The Hungover Gourmet


It's a 'Burgh Thing!

PROLOGUE: Halloween 1995

This is where our tale begins. Readers of Exploitation Retrospect or Carbon 14 may be aware of some of the details to follow. However, for our dear THG readers, details of my three-year stint in the big, bad ‘Burgh are being put to paper for the first time.The decision to move to Pittsburgh was an easy one, probably one of the easiest decisions I’ve ever made. Far easier than deciding between Mexican Pizza or Nachos Bell Grande at Taco Bell, but not as easy as choosing what beer to have on a Friday night at the old Khyber Pass in Philly. (That’d be Yuengling Porter, ‘natch.)

I’d been traveling to the Steel City for about a year-and-a-half, thanks to my relationship with Dr. Kaki. The sister-in-law of former housemate/bowling crony Cronus Mantor, Kak was in the midst of a six-year residency at a Pittsburgh hospitals — of which there seems to be one every block. During her med school days we were able to divide the weekend visits pretty evenly, but things were about to take a drastic change. She was going in to her surgical residency.

This meant early, early mornings, late, late nights, and an on-call schedule no human being should have to endure — especially one caring for another human life. In other words, not the kind of lifestyle that makes a long-distance relationship easy. So, despite having moved across town a few months earlier, I bade farewell to my employer, packed up thousands of records, books and videotapes — the densest items you can possibly move — and packed a truck for my journey to the gateway to the Midwest. . . the Steel City. . . Pittsburgh, PA.

What follows are journal entries, notebook scrawlings, unfinished articles and excerpts from other writings during the period 12/95–6/98. Some have been fleshed out with additional thoughts, but most remain untainted by the spector of hindsight . . .

November 1995...

The piles of boxes, stacks of furniture and mountains of trashbags filled with clothes is beginning to get a bit smaller. I’m sure Bonney, our landlord, is thrilled. With each trip from the moving truck to the living room of the house his eyes got wider and wider. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that this was only my stuff and we still had to move Kak’s belongings from the North Side.

My office is finally coming together, though it’s hard getting my tons of computer equipment, records, reference materials and crucial toys crammed into this tiny space. Billed as a second bedroom in the classifieds, I can’t imagine anyone living in this part of the house. Originally a patio, the landlord and his helpers put up some drywall and laid down carpet to turn this into a second bedroom. Hah!

But, it’s big enough for the time and I’m not even sure how much time I’ll be spending in here. The oddest thing that’s happened so far was the call I got from our neighbor in the back (we share an alley way). When the phone rang and the person asked if this was Dan Taylor I was a bit shocked. The second line to my office had only been installed that morning and I was hardly anticipating calls...I didn’t even think anyone had the number! The caller introduced himself as “Ed, your neighbor in the back.” Great, I thought, he’s calling to welcome us to the neighborhood — maybe this IS one of America’s most livable cities.

Chances for a welcome to the neighborhood pot luck were shot when Oscar the Grouch informed me that my trash was on his side of the alley and he was pretty infuriated. “This guy’s joking,” I thought. “We just moved in and there’s about 18 bags of trash back there...”

Oscar continued this bizarre introduction by informing me that he went out back and noticed the extra garbage bags in the alley, some on HIS SIDE! As a retired guy with too much time on his hands, he decided to play detective, ripped one of the bags open, found some paperwork with my name on it, called the phone number in New Jersey and tracked down our new number. I suggested that perhaps our landlord, who was still renovating the top two-thirds of our house, may have moved the bags since too many bags might block cars coming down the alley. Though this took the heat off me, it also shifted it directly onto our poor landlord. Never satisfied, Ed requested that I call him and tell him the next time our landlord was there working so he could come over and give him a piece of his mind. I agreed, hung up the phone, shook my head over the sad state of America’s retirees and returned to putting my office together. Needless to say, I never called Ed.

December 1995...

We’ve been here about a month and have finally settled in to our new digs near the Bloomfield section of Pittsburgh. It’s a great area, a throwback to the neighborhoods of old, complete with restaurants and bars, an honest-to-goodness butcher shop (delightfully named ‘House of Meats’), a five-and-dime store and just about anything you’d want within walking distance.

For those of you who’ve never visited the city, let me give you a ten cent summary. The Steel City got its nickname from the industry that fueled its growth during the 1800s and early 1900s. But, as the steel plants closed and the city’s blue collar industry began to dwindle, the city found itself in a bit of a depression. Fast forward to the 1970s and 80s when the ‘Burgh went through a legendary renaissance that resulted in it being touted as one of our nation’s “most livable cities.”

That’s all fine, well and good if you’ve spent your entire life in the ‘Burgh or smaller cities. Unfortunately, I’m a big fan of Philly — despite its reputation around the country — and was shocked the first time I realized Pittsburgh’s sidewalks roll up at 6:00 pm. And if there’s something you want to do (catch a movie, see a band, shop, etc.) you better be prepared to find somewhere else to do it!

To my greater surprise, employment opportunities aren’t exactly rolling in. Again, like entertainment options, I’m used to the limitless possibilities that seemed available in and around Philly. A couple weeks of resume mailing and I was never at a loss for interviews. I’m currently staring at a manila folder bulging with cover letters and my phone isn’t exactly ringing off the hook. I’m overjoyed that I socked a few grand away before I left South Jersey...with the holidays fast approaching and annual budgets running low, I doubt that a new job will be falling in my lap soon.

On to the New Year...

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