a newspaper man adjusts his pen

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Freaky studio in Pittsburgh plans art show

Artists at a ghoulish design studio in Pittsburgh have been given the challenge to individualize the same two blank masks to their own liking.

The one, above, decorates their lunchroom at Specter Studios in Pittsburgh's Sharpburg section.

Theirs will be unveiled Oct. 29 at a gallery show, Flesh & Bone, at Modern Formations, 4919 Penn Ave. The artists are Mike Doran, Chucky Hendershot, China Horrell, Dan Marsico and Michael Pezzulo.

Today, I took the dare to step inside the studio designed to keep local artists in Pittsburgh, and fortunately got out alive.

It's a warehouse kind of place where everything sold is handmade and creativity is the key word. A freaky-looking creature hangs from a noose in the stairway to the clothing shop. A frightening (secret) mask in development for the 2011 Halloween season would scare the hell out of the devil.

So take in this upcoming gallery show from 7 to 10:30 p.m.  at your own risk.

Monday, September 27, 2010

We are lucky to have open courts

Ukraine newspaper journalist Svitlana Vyunychenko, seat, left, inspects court records today at the office of District Judge Robert Redlinger in Washington, Pa., with her interpreter, Kostiantyn Iakovlier, and Eleeza V. Agopian of IREX in Washington, D.C. Vyunychenko is in the area as part of a newspaper exchange with the Observer-Reporter. (Beveridge photo)

This is one of those days that reminds me just how lucky I am to have been born in the United States, where our Constitution provides for open courts and freedom of the press.

It was the surprised look on the face of a visiting foreign newspaper journalist that reminded me of that while I showed her around the Washington County, Pa., courts, where obtaining public records is so, so much less troublesome than calling any private American utility to report a problem with a bill or services.

In Svitlana Vyuncychenko's homeland of the Ukraine, reporters face long delays and sometimes have to pay for public records that don't always explain much about why an alleged criminal has been arrested, she explains. There is a jail cell before the panel of judges there to hold the suspect when he or she appears before the court, often years after the arrest, she added.

Here in the U.S., we just asked a court official to see an arrest record explaining the case police have against a suspect. It's usually that easy, and even less of a problem when progressive courts make such records available on the web.

"Fantastic," Vyuncychenko says, reacting to this kind of access.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Heavily decorated for a veteran

A tiny library in southwestern Pennsylvania took the challenge seriously at a charity dinner tonight to decorate its table around a hero-themed book.

The Fredericktown Area Public Library staff actually brought its local hero to the affair and created a centerpiece shrine in his honor at the event to raise money for public libraries in Washington and Greene counties.

The overflowing assortment of old military uniforms, newspaper clippings and medals paid tribute to Ralph Natali, an 87-year-old who spent his decades-long career serving in the U.S. Navy and Air Force during World War II and the Korean and Vietnam wars. His stuff overshadowed the table's book, Tom Brokaw's "The Greatest Generation," about the successful lives of select World War II veterans.

The entry blew away the competition at the event, which drew more than 300 people to Bella Sera by Greco's in Canonsburg. And so did Mr. Natali in his happening sport coat and mod shades.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Porch sittin'

porch swing, originally uploaded by yvonnejeanne.

By Lorys Crisafulli

Every year we mark our calendar when we have our first meal on the back porch.

This year it was February.

My granddaughter, age 4, who lives in San Francisco, was so thrilled with all the snow in the backyard that she was eating the dry bread I had given her to feed the birds. When I realized she was that hungry, I suggested we go inside for lunch.

She had on so many clothes and big boots to remove that we both thought, "Why don't we eat out here?"

In no time I had the old standards ready - PBJs and tomato soup. Caroline enjoyed that meal as much as the birds enjoyed theirs.

Who said a picnic could only be held in the summer?

My porch has seen all kinds of parties, sales and just good conversation: this in addition to the fact that we have eaten most of our meals there from April to October.

Why does ordinary food taste better when eaten outdoors?

Of course there have been many card games, watermelon seed spitting contests and just rocking in the mismatched chairs out there.

Neighbors seem to enjoy showing up there from around the corner of the house. After something cold to drink, or a cup of coffee and a half hour or so of catching up with neighborhood news, we all go back to what we were doing.

Birdwatching is another pastime - the variety of feathered friends is endless and it seems as if every year we get visitors that were never there before. This year it was a family of pileated woodpeckers. Papa was so enormous and so ungainly that he was fascinating to watch.

We don't have a birdbath, but instead a plastic 3-inch-deep cake pan that all the critters drink from - rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks and even the groundhogs get thirsty.

The best thing of all was to watch a robin flapping around in the freshly-filled pan. That bird was in robin heaven.

The porch is not always a calm, restful place. We have had a "Pink Panther Party" with everyone dressed in PINK - even underwear. The Hawaiian Luau was a hit and so was the "Dress as a Tourist Party."

One of our best times was when our friend, Louisa, entertained us with her belly dancing routine. She was as funny as she was sexy, and when her snake, Houdini, got into the act we all got involved. The men enjoyed learning how to "shake their booties." Some of them even let Houdini sit on their heads.

If you have a porch there should never be an excuse to be bored. Just say "Hi" from there to a passerby and you will have a half-hour of pleasure.

The next event there will be to celebrate the completion of a calendar called the "Lads and Ladies of the Mon." It features 24 well-known men and women from the Monongahela, Pa., area whom have posed and laughed their ways through 12 months of hilarity.

For the 2008 calendar, "The Ladies of the Mon," we were photographed and interviewed by the Inside Edition TV show, KDKA, WPXI, WTAE and WQED on the now-famous back porch. We were even forever preserved in a segment that won an Emmy for WQED producer David Solomon.

The porch has not coordinated with the latest in well-designed furniture. There's a wicker sofa, a 1920s wooden rocker, redwood furniture painted white, other rockers of indistinct vintage and a kitchen table. But who cares?

We are ready to enjoy another evening on the porch.

Lorys CrisafullLorys Crisafulli is an entrepreneur and retired schoolteacher from Monongahela. She is known around the globe as Miss January, producer of a 2008 calendar featuring older women posing semi-nude for portraits to raise money for charity. Another calendar is in the works for 2011.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The outhouse stays put

Outhouse, originally uploaded by Scott Beveridge.
The following qualifies as being the most-unusual e-mail that has ever landed in my in box.


A friend of mine asked if your outhouse was for sale. You

interested in parting with it??

(name withheld by me)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A town is born

This photo was shot July 1, 1900, in the center of what was about to become the bustling steel town of Donora, Pa. (Monongahela Area Historical Society)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Barman, can we have a bathroom chat?

By Amanda Gillooly

PITTSBURGH, Pa. – Sometimes I wonder exactly what kind of girl Scott “Scooterlicious” Beveridge  thinks I am.

Believe me when I tell you there were truly bizarre moments at my 30th birthday party a few weeks ago – but my favorite was when he emerged from the men’s restroom at the River City Inn with a look of sheer incredulity.

“Have you been in there yet?” he asked.



“Have I been in…the men’s restroom?” I asked him back by way of confirmation after I glanced over both shoulders to see there was some other dude my beer-addled mind hadn’t recognized with any formal conversation that he was REALLY asking.

“Yes,” he said – launching into an unlikely description of the men’s facilities at my favorite bar, located in the heart of downtown Pittsburgh.

After ignoring the obvious question: “Scott, why would you think I was hanging out in the men’s bathroom?” I asked the obligatory one: “Scott, are you messing with me?”

But indeed, he was not. 

Like a true gentleman, he didn’t wait for me to march in there and check it out for myself. Instead, he showed me the photo, above, – which conjures up some unpleasant thoughts of its own.

1.  I’ve been a regular at that bar since I was old enough to drink legally. In my experience there (and that dates back to college – a vast wasteland of shots and beers), I’ve never known any of my fellow patrons to need an assist in the pisser.

So, when I noticed the chair sitting creepily close to the commode in there, I wondered if, perhaps, the new RCI owner had engaged the services of an overzealous bathroom attendant – one who sits perversely near his clients and reads them British satire or impromptu haikus. In my mind he wore a corduroy jacket with leather patches on the elbows like all real asses do.

But then I thought about some of the guy’s I’d downed drinks with at the place, and I couldn’t see any literature being philosophized in that men’s room without eventual police intervention and subsequent restraining orders.

2.  I never got a chance to further ponder the mysterious origin of the ill-advised chair when Scott showed me a second photo: A side view of the commode showing not one or two – but four toilet paper roll fixtures.

I wrote that scene off by suggesting it was a “safety in numbers” thing (the staff wouldn’t have to worry about running in every time a single roll ran out) but Scooter suggested the whole thing smacked of poor interior design.

When it comes to bathroom savvy, I’m afraid the man might be right. The women’s room, while adequate, has a few too many artificial flowers. And by comparison, a poor toilet paper showing.

But hey, don’t judge a bar by the bathroom, right?

Friday, September 10, 2010

Mom's garden blooms

Larry Callaway, a Rostraver Township, Pa., employee, sets in place today a sign honoring the memory of my mom at a new garden near the local municipal building.

BELLE VERNON – It's with a heavy heart tonight that I offer appreciation of my mother's former coworkers at Rostraver Township, Pa., for their having created a memorial garden in her name at the local municipal park.

They obviously understand the importance of the legacy of June Hart Beveridge, who served her beloved hometown of Webster, Pa.,  and larger community for decades by volunteering to ensure children had a safe place to play under her watch.

Even better her friends at the township - where she also worked as a police clerk - have given our family at permanent monument to remind us of mom's ability to nurture loving and trusting bonds with the people within her circle.

She died May 21, 2010, following a long battle against cancer and emphysema. As someone who never liked to draw attention to herself, she surely would have been humbled, and probably embarrassed, by all of this attention.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Big Ben mania is giving me a headache

Ben Roethlisberger before his latest scandal (Observer-Reporter/Greg Tarr)
It would appear Pittsburgh and even America is obsessed with pro-football superstar Benjamin Todd "Big Ben" Roethlisberger as the regular NFL season begins this week and the Steelers quarterback's image remains tarnished by his alleged off-field indiscretions.

No sooner had my airplane touched down Aug. 28 for a much-needed vacation out West did a Salt Lake City, Utah, hotel bartender ask me about the future of the Steelers after I identified myself to him as being from Pittsburgh. And then the conversation quickly  turned to the team's strong safety, Troy Polamalu, and his ridiculous head of hair, which reports indicate has been insured for $1 million.

Similar conversations about Ben being suspended by the NFL for four regular games over "that bathroom incident" with a young woman in Georgia this summer, as well as Troy's hairdo, continued across Wyoming, Idaho and Montana as soon as strangers recognized my Pittsburgh accent.

The goal was to get away for a week from all this drama that has played so heavily on the hearts of my beloved City of Champions.

No sooner was I back home that unrelated obligations required me to attend tonight a charity event in Washington, Pa., hosted by EQT Corp., an energy giant that graciously hosted a Steelers pre-season panel discussion. The topic there centered almost exclusively for more than an hour on Mr. Roesthlisberger among guest speakers Ellis Cannon, Edmund Nelson and Dale Lolley. The discussion was interesting, nonetheless.

"Let's not act as if we're at a funeral because Ben is not going to be there for four weeks," said Nelson, a KDKA analyst and former Steelers tackle. "I don't give Ben the credit nearly everyone else does," he said, evoking applause from the ballroom at Holiday Inn Meadowlands.

Nelson said he isn't writing this Super Bowl-winning team off simply because its quarterback will be watching from the sidelines Sunday when the team hosts Atlanta.

"It's an interesting dynamic this season. No team has ever gone through what the Steelers are right now with their starting quarterback suspended," added Lolley, who covers the team for the Observer-Reporter newspaper in Washington, Pa.

Lolley said Roethlisberger showed up for spring training this year looking in better physical shape than ever, and also appearing to be kissing babies and "taking on the job to reinvent himself."

This will continue to be the storyline throughout the season, said Cannon, a radio personality who publishes "Pittsburgh Sports Report."

Win or lose, it will be all about "having Ben or not having Ben," Cannon said.

OK. That said, it's my turn at the commentary.

Troy - get your mop cut like a man. Big hair went out of style in the 1980s.

Ben - boys and girls from Polish Hill in Pittsburgh to South Greensburg, Pa., have already taken down your posters from their bedrooms. It might be too late for you to grow up here.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Old Faithful Inn is rooted in Yellowstone

Visitors to Old Faithful Inn gather for a tour of the landmark hotel at Yellowstone National Park. (Scott Beveridge photo)

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. – While a maize of stairs leads to doors and windows where visitors once viewed the famous geyser field outside Old Faithful Inn, the entire building is actually connected to the nation's oldest national park, a tour guide here says.

The 106-year-old rustic hotel - the largest of its kind in the world - is built from the same lodgepole pine trees that still cover the mountains at Yellowstone National Park, and the rhyolite stones forming the inn's 500-ton fireplace came from a nearby quarry, guide Ruth Kansas says to make her point.

"Eighty percent of the trees here are 75 feet tall," Kansas, while guiding a group of nearly 30 tourists around the building listed on the National Register of Historic Places. "From the floor to the ceiling, it measures 76 feet to give us the feeling we are still outside in the forest."

The federal government hired a developer in 1903 to construct the building for $140,000, a project financed by the Great Northern Railway, which had hoped to extend its railroad to the hotel to fatten its wealth.

However, Congress shot down that plan as it members wanted this land in Montana and Wyoming to be forever preserved to protect its wildlife and especially the underground lava flows that create a string of geysers here, including the nearby Old Faithful, which shoots 180-foot gushes of steaming water into the sky nearly ever hour.

So the railroad promoted "stagecoach trips through wonderland" embarking from a railroad stop 50 miles to the north in Montana, $50 vacations booked mostly by the well-to-do living on the East Coast and Europe. They paid $4 a night to stay in the park's five hotels, Kansas said. That stagecoach trail forms the same roads motorists use today to tour the park inhabited by the grizzly and black bear, buffalo, moose and elk, she said.

"The wealthy wanted to experience the wilderness but didn't want to spend the night in the wilderness," Kansas added.

Ohio architect Robert Reamer
To make that happen, 50 carpenters initially built a 140-room hotel in record time over a bitter cold winter. Construction had been overseen by an unknown 29-year-old architect from Ohio, Robert Reamer, who went on to design other hotels and resorts in and around Yellowstone. He also oversaw expansions to Old Faithful Inn, enlarging its dining room and bar, as well as adding 190 additional guest rooms.

Old Faithful Inn, which had electricity and indoor plumbing from the start, welcomed its first guests in June 1904, and would later hold fancy balls where guests danced in the lobby while others promenaded about the stairs and balconies overlooking the activities.

"It was all about to see and be seen," Kansas said.

Reamer chose to leave the bark on the beams making up the building, but hotel management made the decision after 35 years to strip it off, she said.

"It was scraped off to brighten the place," she said. Housekeepers likely supported the decision, she said, because they had the monumental task of dusting the grooves in the peeling bark.

The rooms - sans televisions - are warm and welcoming with their rough-hewn, pine-plank walls and well-worn period furnishings. They are still used today, but reservations must be made well in advance.

Unfortunately, guests are no longer permitted beyond the third floor balconies overlooking the lobby.

The entrance to Old Faithful Inn at Yellowstone National Park (Scott Beveridge)

The Beehive Geyser, which goes off every 24 hours, give or take several, is sexier than Old Faithful at Yellowstone. (Scott Beveridge photo)

Friday, September 3, 2010

The tender touch

A moose calf drinks this afternoon from the Gallatin River near the west entrance to Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. Follow this link to see more photos from my trip to this park.  (Scott Beveridge photo)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A tiny bug threatens the Tetons

Tall pines at the base of the Grand Tetons in Wyoming, where climate change is threatening the ecosystem (Beveridge photo)

By Scott Beveridge

GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. – The story of the mountain pine bark beetle can best define how climate change is harming the ecosystem at the majestic Grand Teton National Park.

Warmer temperatures in recent years have been allowing that tiny native bug to breed faster and destroy more tall pine trees whose pine nuts support the diets of grizzly bears and even a  breed of small bird at this mountain range.

"The large pine nuts are a good source of protein and fat," explains National Park Ranger Karen Kanes while giving a climate change lecture today at the visitor center in Moose, Wyo.

The average temperature has risen in recent years by 1.6 degrees from those recorded over the past 1,300 years. That might not sound like much, but it's a number just 9 degrees warmer than it was during the Ice Age, Kanes said.

The beetle bores into the trees to feed and reproduce, killing pines and turning them red and purple before they fall over. The bug used to hatch eggs every two years while nature allowed some pines to find ways to resist it, while new trees sprouted.

So the beetle wasn't of much concern until the warmer weather allowed it to begin hatching new eggs every year. This year, it hatched twice, Kane said.

"They dryer conditions enabled it to go higher and kill whitebark pines, which produce the large pine nuts," she said. This development threatens to devastate the forest, along with the diet of the Clark's nutcracker, a member of the crow family.

The bird has a large beak, which allows it to pick open the pine cones during warm weather, collect large numbers of the seeds and bury them for its winter food supply. The reproduction of the whitebark pine depends entirely on the bird to forget the locations of some of the seeds it buried.

Meanwhile, the park staff is testing ways to slow the spread of the beetle, which emits pheromones to alert others there is nothing left to feed on in a pine tree. The park is attempting to stash the pheromones on healthy trees to ward off the beetle in what would be an expensive measure to slow the tree damage given the size of the forest, Kanes said.

The U.S. Forest Service also will spend $40 million to slow the spread of the bug in the Rocky Mountains where it has destroyed more than 2 million acres of trees, the Associated Press reported this year.

This story would not be told, though, had it not been for a dramatic climate change thousands of years ago, which melted glaciers covering the United States and left it with many of  National Park landscapes, she said.