Dear Andrew McCutchen


In response to Andrew McCutchen’s article, Dear Pittsburgh.


Dear Andrew McCutchen,

I wanted to sincerely thank you for your letter to me (and everyone).

I have been part of Pittsburgh since 1963. I remember 1971. I remember 1979.

I remember 1992, when a guy who had wished to stay in town and be a Pittsburgh Pirate, a guy who had offered to take a pay cut to stay in town and be a Pittsburgh Pirate, slid to the plate wearing a Braves uniform and knocked the wind out of this city.

I won’t rehash the Pittsburgh pIrate years except to say this: The biggest difficulty wasn’t the losing. We don’t need trophies to be happy (we have plenty). Sure we like to win, but we have our priorities straight. We do not like laziness. We do not admire greed. And we get rather peeved at those who crap on tradition.

In the midst of the bad years, I also remember June 4, 2009.

Your first game in Major League Baseball was a great game, and I was in the stands. You were a stand out, a bright spark, a star. And, as the cheering subsided and I walked to my car, I wondered how long it would be before you were traded away in the night for a handful of beans.

But they didn’t trade you. And you became The Guy.

You’re The Guy we got to hold onto. It was a symbol, a pivot, a change. You’re The Guy who had skill. The Guy who had heart. The Guy who liked being a Pirate. A leader. An inspiration. The Guy who brought confidence—and fun!—back to the dugout. The Guy who didn’t get lazy, didn’t stop trying.

You’re The Guy cynical, middle-age folk snuck a peek at while pretending not to care about baseball anymore.

You’re The Guy who set the tone for the team who gave baseball back to Pittsburgh.

And beyond all that, you’re you. And we love you.

We love you like we love an incline. We love you like we love a parade. We love you like we love pierogi made by little old ladies in the South Side.

We love you like we love rivers. We love you like we love ketchup. We love you like Christmas morning. We love you like Friday at 5:00. We love you like Primanti’s really late at night.

We love you like we love the street we grew up on. We love you like a neighbor. We love you like a friend. We love you like We Are Family.

We love you like our first baseball glove, the one Dad bought at Honus Wagner’s downtown. We love you like the crack of a bat. We love you like sunshine.

We love you like we love Mario. We love you like we love Myron. We love you like we love Bill Mazeroski and Willy Stargell.

We love that you want to be here. We love that you understand what baseball means to this town. We love that you love Roberto. We love your smile. We love your style. We love your game.

So, last season wasn’t the cherry on top. So what. We’re from Pittsburgh. We are very well aware that not every story would sell to Disney. We know turnarounds take time. We know setbacks make us strong. We weren’t worried.

Until the rumors started.

I heard the trade rumors exactly two days after I bought my brother a McCutchen jersey for Christmas.

(True story. When I saw a McCutchen jersey on a sale rack, I said aloud, in the store, “Huh, they’re not trading McCutchen are they?” And I laughed. I laughed! The sheer absurdity that the Pittsburgh Pirates organization would give up The Guy? That they would decide to trip momentum? Turn back time? No way. They wouldn’t. They couldn’t. Even for people who don’t give a damn about the love of Pittsburgh, the financial benefits of the resurgence had to be enough to keep them happy enough to not do something as preposterously, stunningly stupid as trading The Guy, right? I laughed.)

Such a punch to the gut. A reminder of 1992 and all that followed. The disconnected years. The fool-me-20-times years. And I wondered if maybe it was all a lie. Maybe nothing had changed. Maybe the plan all along had been to do the minimum required to lure in a new generation and then sit back and make concession/advertising/profit-sharing money for another 20 years. Maybe the decision makers still couldn’t see beyond their wallets to the soul of a thing, to the ripples of a baseball hitting a river, to the importance of The Guy.

I held my breath. I wrinkled my brow. I grew gray hairs. I expected the worst but I hoped.

And then.

Perhaps they recognized the importance of The Guy. Perhaps they saw the error of their ways. Perhaps a collection of lucky circumstances kept a deal from getting done. Or, perhaps, there is simply nothing that can stand against the fervent, collective wish of the people of Pittsburgh.

And perhaps it was coincidence that the news of you staying arrived and we got spring in February.

However it happened, dear Andrew McCutchen, we are very glad you are here.

Sincerely,
Beth Schmidt

February 20, 2017 at 3:22 pm 3 comments

Things That Helped Me Feel Better Today.

fb_flagIt’s a strange and surprising day and a very difficult one for a lot of people in America. I do not make light of anyone’s anger or disappointment, but I place here for anyone’s perusal, a list of things that helped me feel better today.

  • I have funny friends.
  • No President has ever kept all of his campaign promises.
  • Never forget that the media likes it when we feel terrified and sad. (That is when we tune in, and they make more money.)
  • Never doubt that the (established) government also likes it when we feel terrified and sad. (That is when they can add staff.)
  • I know people who are solid Trump supporters. They are not idiotic, racist, homophobic, or in any way deplorable. For now, I entrust my hope with them.
  • Talk to and listen to someone you respect who likes our President-elect. Not to change your opinion but to take the edge off of your despair.
  • Everyone who voted for Donald Trump cannot fit into that basket. (Some of you, oh hell yes, and you should really work on that, but not all of you, no way.)
  • I listened to his full speech on YouTube. (Note:  By design or not, Donald Trump had to give his acceptance speech when most people were sound asleep, which means the TV news channels have control over which sound bytes most people will hear.)
  • I haven’t relied on Fox or CNN for my news since 2012. I’m not as upset as most people. Perhaps there’s a correlation?
  • I am old enough to have seen many elections. Life goes on, kiddos. And it’s lovely either way.
  • Within the broad spectrums of political beliefs and ways of life, Republican and Democrat are more like bickering siblings than polar opposites.
  • Donald Trump will be a member of a branch of a government with so many built-in checks and balances that it is very difficult to get things done. And it’s like that on purpose.
  • He’s not a monarch.
  • He is not Hitler. (Note:  If you genuinely think Hitler could thrive in this country, you’re nuttier than a peanut cluster.)
  • I am not embarrassed to be an American. I went to the polls in red, white, and blue and a flag pin. I left the booth and said “Woo hoo!” to one of the election staff. Turns out, my vote was not for the winner. I still say, “Woo hoo! I voted!”
  • Last night, as I listened to the so-called experts talk about how no one saw this coming except for the Trump campaign, it struck me that Trump had better advisors than the Democratic Party and had better data than the mainstream news media. i.e., He picks incredibly smart, effective people to help him. That’s good.
  • I talked to my Mom, and she has promised not to move to Canada.

Take heart, America. You’ve always been great. You will continue to be great. You are not poll responses. You are not segments. You are not a political affiliation. You are individuals, each with the power to change the world around you. Maybe you don’t always have the power to pick someone you like for President. But you can be kind to your friends (and your enemies). You can be respectful of all Americans (and all peoples of the world). You can be you. (Pursue happiness! Be free!) You can be willing, perhaps tomorrow or the next day, to consider optimism. You can wait and see.

But please feel better today. I love you, America.

November 9, 2016 at 1:51 pm 2 comments

Your Cat Has Diabetes – Do Not Freak Out

Cat_diabetesSo, about eight weeks ago, with a heavy heart, I took Rocky, my beloved lug of a cat, to the vet. Based on symptoms shared over the phone, the vet thought he might be experiencing kidney failure, and I got a nearly immediate appointment at a very busy veterinary practice.

The diagnosis was not kidney failure. The diagnosis was feline diabetes. And I’m writing this post for anyone who might receive a similar diagnosis for his/her pet and, like I did, freak out a bit and start googling for more info.

MOST IMPORTANT THING:  Do not freak out. It will be okay.

Really.

When I first heard the diagnosis, I cried. Yes, of course, I cried because I was sad he was sick, and I cried from the relief of knowing that I didn’t have to make the toughest decision you make about a pet. But, real-life honesty? I also cried because I wasn’t sure how I was going to be able to care for a pet with a chronic illness. The added expenses and the idea of giving shots twice a day (every day of my life for the next 5-10 years) was overwhelming. I cried because I was ashamed that his illness was my fault. And, hardest to admit but true, I cried for being the kind of horrible human being who thought for a moment that it might have been easier if it had been kidney failure.

I want you to know that was a very silly thing to think. So, do not freak out. You can do this.

Here’s what you need to know (and/or this is how it went with my vet; you should follow your own vet’s advice):

  • Not that long ago, a cat diagnosed with diabetes was put to sleep, but that is no longer the case. Feline diabetes is very treatable.
  • Some people might act as if you’re crazy for deciding to keep a pet with a chronic illness. Avoid that sort of person while you’re in the freaking out stage.
  • Remission can occur. It’s not a given, but it can happen.
  • Treating feline diabetes is not cheap, but it’s more manageable than it might at first seem.
    • The initial visit with tests needed for diagnosis was about $400.
    • A bottle of insulin is $125, but, the dosage for a cat is so small, that bottle might last two months. Or longer.
    • Syringes are about $30 for a month’s supply.
    • Glucose checks are about $30 each. (And you’ll have to go weekly for a bit.)
  • The cat will need a high-protein, low-carb food. (The nice folks at PetCo helped me pick out Wellness Core.)
  • You’ll give your cat a practice injection before going home. It will seem preposterous. You can do it.
  • Giving the shots at home will also seem preposterous for a while. But, trust me, it becomes easy. (Way easier than wrestling a pill into this guy’s mouth, I can tell you.)

In under two weeks, the main symptoms (excessive drinking and urinating) had completely disappeared. Since then, Rocky lost weight and the quality and softness of his coat improved. Today, I took him to the vet (Always Compassionate Vet Care in the South Hills, a truly wonderful life preserver) for another glucose check. There was good news and bad news.

The bad news:  We have to go back again in a week for another check because his glucose numbers are still too low.

The good news:  She thinks his glucose isn’t regulating correctly because he’s going into remission.

Good boy, Rocky. Good boy!

That would be the best possible news, and I am happily goosebumped at the possibility. But, here’s the important bit:  Even if that is not the case, it’s okay.

I’m two months into this now. Giving the shots is nothing more than part of the feeding routine. I’ve had to begin setting an alarm seven days a week to get the timing right, but that hasn’t been as awful as I thought it might be. I’m less nervous about remembering everything. I’m less clumsy with the syringe. Haven’t stabbed myself in weeks. I missed a shot one day because of a client meeting, and the world did not end. Even wrangling Rocky into a carrier for vet visits has become (nearly) routine.

Remission would be absolutely awesome. But, if that’s not the case, I won’t freak out.

October 6, 2016 at 7:28 pm 2 comments

Does Anybody Still Collect Matchbooks?

matchbooks_sampleSome years ago, I came home from a yard sale with four large Ziploc bags filled with matchbooks which then sat in my garage, untouched ever since, except for the occasional forage when someone needed a light or the power went out.

And all those times I made flambé.

This past week, working on a layout for a client who doesn’t have budget for stock art, I thought of the matches for a graphic idea. I squirmed the bags out of a dark corner of the garage and dumped them out on the floor of my office for a little in-house photo shoot.

I hoped to be able to create an interesting, colorful, free image. But I got a bit more out of those bags than just that. I got to see some vintage design, and I got a lovely rush of nostalgia—that quirky cool you can sense in old things.

And I got a glimpse.

I ended up sprawled on the floor for a lot longer than expected, captivated by a completely unexpected feeling that I was flipping through another person’s scrapbook.

I don’t know exactly who these matchbooks belonged to, but he was from the Pittsburgh area, served in the military, traveled a bit. He was a grown-up in the 50s and 60s and still alive in the 80s.

I imagine he was a good-natured, occasionally gruff old bird who served in the Navy, WWII or maybe Korea. He visited Tokyo, Waikiki, and many other cities, came home, got a job, quietly raised a family. Maybe he was in sales. His wife worked at a department store when the kids were older. They went out to dinner on special occasions and loaded the family into a station wagon to go on driving vacations. Friends would bring him a matchbook when they traveled, too. He had a big laugh and a paneled den. His granddaughter went against current custom and had matches at her wedding reception, just for him. He got a big kick out of that. It was one of the last matchbooks he added to his collection.

One day, these little square signs of a friendlier era and markers of a lifetime of moments were deemed politically incorrect and unwanted. Somebody scooped the collection into Ziploc bags and sent them off to a thrift shop or flea market. I hope this occurred after he died and not while he was aware and forced to acquiesce.

I hope this quite fervently.

Ah, yes, I’m a little weird. But I’ve a brain that creates characters and tells tales. And I am overly susceptible to sentiment. (I get a similar pang when I see people’s family photos at antique stores. Or a single shoe on the highway.)

Truth is, I will never know exactly what his story was. But I do know that I was pleasantly surprised to get something beyond practicality in this yard sale flotsam. I discovered pocket Americana. I rescued these colorful little books that tell the tale of an un-famous, fascinating life.

Does anyone collect matchbooks anymore? (If so, let me know if you’d like to have them. I’m keeping a few just for fun, but there are so many. I’d be very happy to share with someone who collects them.)

matchbook_big

October 1, 2016 at 5:24 pm 3 comments

Things I Learned From Jody Lange

Cuter than Dumbledore, more upbeat than Virgil, cooler than a majorette, and way smarter than a lemming, she led the way . . .

Continue Reading September 24, 2016 at 11:43 am Leave a comment

Let’s Be Friends

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump never helped me toilet paper a house.

Continue Reading July 22, 2016 at 8:48 pm Leave a comment

The Present, for Alex

Sometimes, in the resurfacing of a memory, you find treasure.

Continue Reading June 25, 2016 at 10:20 am 2 comments

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