver foil with a polar bear graphic printed on it. Something about the texture of the meat, usually with some mayo, made for an amazing taste.

Read more about Isaly's. I would be remiss to not mention the Clark Bar. Through much of the twentieth century, the Clark Bar was one of the most popular candy bars in the nation and one of Pittsburgh's famous food brands. It was a crunchy peanut butter core covered in milk chocolate. The Northside factory featured a large neon sign that was a downtown area landmark. By the s, the Clark Bar brand began to fade, unable to compete with newer candy options and increased competition. Read the story here. Pittsburgh is the quintessential working class town, imbued with a strong sense of blue collar pride that you readily notice of when you are there.

Homestead Strike, Pittsburgh was the location of the Whisky Rebellion , the first instance in U. Later, in , the Homestead section of town was the scene of a seminal labor fight, when a rag tag band of workers went on strike to protest a twenty percent wage cut. The strike was eventually broken by 8, state militia who marched into Homestead and reestablished order.

They were real blood sports back in the 70s—violent, tribal and unforgiving. Hockey was popular, especially because of the vicious on-ice brawls that were common in that era. But in Pittsburgh, football is king-- Steelers football especially. He paid the franchise fee for the team with race track winnings. Three years later, he had a legendary 3-day winning streak at Yonkers and Saratoga in New York, hitting a big parlay and five longshots among 11 straight winners.

The hundreds of thousands of dollars he cleared financed the team through many subsequent lean years. Uncle Ray was big Steelers fan. Every so often he would take us to a game, and it was like Christmas morning in our world. We had no means to go to these games. They were always sold out and there was no such thing as StubHub. The anticipation was unbearable as we'd pile into his big Cadillac, stop at a neighborhood deli for hoagies, then he'd steer through the ratty streets of the North Side, past the hustlers and ticket scalpers and winos, toward the concrete Mecca of Three Rivers Stadium.

His season tickets were in the second to last row at the very top of the circular colossus. He knew all the folks sitting around him. There were thermoses of cocoa passed around and, of course, people were swilling Iron City beer. There were those big winter coats with the fur lined hoods. We sat through some really cold games watching the black and gold Steelers on the artificial turf way down below.

Then one year, as his business thrived, Ray moved from those seats to a luxury suite with a kitchen in it and a whole deluxe furnished setup. That move tracked with the ascendance of the team into their dynasty years of the s. It was so named because of such a lucky carom of the football people thought it could only have been divine intervention.

Paul’s Puzzle: A Fable for Actuaries

The exact spot where it happened is marked in the parking lot next to the new stadium. The hero of that play was Franco Harris. Franco is a mild mannered African American dude with a beard and big afro. But he is also half Italian. Franco Harris mobbed after Immaculate reception upper left ; Franco's Italian Army upper right and bottom.

He also invented the now ubiquitous Terrible Towel. Cope was an excitable little guy in a loud checkered sport coat, with a hard edged Pittsburgh accent, a distinctive nasal vocal delivery not unlike a local version of Howard Cosell. Each time, we boys insisted that mom make that same meatloaf.

And they won all three. Like all kids across the city, we idolized the great Pirates right fielder Roberto Clemente. He was a five-tool player who routinely cut down runners with his cannon arm and made impossible catches at the wall. Any mention of the Pirates of our youth begins with him. The Pirates are affectionately known as the Bucs or Buccos, short for buccaneers. His gravelly voiced, homespun narrative was the soundtrack to many a summer evening, peppered with so many great nicknames and signature calls. Games were only occasionally televised, so there was always a transistor radio nearby with the staticy play-by-play going in the background.

Roberto Clemente. Bob Prince. By the 70s the Hill was plagued with crime, junkies and boarded up buildings. We kids feared Hill District in the manner of urban legend, and never dared go through it. Willie Stargell did homer that night, and the restaurant was mobbed. Price told long, rambling stories, including episodes and hijinks with the team on the road.

That Pirates team reflected the funky, soulful vibe of the early 70s. Ellis owns one of the most bizarre feats in the history of the game, having thrown a no-hitter while tripping on acid. He was an outspoken critic of racism he saw that persisted in the game of baseball. This didn't sit well with the establishment powers within the sport. A little known side note is that when Ellis was under attack in the press for his combative attitude, the immortal Jackie Robinson himself sent him a personal letter of support and advice.

In 71, the team had the distinction of fielding the first all-black starting lineup in Majors history. Dock Ellis. Danny Murtaugh. Manny Sanguillen. He had a haunted elegance and a quiet intensity. Teammates and opponents alike sensed they were in the presence of greatness. Others misread the distant persona as arrogance. And then that off-balance reaching swing was so wrong according to hitting orthodoxy, but so effective and memorable. He played with a reckless abandon. His compact body had a certain indescribable quality to it, flailing, but with a self contained sort of grace and nobility.

By the time I saw him play in person, in , his legend was well established, and he had won over the tough blue collar town. The neighborhood paesanos in the first base grandstand that night sat in awe of Clemente. All evening we watched number 21 pad across the artificial turf under the lights.

He seemed misplaced in the modernist concrete of Three Rivers Stadium, occupying his lonesome spot in the faded green reaches of right field. It would be his final season. Clemente was killed while on a humanitarian mission to earthquake-stricken Nicaragua.

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The old DC-9 plane he overloaded with food and supplies crashed into the sea right after take off from San Juan Puerto Rico. His tragic death crushed the city, and people all over the world. He left an indelible mark on a whole generation, and remains to this day a sacred icon in the Pittsburgh mythology. The Great One, Roberto Clemente, takes right field after getting his th hit in what would be the final regular season at bat of his career.

The Pirates lost that game, leaving the series at in favor of Baltimore. An impossible predicament. We walked down long concrete ramps and out of the stadium with the deflated crowd. That was a solemn march. On the drive home I teared up, one of the very few times any kind of emotion came into our stoic relationship. My dad said a few sympathetic things but mostly stayed quiet.

Somehow that car ride home is one of the nice memories I have of me and my dad. The deep despair of Game 4 set up an unlikely comeback. And in Baltimore some other kid was crying. When we were growing up we caught the very end of home milk delivery, neighborhood butchers and greengrocers. These service providers were a fixture across the land for decades, but like many others, were swallowed up by the rise of the supermarket. Although today there are lots of specialty markets, we mostly end up at the Safeways and the Krogers to hunt and gather at the terminus of rich global supply chains.

We willingly trade freshness and local charm for lower prices, predictability and produce that never goes out of season. This book itself is a preservation effort in the face of a growing monoculture that seems to threaten local and unique things. Just a few decades removed, how foreign it seems that someone would put fresh bottles of milk in a metal box on your porch every couple days and take away the empties? I was captivated by the medieval tableau of meat dangling from hooks in the window, the strange fraternity of old guys in bloody aprons, and the way mom communicated with them in the language of weight and body parts.

It had a clear broth from scratch, egg noodles, a little carrot and celery, and hit with some parsley at the end. Pretty standard recipe as chicken noodle soup goes. Mom used to say the secret was to get chicken backs from the butcher and chop those up, exposing the marrow inside, and boil them to make the broth.

This was one of many frugal things depression era folks did to save money—buy the discarded parts to use for soup. And when you got sick, mom would make a big pot of chicken noodle soup. It was better medicine and comfort by far than anything out of a pharmaceutical bottle. North Side. He grew this little operation quickly by scaling up and mechanizing the traditional home canning process. They were delivered to local grocers by horse-drawn wagons.

The Heinz factory, with towering brick smokestacks, dominates the north side of town. Elementary schools across the city tour the plant, where each kid receives a little Heinz pickle pin. Our cousins and we would power through a big half gallon jar in one sitting, garlic-rich, and with a little heat in the aftertaste. We all waited with anticipation for his seasonal intelligence report. Among the variety of salads mom, LaVerne and grandma made, three became mainstays, each tossedwith a simple vegetable oil and white vinegar dressing, using sugar and salt to create a sweet and sour balance.

And each included a bit of onion. It has tiny cubes of boiled potato in it. The jagged leaves of the dandelion and endive have a strong flavor, something of an acquired taste. That always forces me to go further in my own fiction and to try something new, something more subversive, something that pushes me out of my own comfort zone. The world lost Angela Carter when she was far too young, and it makes me so sad to think of all the work she could have continued writing, but even so, she still managed to leave behind quite a dazzling legacy.

That sense that although people have gone, either through death or through mystery, they are somehow there, in the elsewhere, and never entirely lost. What draws you to that concept? Everyone has lost somebody they love, be it through death or heartbreak or simply drifting apart. The universality of it makes it very much part of being human but also part of a journey none of us wants to take.

Disappearances, for me, are a way of manifesting that loss in such an immediate and literal manner. Plus, when you start looking back over history, you find these weird instances of people and even places vanishing. That sense of enduring mystery really lodged itself in my psyche and has never entirely left, so I keep returning to it and twisting it and re-examining it, trying to find a new angle or a way to fit the pieces into the puzzle, even though there is no real answer to it.

There are a few sympathetic male figures, but not many. Was this an intentional move, or a by-product of focusing on what you specifically wanted to say?

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It might harken back at least in part to my aforementioned love of Shirley Jackson. When I think of her body of work, the first story that comes to mind is We Have Always Lived in the Castle , which is absolutely about sisters Merricat and Constance although Uncle Julian is awesome too.

From there, you also have The Haunting of Hill House , which features some male characters, but again, concentrates most on the women, Theodora and Eleanor. They are suffused with humanity, and populated by protagonists to whom a reader can relate, in one way or another. You seem to have retained depth without unnecessary complexity, over-dense imagery or stylistic obfuscation. Is such clarity important to you as a writer? While I love—and often write—lyrical prose, I have always loathed reading stories that sacrifice substance or pacing in favour of pretty language. Being an author is such a profound honour from the outset; we get to tell stories for a living, and how cool is that?

Consequently, I consider it a betrayal to readers when a writer overly complicates stories just for the sake of a great image or some stylistic acrobatics.

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My favourite authors manage to blend thematic depth and stylistic prose while still maintaining clarity and pacing, so those are always my goals too when crafting a story. How do you categorise your work, if you do at all? The Perry County News is your source for local news, sports, events, and information in Perry County, Indiana, and the surrounding area. Saturday, June 29, Sign up. View Forecast. Upcoming Events. Your browser does not support iframes.

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