a newspaper man adjusts his pen

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The mysterious graves of Brownsville

A rare sarcophagus is one of many unique attractions at a beautiful old church included on a tour of churches this weekend in Brownsville, Pa.

BROWNSVILLE, Pa. – The Rev. Keith Pozzuto doesn’t believe it will be long before his congregation learns the contents of a rare sarcophagus in the historic cemetery behind his church.

The stone grave marker that dates to the early 1800a is deteriorating to the point that it should soon collapse amid the plot of graves at Christ Episcopal Church in Brownsville, Pa.

"It's pretty strange," Pozzuto said. "Inside is a wooden box containing the remains."

He doesn’t know whose grave the tomb contains since much of the lettering relating to the deceases has disappeared with the weather.

It’s just one of a number of interesting stops in this graveyard that will be included in a tour this weekend of local churches to raise money for efforts to dress up the old town along the Monongahela River.

People have been mysteriously placing such odd objects as a round stone pained to look like an alien beside other tombstones in this cemetery in the 300 block of Church Street. The place is just plain weird and creepy in a wonderful sort of way.

There also is false story that is still told today about President George Washington’s cousins having been buried here after being murdered by their slaves.

Here is that tale, taken from the pages of the Observer-Reporter newspaper in Washington, Pa.:

By Scott Beveridge

The story involving two cousins of President George Washington having been killed by their slaves and buried in Brownsville appears to have been mostly bogus from the onset.

The author of an 1881 article in the Magazine of American History was unable to find any mention of the men, Archibald and John H. Washington, in the former president's genealogy.

Yet people still believe the legend about the men buried here behind the historic Christ Episcopal Church, a tale that has been passed along by word-of-mouth through the generations.

"If enough people say it, it must be true," said the Rev. Keith Pozzuto, pastor of the church that will be included in an Oct. 4 tour of Brownsville churches to raise money for a local beautification project.

The tour guide here surely will discuss the story about the 1818 deaths of the men.

The lead author of the magazine story, John Austin Stevens, claimed to have interviewed eyewitnesses of good character for his story. They insisted Archibald, 33, and John Washington, 38, died of typhoid fever after receiving the diagnosis from a local physician who also came down with the same illness after treating them.

The only part of the story that appeared to be true involved their dying while transporting as many as 100 slaves from Virginia to Kentucky while stopped in Brownsville, which was the gateway to the west at the time.

The mystery deepens as to how their tombstones found their way beside that of town founder Thomas Brown. Stevens claimed the visitors were buried in a potter's field reserved for strangers and blacks, having been refused burial at the church whose members were staunchly opposed to slavery.

Regardless, this church built in 1859 "has always had a storied place" in the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, Pozzuto said.

It's believed to be the second-oldest Episcopal church west of the Allegheny Mountains, behind one in Mt. Lebanon, Pozzuto said.

The main doors to the Brownsville church lead to an understated sanctuary with an altar crafted from Italian marble and wood imported from Germany. The altar represents the marriage of the Roman Catholic and German Protestant churches that created the Anglican congregation, Pozzuto said.

The building also boasts a rare and priceless Tiffany stained-glass window, he said.

Meanwhile, the cemetery also contains remarkably preserved tabletop tombstones and an unusual sarcophagus. The 1854 above-ground receptacle holds the remains of a corpse whose identification has worn with weather off the stone.

"It's pretty strange," Pozzuto said. "Inside is a wooden box containing the remains."

The cemetery also holds the graves of many members of the Bowman and Hogg families that were prominent to Brownsville's early rises as an important trade center.

"The history of Brownsville is right here behind this church," Pozzuto said.

The main entrance to the church leads to an antique altar crafted with marble from Italy and wood from Germany, materials that represent the two countries that gave life to this Anglican congregation.

The church tour is hosted by the Northside Beautification Committee to raise money for the purchase banners for Market Street.

The other churches involved are: St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church, St. Ellien's Orthodox Church, First United Methodist Church and Calvin United Presbyterian Church.

The tour will begin at 3 p.m. Oct. 4 at St. Peter's Church, 300 Shaffner Ave. Tickets are available by calling 724-785-2444 or can be purchased between 2 and 3 p.m. the day of the tour at St. Peter's.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Scenes from the G-20 summit

A slide show of Scott Beveridge photos of the sideshow this week outside the G-20 summit in Downtown Pittsburgh.

Friday, September 25, 2009

No peace at the G-20 peace march

A man in a homemade clown suit who identifies himself as Vermin Supreme helps to make a circus of the peace march on the G-20 summit in Pittsburgh.

By Scott Beveridge

PITTSBURGH, Pa. – There was a rude woman guiding a group of activists today along the peace march to the G-20 summit in Pittsburgh.

She kept barking these orders at journalists with cameras, “Move. Now! Get out of the way.”

Eventually, I caught her attention and told her she needed to find a little peace herself. To her credit, she immediately realized she was out of control and offered an apology.

When the march came to an end outside the Downtown Pittsburgh City-County Building where the speakers were gathered, a University of Pittsburgh student took the microphone in another show of anger.

She said she was upset about a Pitt student who reportedly was beaten by Pittsburgh police the previous evening, the problems with health care being too costly and students like her being strapped with mounting tuition debts. She urged the crowd to become as angry as her about these problems.

Someone apparently forgot to send her the memo about this being a peace march and rally.

It seemed ridiculous for her to encourage madness one day after anarchists in town for the G-20 vandalized a string of businesses in the vicinity of her school in the city's Oakland section. That trouble led to police making 66 arrests, the local newspapers reported this morning.

Meanwhile, another speaker congratulated this assembly for helping to bring 10,000 people Downtown to form a crowd of protesters unlike anyone has seen in Pittsburgh since the Vietnam War.

The last time I checked there weren’t any large anti-Vietnam War protests in Pittsburgh in the 1960s and 1970s. There weren’t 10,000 protesters Downtown today, either. Police along the march estimated the crowd at anywhere between 600 and 2,000.

A freak in a clown suit and actors wearing white potato head puppet suits without an apparent cause to embrace also were among those taking part in the event.

There were many young people beating on makeshift drums to music that didn’t follow a particular melody. Many people carried with them a bad stench of perspiration. A few of the nonconformists turned to the police, bared their stomachs and sang, “You're sexy. You’re cute. Take off your riot suit.”

Later one of my friends reminded me that those hippies probably view soap as a form of the capitalism they oppose.

“You have to spend money to buy soap,” she said.

Meanwhile, a group of 150 Tibetan exiles living in New York and Boston made up one of the larger protest groups.

They came freshly groomed and wearing clean, matching yellow T-shirts to deliver a clear message to China to honor human rights in Tibet. They have a legitimate gripe given the terror China caused in their homeland in 2008 during clashes with Buddhist monks.

The American activists who showed up today in Pittsburgh should have been embarrassed to complain about anything while marching along the same parade route as these exiles.

They also need to come up a serious issue to complain about, and then offer a concrete solution if they are ever going to earn any respect and sympathy.

Tibetan exiles call for human rights in their homeland during the peace march.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

An afternoon outside the G-20 in Pittsburgh

Pennsylvania State Police push back a small crowd of Ethiopian demonstrators at the G-20 summit in Pittsburgh.

By Scott Beveridge

PITTSBURGH, Pa. – While leaving Pittsburgh tonight on foot I stopped and joked with a few members of the military who were guarding an entrance to a shopping and dining district void of business during the G-20 summit.

“It was the Armageddon that didn’t happen,” I said about what had been a lackluster showing of demonstrators in the heart of Pittsburgh on the first day of the gathering of leaders from the world’s largest economies.

“Just think what would have happened if we weren’t here,” said a police officer from Chicago who was hanging out with the four soldiers at the trendy Station Square in Pittsburgh’s South Side.

With a hint of sarcasm, I threw into the conversation that I felt so safe earlier in the day upon seeing the National Guard posted in such an unlikely location.

“That’s why we're here,” one of the guardsmen responded in fun.

But in reality I had wondered if the authorities overreacted by having guards stationed at a destination on the opposite banks of the Monongahela River from Downtown, and across town from the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, the location of the summit.

The same goes for the many businesses that had their windows covered in plywood. The management at PPG Industries went as far as to enclose PPG Plaza with a chain-link fence topped with concertina.

Even the colleges had shut down and sent home their students who could have gotten quite an education by witnessing such a rare occurrence playing out in this city. Meanwhile, much of the business here had come to a halt at a time when retailers struggling to survive a recession could have benefited greatly from all the international attention.

There were more police than spectators on these streets that have been devoid of cars since 8 p.m. Wednesday, isolated by barricades that separated the heart of the city from anarchists who were causing sporadic trouble in its outskirts. The size of the resistance crowd today did not reach the proportions the city initially expected, police said.

As far as demonstrators Downtown there were about 150 Tibetan exiles decrying China while demanding human rights and far-fewer Ethiopians taking a stand against genocide in their homeland. Add to them a half-dozen stoned Americans demanding their free right to toke ganja.

The protesters were peaceful, yet the Tibetans were surrounded by Pennsylvania state police officers on horseback or standing shoulder-to-shoulder with batons to corral the crowd. Another line of troopers pushed back the Ethiopians even though they weren’t getting in anyone’s way.

No one got hurt, and the demonstrators left peacefully after they shouted their chants for about an hour. I couldn’t help but wonder if these rallies accomplished much because the world leaders were locked away in a convention center behind row after row of tall, temporary steel fences.

It was impressive, though, to see this country’s law enforcement agencies in a massive showing unlike any that has been seen in Pittsburgh’s history.

Tibetan exiles from New York and Boston square off with Pennsylvania State Police in downtown Pittsburgh on the first day of the G-20 summit.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Pittsburgh lights wow G-20 summit to town

PITTSBURGH, Pa. – Artists who design nighttime lighting splashed on buildings have created an incredible new display to welcome world leaders to the G-20 summit in Pittsburgh.

The slide show of sorts includes some famous images from the city’s history, including those relating to a polio cure and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright to silkscreen portraits created by Andy Warhol. It also includes a shot of a not-so-famous quilt - the oldest of its kind in Pennsylvania - that is among the collection of the Westmoreland Museum of Art.

This light installation came together tonight on an otherwise huge, bland white wall at the entrance to the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh where the two-day summit begins tomorrow.

“I haven’t slept for two days,” said Chris Oberdorf, the project manager for the Duquesne Light-sponsored Festival of Lights group that has been shining outstanding art on Pittsburgh landmark buildings for the past few years.

He should get some rest tonight because the small number of people who were not scared away from the city tonight by an intense police presence for the summit were blown away by this work of art.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The artichoke dream

"Artichoke" by Scott Beveridge 9/20/2009

By Scott Beveridge

The notion to paint an artichoke with watercolors came to me in a dream.

It was one of those eureka-type dreams that jolted me awake feeling as if a message had been delivered in a premonition not to be dismissed.

As a cynic, I’ve never given much credence to these visionary moments of mystical inspiration that are better suited for the likes of actress Shirley McClain.

The dream about six months ago led me to believe my subconscious mind was suggesting that I focus again on my roots as an artist at a time when scores of newspapers reporters like me were being furloughed in an industry that has been struggling to adapt to the free Internet age.

Then the dream became a silly joke fueled by my fellow blogger Amanda Gillooly, whose hilarious musings occasionally appear on this Web site.

Gillooly wouldn’t let go of the spiritual guidance that the dream delivered, and occasionally hounded me to grab the brushes, tubes of paint and watercolor paper to fulfill destiny.

The pleasant, sunny weather on Sunday gave me no excuse to get to work.

But then the strangest message arrived in an email tonight from another friend, who will remain anonymous, containing the “official” interpretation of a dream about this edible flower.

Here it is from fatedreams.com:

To see or eat an artichoke in your dream, suggests that you need to get to the heart of some matter. It is also representative of your potential and creativity. Perhaps you are holding back in how you want to express yourself.

"That's weird," is all I can say.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Amanda Gillooly has a lesson for Tom Brady

Tom Brady, originally uploaded by climbingkevin.

Dear Tom Brady,

When playing Hungry Hungry Hippos with my then 4-year-old nephew, I didn’t know he had already subscribed to the Brady Method. I made the mistake of grabbing the last white ball, indicating that the game was over and it was time to count whose hippo had been best fed.

I had purposely let Nicholas win. When my orange hippo gobbled up that last piece of the proverbial pie, my nephew clearly had double the amount I did. But that didn’t matter. It wasn’t enough for him to win. He had to end the game on his own note. It was his way or no way at all.

So before I could even cognicize what had happened, Nicholas picked up the game board and smashed it down onto the carpet again, throwing the little balls across the room in a frenzy. Then he started crying.

That was the last time he reacted this way. His mom, dad and me since have gotten him to understand these rules of playing any game:

1. Winning isn’t everything. It matters if you tried hard and if you had fun. Being a sore loser is just as reprehensible as being a sore winner.

2. No matter if you win or lose, you have to respect the game and the people playing with you.

Tom, I’m not going to tell you he doesn’t have lapses. He is 5, and when playing videogames or hoops outside, he gets frustrated. But I couldn’t be more proud of him. These days, he stops himself after a few seconds of pouting at a loss and perks up.

“Hey, Aunt Mandy, I lost. But that’s OK, right? Because I can always play again – and it IS fun.”

And I won’t lie to you Tom. I can’t stand you as a player. In fact, I almost get as much satisfaction watching you and your fellow New England Patriots lose as when my beloved Steelers win. And it has everything to do with you, sir.

The talking heads on ESPN and the NFL network spent all last week singing your praises when you “upset” the Buffalo Bills with a touchdown drive on a short field. It was the heroic storyline ESPN clearly wished to pursue at the conclusion of that Monday Night Football victory.

Now, I watched the Bills return guy give you the game, Brady. If the dude simply had knelt, you, the Prince of the Patriots would have come off an injury-ending season premiering your arm to questions about how the once unstoppable force of football had faltered.

Instead, ESPN sideline reporter Suzy Kolber approached you and lobbed you a question. I believe it had something to do with what it felt like to lead a team back from the brink of defeat in the waning minutes of the season-opener.

And what did you do, Mr. Brady? You, the franchise quarterback and football ambassador to your city first tried to ignore her, telling Ms. Kolber that you were heading into the locker room. But God bless her, she wouldn’t let your ego get in the way with her getting a quote. You started walking away from her, shaking hands with some of the guys on the other side of the field. She walked with you. Then in an act of arrogance and professional disrespect, you began jogging away from her.

And then in a move that every spurned journalist should respect, Suzy started jogging right along with you. To my surprise, some of her fellow ESPN anchors stepped out of their usually supportive Brady philosophical stances and spoke about how ignorant you were.

From what I recall, ESPN pays mucho dollars to host the venerable weekly broadcast. And you, the victor, wouldn’t even answer a question designed to allow you to present yourself as the humble winner.

Then there was the eyeful I got last night after your rather embarrassing loss to the New York Jets and their rookie quarterback. I believe it was the first time your coach was beat by a freshman quarterback (other than Big Ben).

When the game ended with your team with a check in the loss column, players from both sides of the battle took off their helmets and patted each other on the backs and shook each other’s hands. Not you, though. You took off toward the locker room without congratulating a young man who made an impressive start in the NFL against one of the top-ranked quarterbacks in the league.

I really just detested you as a fan, before, Mr. Brady. Now I despise you as an aunt.

Nobody asks to be a role model, or someone’s own personal Jesus. But those roles get thrust upon us. I thought even someone as egocentric as you would at least recognize all the kids out there who are buying more than your game jersey, but your approach to the game and competing in general.

It’s easy to be gracious when you win, and the fact you can’t even do that much makes you less of an all-star and more of an ass.

I think you’d be wise to remember what Yogi Berra said: “The game is supposed to be fun. If you have a bad day, don’t worry about it. You can’t expect to get a hit every game. It gets late early out there.”

That’s certainly not for me. As inappropriate as it is, I love watching you pout and stomp and be unctuous and classless. To me, it just helps give further insight into your meager character. But there are kids out there like my nephew who pray to God to let them be just like you.

And I think you shouldn’t take that lightly – win or lose.

Warmest Regards,

Amanda “I think reporters should boycott Brady until he apologizes to Suzy Kolber” Gillooly

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Old Main is an old friend

The atypical twin towers of Old Main at Washington and Jefferson College represent the merger of two schools from which it takes its name. Scott Beveridge photo

By Barbara S. Miller

WASHINGTON, Pa. – Many a person has probably returned to their old school years later and remarked, “I wouldn’t have recognized the place.”

While this could be said about parts of Washington and East Washington after Washington & Jefferson College’s more recent building booms, it doesn’t apply to the school’s landmark, Old Main.

Every campus has an Old Main, but W&J’s is atypical because of its twin towers, symbolizing the union of Washington College and Jefferson College.

I don’t believe a single semester of my four years passed without schlepping to a class somewhere on one of its four floors.

Driving past the college every workday, I venture inside any building on the campus only occasionally and when reporting news.

I hadn’t been inside W&J’s Old Main for decades. Serving for a few years on a committee awarding the Vira I. Heinz scholarship for study abroad brought me back to its august halls after graduation, but even that was quite a while ago.

I went back inside Old Main at the end of May to show my daughter around before she attended a June math class.

After the end of a semester and commencement, Old Main was deserted, and I couldn’t believe how little the place had changed after all those years.

The long, narrow classrooms still have soaring ceilings, expansive slate chalkboards and antique-looking glass-front wooden bookcases. I swear some of the student desks were the same ones in which I sat for four years worth of history lessons, economics, art history, French and psychology and a single semester of Russian.

In one classroom stood an overhead projector, a long-necked, audio-visual equipment dinosaur in a world where professors and students had packed away their Powerpoint presentations and laptops for the summer.

Twin staircases spiral snail-like on either side of the building, and the gigantic visage of Thomas Jefferson still looks out onto the second floor. The only change I noticed was the addition of a cozy seating area on the third floor with an oriental-looking rug.

The college chapel was locked, so I could merely peer through the skinniest of openings between two doors. It still can’t be redolent of the pipe smoke of Dr. Carl Laun, a regular at the Tuesday night classic film series, can it?

In preparation for writing this column, I checked the W&J Web site for background information on Old Main. Matt McNally, a junior English-psychology major, compiled a definitive Web page on Old Main for a professional writing course. He did a fine job, informing his readers that a single-towered Old Main looking “nothing like it does today” was constructed between 1834 and 1836. “The original Old Main consisted of only the back center part of the current building,” McNally wrote.

It was in 1875, after the merger of the two colleges, that the aforementioned twin towers were added. Rounding out McNally’s piece was an interview with none other than my history adviser, Dr. Robert Dodge. Who better to discuss the topic than a great historian?

As luck would have it, I ran into the professor on our visit and caught up on some recent history.

As it turned out, Old Main’s lack of air conditioning deems it impractical for summer classes.

No matter. I was glad to see the inside of Old Main for an hour – traveling back in time.

A view down one of two spiral stairways inside Old Main. Scott Beveridge photo

(This story originally appeared in Living in Washington County, a publication of the Observer-Reporter. It was reprinted with permission.)

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Salsa for a hot G-20 week in Pittsburgh

PITTSBURGH, Pa. – A salsa band ushered in tonight what surely will be the hottest week in Pittsburgh as the city prepares to host the G-20 summit.

America’s Latin Orchestra drew a decent crowd to the city’s Katz Plaza not far from where world leaders will convene Thursday and Friday to discuss ways to solve global problems.

Police officers are ready to show their force in numbers that probably have never been seen before in this city that ironically has been called one of the friendliest places to live in the United States.

Meanwhile, protests groups of all makes and models are crowding every hotel within an hour’s drive from Pittsburgh so their members can also use this world stage to draw attention to the causes they embrace.

A friendly-appearing young man walked through Pittsburgh tonight wearing a T-Shirt containing the phrase: “G-20 Summit leaders are a bunch of jack offs.” He smiled as we passed, and I wondered if he is among the biggest jerks in town for wearing such a message on his clothing.

At the same time, I suspected the police are purposely overreacting to the upcoming public demonstrations in their attempts to scare people away from witnessing history to make their jobs easier.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Amanda’s Musings: Miss Lilly Belle arrives with tears and laughter

"I love her and that's the beginning of everything."
--F. Scott Fitzgerald

By Amanda Gillooly

Hi. My name is Aunt Mandy. You might know me as Amanda Gillooly. But whatever the name, I’ll tell you this: I’ve become a giant gush ball.

I was swatting away tears last night while I watched the waning scenes of a teenage paranormal romance novel. This morning on the drive to see my BFFs – Nicholas and Lilly – I heard The Beatles song “I Will” and started blubbering all over again.

I didn’t have this reaction when my nephew Nicholas was born. I don’t remember being overcome then by emotion as easily or as quickly.

My niece, Lilly Belle was born at 11:11 a.m. Sept. 11. After several hours of labor and a C-section, she arrived at a healthy 8 pounds 8 ounces. She was 20.5 inches long at birth.

And as soon as I saw her, I could understand Mr. Fitzgerald a little better when he was inevitably referring to the love of his life – his wife, Zelda. When I held her today and watched her stretch, coo and then open her eyes and look at me with her little brow furrowed I knew it was the beginning of a whole new adventure.

As a woman known for being more perverse than profound, I never expected to have this type of growth spurt at 29. But when I met Lilly, it was like a whole new room of my heart opened up – and it’s as large and vast as a grand ballroom. I don’t want to get too scientific, but I think the heart transformation probably looked a lot like what happened to The Grinch in the famous Christmas cartoon.

I didn’t know it was possible to squeeze any more affection in there after all the precious moments I’ve had with my nephew over the past almost six years. Maybe I didn’t think I could get so lucky.

But I did.

And I am equally thankful for the moments that help bring me back from the edge of sappiness. As much as I appreciate the gift of a niece and all the emotional responses it’s brought, a good laugh is still a good laugh.

And the dynamic in my sister’s household never keeps me overly emotional for long.

Yesterday, when I went to play with Nicholas and check in on Ash and Lilly, my little buddy answered the door and immediately gave me the skinny.

“Oh, hey Aunt Mandy. My Mom is upstairs. She is trying to get milk out of her boobs,” he said nonchalantly before turning back to continue viewing a particularly funny episode of “The Backyardigans.”

When Ash descended the stairs a few minutes later, bottle of milk in hand, Nicholas looked at her with his broad blue eyes and smiled.

“Nice, Mom. You got some this time!”

I didn’t know if it could get any richer until this morning, when I stayed with him while Ash, Nick and the baby went to an appointment. He was Mr. Puke, and regaling me with his story about the illness.

His concluding statement: “I think I got the morning sickness, Aunt Mandy.”

Life is, indeed, good.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

One stop is enough on this audio tour

One of 25 weather vanes that mark stops along a tour requiring the use of cell phones in Pittsburgh's Cultural District.

By Scott Beveridge

PITTSBURGH, Pa. – The eye-catching weather vanes atop sidewalk posts beg tourists to use their cell phones for more information about the landmarks they face in Pittsburgh’s Cultural District.

These markers also hold brochures with instructions to call in, wait for the prompt to enter the corresponding number on each sign and connect to the self-guided tour for fun facts about the theaters and galleries in this 14-block area.

I immediately grabbed my phone last Friday, walked straight to Heinz Hall - the jewel of the city’s stage life – and phoned the audio tour.

A female voice answered and began to speak at a rapid pace, almost as if she’s just downed six back-to-back shots of espresso, about the opulent movie palace built in 1927 as Loew’s Penn Theater. The theater hosted vaudeville and stage shows until it closed in 1967 because of competition from television and suburban movie theaters, and also the high cost to maintain the building.

The voice abruptly rattled off a long list of benefactors credited for raising $10 million to restore and reopen the theater in 1971 as home for the Pittsburgh Symphony. Along the way, she almost seemed to lose her breath while crediting the major corporations responsible for helping to fund the more than 2,000 concerts that take the stage each year.

This first and last stop of my tour was about as boring as calling the cable company to report an interruption in Internet service.

Other such tours around the country include the voices of actors reciting quotable quotes about the things that actually speak to the reasons why tourists want to stop at the places.

Heinz Hall does have an interesting history, having once been considered the most magnificent movie palace between Manhattan and Chicago. It had an organ unlike any other in the world before the instrument was destroyed in a 1936 flood. The tour also overlooks the building’s spectacular interior and doesn’t include an invitation for when the public can step inside and take a peak at the place.

Those who own smart phones are supposed to be able to access the Web for a better tour with photos and links to more information.

But, those like me with a basic phone are left outside Heinz Hall with a fast-paced blip of information that focuses more on rich people than the importance of this grand old building. So I chose to not waste my time calling back for the goods on the other 24 stops on the tour.

This new attraction to the downtown is a big disappointment, especially in a city the size of Pittsburgh whose cultural district is arguable the best of its kind in the United States.

Heinz Hall in Pittsburgh

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Body in pickup found submerged in Mon River

Pennsylvania Trooper Kevin Gabrovsek is shown in California, Pa., after scuba divers unexpectedly found the body of Denis DeRenzo in a submerged pickup truck Saturday.

CALIFORNIA, Pa. – This is the first time a body has been found in a submerged vehicle in this neck of the Monongahela River that I can recall during the decades I have lived along this waterway.

As a writer for the Observer-Reporter newspaper in Washington, Pa., I'm interested in talking to people who knew this victim of an apparent homicide, Denis DeRenzo, who lived in Baldwin Borough and also in Van Voorhis, Pa. If you knew him, please write to sbeveridge@observer-reporter.com

Click here for a link to a story for more information about the case.

Monday, September 14, 2009

New Mexico dreamin'

Right about now, I'm longing to go back to Santa Fe, N.M, where mountaineers can stand out in a crowd while oddly blending in at the same time.

Click here to view a slide show of my April 2007 visit trip to this "Land of Entrapment."

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Concert at the B & O station

WASHINGTON, Pa. – Maddie Georgi, 17, a bright, new talent from Hampton, Pa., performs her new song, "Go," at a United Way benefit concert Saturday at the former Baltimore and Ohio Railroad station that is now the Washington County Tourism Promotion Agency office. The event was sponsored by Wash Arts.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The second-fiddle fair cake

WEST ALEXANDER, Pa. – This is one cool decorative cake even if it didn’t win the blue ribbon at West Alexander Fair.

Deborah Knight of Triadelphia, W.Va., gave her best shot and won second place with her clever entry that could be a birthday cake and a birthday candle under the same icing.

Maybe the cheap, black plastic plate that her candle/cake rests on turned off the judges at the mid-sized fair in southwestern Pennsylvania. They better liked the baby blue cake in the background.

This fair continues off Route 40 through Saturday, and has on its schedule hot dog and ice cream eating contests and a roaring truck pull before the cows go home.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

This Steelers quarterback has lost his head

A Muffler Men roadside attraction painted to appear like a Pittsburgh Steeler isn't getting its storm-damaged head back anytime soon. Photo by Charity Beveridge.

GREENSBURG, Pa. – The Pittsburgh Steelers will begin the regular season Thursday with one of the team’s larger-than-life former quarterbacks still missing his head in Greensburg.

The owner of a giant Muffler Men statue that was painted to appear in a black-and-gold team uniform doesn’t have the money to reattach its head that was toppled by high winds several years ago.

“It’s in the works, but in this economy…,” said Brian Baughman, owner of Lugnutz Tire and Custom Auto on New Alexander Ave in Greensburg where the disfigured statue rests. “I still have the head.”

He’s had estimates that it would cost as much as $3,500 to return the head to the hollow, nearly 20-foot fiberglass frame that has been a landmark in southwestern Pennsylvania.

Many of these quirky roadside attractions still dot America’s landscape, having been painted to look like the mythical Paul Bunyan holding an ax or a tire, muffler and hamburger.

At some point, the Greensburg one was given a beard and painted in the likeness of the Steelers’ Mean Joe Greene, a member of the “Steel Curtain” defense in the 1970s. Later, the beard was removed, its chiseled face was painted white and the statue was given quarterback Tommy Maddox’s jersey number.

Today, the big lug that also has a broken right elbow appears as if it’s a giant advertisement for a store selling Steelers T-shirts.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Those silly Mon "Calendar Girls" to appear on Japan TV

TV producer Chie Berkley monitors filming of the Mon "Calendar Girls" Friday for a travel show to be televised this month in Japan.

By Scott Beveridge

MONONGAHELA, Pa. – My friend Lorys Crisafulli calls two weeks ago and can barely stop laughing.

She’s giggling because a Japanese television program heard she posed semi-nude for a charity calendar in 2008 and is soon coming to her home in Monongahela, Pa., to film her story for a travel piece.

“I can't wait to hear the voice that pretends she's me when it comes out in Japanese,” Crisafulli, 82, said Saturday, a day after the two-day shoot wrapped up.

The retired schoolteacher and antiques dealer came up with idea for the calendar after watching the 2003 movie, “Calendar Girls,” starring Helen Mirren. It’s a British comedy about older women who showed it all for a calendar to benefit a friend with leukemia.

Crisfulli and 11 of her friends kept on most of their clothing and only flashed their bare shoulders in their photos. She posed as Miss January in a black convertible appearing to just be wearing pearls while sipping champagne.

“I thought we’d sell a couple (calendars) to our relatives,” she said.

But the women ended up printing 3,000 of them because of the demand and raising nearly $15,000 for the struggling Monongahela Area Historical Society. Along the way, they became somewhat of local celebrities and also captured national headlines over the project.

The producers of Japan Broadcasting Corp.’s “World Traveler” surely chuckled, too, after catching wind of the story on the Internet. They will include a segment about the women otherwise known as the “Vixens of the Valley” in a show dedicated to extraordinary senior citizens around the globe, said the U.S. producer, Chie Berkley of Washington, D.C.

“Her personality, that’s what made it so interesting,” Berkley said, referring to Crisafulli. “She’s a magnet. She’s smart and funny. Everyone wants to be around her.”

To my surprise, she also turned the camera on me for an interview because I write for the Observer-Reporter in Washington, Pa., a newspaper that broke the zany story in 2007.

The hour-long program will air Sept. 20 on what is known in Japan as Nippon Hoso Kyokai, the small island nation's version of America's PBS. We will attempt to gain permission from Berkley to post Crisafulli’s segment in the show on this blog.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Mothman creature is welcome to stay in West Virginia

The Mothman statue by Richard Roach in downtown Point Pleasant, W.Va., where many claim such a winged-monster often appeared in the 1960s.

By Scott Beveridge

POINT PLEASANT, W.Va. – Many people still blame the strange happenings around Point Pleasant, W. Va., on an ancient Indian curse, everything from UFO and the infamous Mothman sightings to a deadly bridge collapse in the 1960s.

The myth involves Shawnee Chief Cornstalk inflicting doom upon this Ohio River region just before he died at the murdering hands of frontiersmen in 1777. He had gone to this land to help forge a peace agreement to stave off another battle between American settlers and the natives only to be shot eight times in anger that spilled over from an unrelated skirmish.

“The Indians had a certain supernatural means and they were blamed for the craziest stuff for hundreds of years,” said Robert Dafford, a Louisiana artist who is decorating a flood wall in this city with paintings of Indians before they lost the land to America’s westward expansion.

The 15-foot-tall mural facing the Ohio stretches for a half-mile and it also includes scenes of pioneer life, but it doesn’t give the slightest nod to UFOs or the Mothman that have given Point Pleasant its real claim to fame.

However, the supposed 12-foot monster with broad wings and glowing red eyes rules the downtown on the other side of the wall that protects the sleepy city where 3,000 people are expected in two weeks for the eighth annual Mothman Festival.

There is a life-sized polished stainless steel statue of the creature in the town square not far from a tourist attraction that bills itself as the world’s only Mothman museum, as if there would be another.

Louisiana artist Robert Dafford in Point Pleasant at work on his sprawling mural, one place the Mothman won't be found in this city.

A black replica of the Mothman, Duct tape holding one foot onto a leg, dangles from the ceiling just inside the museum entrance at 411 Main St. During the festival, this rendition of the monster will be attached to a rope so it can glide across the sky near the river, museum worker Gary Gibeaut says.

Gibeaut, a teenager when the Mothman made its debut in Point Pleasant Nov. 15, 1966, is not among those who claim to have had an eyewitness encounter with the creature.

“I looked in the sky and didn’t seen nothing, not a single thing,” he said Wednesday before pointing to an exhibit containing a handwritten statement for the county sheriff given by a woman who was among the first to attest to seeing the monster.

“To this day she won’t look out darkened windows at night,” Gibeaut said, referring to Linda Scarberry, who said she first saw the monster duck behind an abandoned powerhouse at a former World War II munitions base on the outskirts of town.

“It didn’t run, but wobbled like it couldn’t keep its balance,” Scarberry wrote. Later, the creature flew over the car she and her husband shared that night with another young couple, and it made “loud squeaking sounds like a mouse,” she stated in writing.

Hanging nearby are a few fake chucks of concrete pavement that were used to simulate the collapse of the Silver Bridge for a Hollywood movie. They are among the collection of props used in the 2002 movie, “The Mothman Prophecies,” starring Richard Gere that was filmed here and also in Washington County, Pa.

Also on display is a mannequin wearing a black suit, white shirt and thin black necktie to represent the “men in black” who almost always seem to be appear following UFO sightings, believers claim.

Gibeaut suggests a visit with Carolin Harris, who owns Harris Steak House a block away, because she insists to having seen men in black while the Mothman wreaked havoc in town for a year.

Carolin Harris stands behind the counter of her vintage restaurant where she often tells the story about her seeing men in black while the Mothman once troubled these hills of West Virginia.

The monster captured national headlines then, but there were many other bizarre simultaneous occurrences that put this town on edge. Residents claimed they saw dancing lights in the night sky, spaceship landings, unexplained animal slaughters, their neighbors developing red eyes and their telephone calls oddly interrupted by weird voices, static or clicks.

These troubles came to an end not long after the Dec. 16, 1967, collapse of the Silver Bridge connecting Point Pleasant and Gallipolis, Ohio, a tragedy that killed 46 people, including Harris’ husband and son. The span was lined with pre-Christmas rush-hour traffic when it fell apart and dropped a number of cars and heavy rigs onto the ground or into the icy, 30-foot-deep river.

A story soon surfaced about a Mothman appearance near the bridge prior to the catastrophe, giving the creature even greater attention in the chronicles of strange-but-true publications.

Legend still has the monster responsible for the bridge deaths, even though Thomas E. Stelson, head of the civil engineering department at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, would cite overloading as the cause of the collapse. A March 1968 article about the bridge in Popular Science quoted Stelson’s findings, and went a step further by offering evidence that the two-lane bridge built in 1928 had severe design flaws that made it impossible for it to bear the load of modernized traffic.

Harris grows teary-eyed at the mere mention of the bridge as she stands Wednesday behind the counter of her restaurant whose interior has barely changed since the Great Depression. She said she attended the premier of the Gere movie in town, but left her seat before the bridge scenes were shown on the screen.

The movie soon brought new attention to the Mothman along with much-needed new business to the struggling downtown of Point Pleasant.

“They said, ‘After the movie, get souvenirs or they’ll take your signs down,’” Harris said.

She is charming in a floral apron and bearing a sweet, honest grandmotherly smile. She speaks convincingly at a rapid pace about the Mothman’s existence when she was in her early 20s.

“It flew over my sister,” she said.

While Gibeaut says there are folks who believe the monster was a mutated bird that developed out of toxic cesspools at the munitions plant, Harris leans toward the speculation it dropped out of the sky from a UFO.

“Why so many (UFOs) were seen?” she said.

Her brother, Ed Sayre, even told her that he saw a bright UFO land in his backyard at the time.

“It came and touched down and left,” said Harris, who sells Mothman T-shirts along with this day’s lunch special of a grilled cheese sandwich and bowl of potato soup.

Harris said she saw the men in black arrive in a black car with tinted windows. They stood on the sidewalk, arms leaning on parking meters, leading her to believe they worked for the federal government.

“They are a little whiter than we are. They don’t bat their eyes,” said Harris, a civic leader and organizer of the Mothman Festival.

“Since the festival, more and more come out and say their stories,” she said.

Enough time has passed since the original Mothman frenzy that had residents seeking medical treatment for shock over the wicked sightings.

The creature now is more than welcome in this town because the downtown would otherwise be dead without the curious who are still hungry for the story. And, some say the monster still makes an occasional live appearance in the area.