Friday, July 29, 2011

Worst Case Scenarios

Portrait of an articulated skeleton on a bentwood chair

I've been living alone this summer, which gives me lots of time to imagine worst case scenarios. Here are the top 10.

10) You look out the window to find the entire view filled with the giant eye of an monstrously immense beast.

9) You hang your leg over the side of the bed only to be grabbed at the ankle by the withered hand of a zombie demon.

8) You unsuspectingly sit on the couch only to be grabbed at the ankle by the withered hand of a zombie demon.

7) You stand by the toaster heating up a poptart only to be etc etc etc zombie demon.

6) Corpse behind the shower curtain.

5) The cat runs away (and never really liked you).

4) Mucous tentacle crawls out of shower drain.

3) A hairy yelling monster barges through the door and jumps on you.

2) You get pantry moths.

1) You die right before the good part.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

I Heart Kennywood

When I was in Pittsburgh I had the good fortune to spend the afternoon at one of my favorite places in the world: Kennywood. For those unacquainted with this particular slice of heaven, here is Kennywood in a teacup:

It opened in 1898 as a trolley park and since then has been open continuously, featuring such wholesome attractions as picnic groves, dance halls, games of chance, swimming pools and rides. Today it is a top notch amusement park, maintaining both a collection of modern thrill rides as well as some shambling mechanical marvels that date back to 1918 (The Whip) and 1927 (The Turtles) as well as two wooden coasters dating back to the 1920's (The Jack Rabbit - 1920 and The Racer - 1927).

I could go on about Kennywood forever, but fortunately I don't have to. Rick Sebak and WQED were kind enough to make a documentary about this park back in the 1980's, which will provide you with all you need to know.

Kennywood Memories, Part One

I was too busy having fun to get many snapshots, but here are a few of my favorites. Unfortunately we had so much fun we didn't get to stay past dark and see the wonderful transformation as all the neon buzzes to life.

noah's arc, kennywood

The last I heard, this is one of the two last remaining Noah's Ark dark attractions left in the world. The other one, if it is still alive and kicking, resides in Blackpool, England. For however shabby it gets from season to season, it remains close to my heart.

bayern kurve, kennywood

The Bayern Kurve, a bobsled themed go-round-and-round-and-round-till-you-puke ride is back in action after being in storage for many years. The best part of this ride is that right when you are at your fastest and most disoriented, an air horn blasts right in your face. I think I actually traveled to another dimension.

Kennywood is home to an arcade that features such diverse entertainment as a wall of skeeball machines (50% actually functional), the world's largest claw machine (filled with child-sized Domo-kuns), as well as a variety of pseudo-gambling machines, creepy fortune tellers that thrust their mechanical chests out with simulated sighs, and video games spanning the past 30 years.

I was totally blown away by the stencil work on some of these old cabinets.

asteroid machine, kennywood

This is an Asteroid cabinet, in all its terrifying jagged space monster glory.

ms pacman and moon patrol machines, kennywood

Here an original Ms. Pacman cabinet stands back-to-back with an AMAZING Moon Patrol cabinet (are you seeing this??)

Seeing these machines persisting unchanged from the 1980's brought to mind the Polybius urban legend. If you are looking for a little reading material, check out this site: The Polybius Home Page . I love creepy urban legends and this one certainly hits the spot.

In short, Kennywood, you are the best. See you next summer!

Postscript - This is the advantage of having a father-in-law who runs an antique store: when you come home flushed and gushing about how much you adore Kennywood, he will surprise you the next day with an authentic 1950's Kennywood propeller beanie. I am so lucky.

kennywood beanie

Monday, July 25, 2011

Inspiration on the Streets

Somehow in my months away I had forgotten about the art that swells in every corner of Pittsburgh: painted by a grant from the city, thrown up overnight on bridges and brick walls, shipped and assembled in galleries or just hanging out in the street, faded from years of drizzle and sun. In the steel city, inspiration is never far from you.

community center, mount oliver 1

community center, mount oliver 2

These murals, a bit worse for wear, are on the side of a community center in Mount Oliver.

the captains congress

A corner of an installation at the Society for Contemporary Craft, titled "The Captains Congress."

liberty avenue, the strip district

A statue of Leda and the Swan, spotted in a strip district parking lot.

liberty avenue, bloomfield

A husky walrus spouts Italian for "Bitten Alive" on a wall in Bloomfield.

butler street, lawrenceville

A few KIDS pieces (RIP) are still going strong in the city. This one is on the side of a property on Butler Street.

window birds, oakland

Two birdies peck in the window of a restaurant in progress... very slow progress.

penn avenue, garfield

My personal favorite, a reminder of what it's all about, currently residing on the pavement outside the Quiet Storm in Garfield.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Check out this gross thing!

Hey friends, check out my gnarly bite wound!

spider bite

Location: right leg
Purple pen marks courtesy of the Vanderbilt walk-in clinic.
Bite courtesy of mystery beast!

According to the very nice nurse practitioner, I have three options.
1) If the rash shrinks back from the marks in a day or two, celebrate!
2) If the rash stays the same, start antibiotics.
3) If the rash pushes red streaks past the pen-ink boundaries and toward my quivering heart, um, call a doctor right away.

I live such an interesting life surrounded by things that can kill me!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Back from Pittsburgh

I spent the first 9 days of July walking around Pittsburgh with a camera and a notepad. I rambled from south to north to far eastward, meeting up with chums and spying all the old haunts I've been missing. I'm going to split all the resulting nonsense into chunks and post it over the next few days; until then please enjoy a delightful mishmosh of Tennessee in the summertime.

Downtown Nashville consists mostly of predictable glass spikes of 80's and 90's skyscrapers, but between them lurk a few sweet old brick buildings and lots of funny details.

Barbershop Harmony Society

Momma Opossum

Lamp Detail, Nashville, TN

In late May we were overrun with 13 year cicadas (Brood XIX - The Great Southern Brood to be exact). After a initial trickle of nymphs and molted shells the creatures were everywhere: plummeting from trees, getting trapped in breezeways and twice sneaking into my office by hitching a ride on the back of my shirt. It was a surreal period, with the endless churning shriek of the bugs so deafening and constant it was difficult to hold a conversation.

Cicadas on Elm Tree

Cicada Shells

Cicada Molting

Cicada Lightpole

Cicada Overload

Then, they all just disappeared. Their shells rotted into the soil and their buggy corpses were eaten until all that remained were shimmering wings, plucked and lying in the grass.

But the circle of life continues. The lawn outside my office is filled with small cottontails, conspicuous and unafraid.


Even walking through the zoo it is not uncommon to find fat black rat snakes or pretty slips of lizards like this five-lined skink, rivaling any beauty inside a cage.

Five Line Skink