Tag Archive: Pittsburgh


Through the Everywhere

After I wrote Address Changes last week, I received a comment from my friend and fellow blogger, Chris, who said, “Adventure, travel, wanderlust and the like is wonderful, exciting, educational… but knowing when you’ve ‘come home’ may be the most important part of the journey.”

Well said, Chris. And while I know you mean that one, true home, I couldn’t help but let my mind turn over this possibility for a few days and imagine all the things that home can be.

There are times when I can walk into a room full of strangers, meet someone, and chatter on easily, as if we’ve been best friends for years. Home.

Quite a while ago, I wrote Welcome Home about arriving in Israel and realizing that, while I’d never been there before, I recognized the feel of the place. Home.

Over the years, having lived far from my home state for many years, I can tell you that every time I flew into Pittsburgh and caught my first glimpse of the city, I got tears in my eyes. Home.

On a recent trip to Minnesota, I got the chance to spend time with some mutual friends that I hadn’t seen for a couple years, and after a few days of ideas and conversation, my entire life had re-centered and refocused. Home.

Even simpler still, I can put on my favorite Comic Con t-shirt and a pair of jeans and two different socks and feel like the world is just right. Home.

None of these things is home, and yet, every one of them is a form of home. When you come home to yourself, in any and every way that it happens for you, you turn the lights on, let down your defenses, and even start to enjoy the maintenance and the upkeep–because every good house has those.

Through the EverywhereUntil you get to that one, true home that Chris is talking about, elements of home can be found everywhere, pointing the way. So look for them. Enjoy them. And stop keeping count of the steps between you and your ultimate home sweet home. You’ll get there.

As for me, my journey through the everywhere continues…

And you’re all invited.

~
Jody Brown is the author of Upside Down Kingdom, and is a multi-blogger, poet, and traveler. To learn more about her current writing projects, or for ways to donate toward their completion, see JodyBrown.com/writing.

Advertisements

We Give As We Go

We Give As We Go

I’m thinking about strength today, specifically about steel.

At the moment, I live just north of the steel town of Pittsburgh. Depending on how the steel is processed, how many alloys are in it, the extreme temperatures you bring it to and how quickly you cool it, you can wind up with a product that is extremely strong, as everyone knows, and yet flexible. Rather than a weakness, this flexibility gives the steel added strength.

People, similarly, have strength borne of seeming weakness. We aren’t perfect. We discover each other, just the way we are, with all our baggage and the mess, and we let each other in. We give as we go. And it’s okay.

Together, we learn to live and love, and the mess is all just a part of it.

People don’t come in perfection. We come as we are. And we don’t mind.

This is what life, love, is all about.

~
Jody Brown is the author of Upside Down Kingdom, and is a multi-blogger, poet, and traveler. To learn more about her current writing projects, or for ways to donate toward their completion, see JodyBrown.com/writing.

 

Food for Thought

Food for ThoughtI have food on the brain today, and I like it. When I was pretty young, we’re talking maybe 5 years old, I decided I didn’t like red meat anymore. (I didn’t realize until well into my twenties that it all comes down to food texture for me.) So, one dish after another, I stopped eating most red meat. I say most because I still ate soup with a beef base, I still ate spaghetti sauce with meatballs–picking around the meatballs, of course, because while my pickiness was tolerated at the dinner table, it was not encouraged. (I’ve since learned to tell people I’m not picky; I simply have standards.)

Luckily my mom was always big on making side dishes, but there were many nights that I would eat a peanut butter sandwich as my main course for dinner. A peanut butter sandwich (no jelly) goes well with just about everything, especially au gratin rice. (Carb on carb. I tell myself it was a runner’s diet.)

Growing up, it was difficult to explain that I was “mostly” vegetarian. At the time, the only way to be vegetarian was to denounce all meat and meat eaters, because vegetarians in the ‘80s had agendas. Except for me. I happen to come from a long line of carnivores, and honestly, as long as I didn’t have to eat it I didn’t mind much what others ate. My preference to pig out on cheese was never political.

Picnics and restaurants took a little finesse. At picnics, I could usually pick the meat off of a ready-made sandwich and offer it to someone nearby as I added extra cheese and mustard to the bread. It was a good way to make a fast friend. At restaurants I could manage by making an entire meal out of French fries or a salad. (And lately, fries on salad. Why, yes, I do live in Pittsburgh where fries on salad are standard issue.) Back then, salads usually included bacon bits, and, I know I’m the only one here, but I don’t like bacon. Picking bacon out of a salad is just about impossible. I think if Psyche had a fifth task to win back Cupid, picking bacon out of a salad would have been it.

I did my best, and it never occurred to me to complain. The world was not made for me; I was made for it. So I adapted. And I’ve been adapting ever since. When I come to a roadblock and see others sitting still, shouting about how the world should bend to their will, I look for another way around, happily.

~
Jody Brown is the author of Upside Down Kingdom, and is a multi-blogger, poet, and traveler. To learn more about her current writing projects, or for ways to donate toward their completion, see JodyBrown.com/writing.

birthday eve postMy family, like most, has its own invented traditions. One particular year, my sister’s husband said he would take her out to her favorite restaurant on her birthday while simultaneously, my mom offered to make her favorite dinner for her at the house. My sister, wanting both, and more importantly, not wanting to disappoint either person, offered that both could happen, one on her birthday and one on her “birthday eve.”

Knowing my sister and her husband, and their witty repartee, I can see the conversation in my mind:

“There’s no Birthday Eve,” her husband says. “You made that up to get two dinners.”

“What? You’ve never heard of Birthday Eve?” my sister asks.

“Okay, if Birthday Eve exists, why have we never celebrated it before?”

“I know!” my sister says. “You forget every year and I don’t say anything.” [At this point, there are so many cracks in the story they’re both having a hard time keeping straight faces.]

“I smell a rat.”

“Nope. I’m supposed to get two dinners.” [Big smile on her face.]

“Oh, I see. Of course you are. Well, what will I have for dinner on my Birthday Eve? Look at that, I get my own Birthday Eve, too. With two dinners. And a snowblower. And…”

“Hey now,” my sister protested. “But, Birthday Eve is just for girls.”

“You made that up just now. If you get a Birthday Eve, then I get one, too.”

“Suit yourself, but it’s against the rules.”

[He did get a Birthday Eve. And has, every year since.]

When my sister called me and told me about the invention of Birthday Eve, we discussed that the birthday girl should get two cards, a funny one for the eve and a serious one on the actual birthday. This addition covers both the sentimentality and the hilarity birthdays. (At the time I was living out of state, so getting the extra card in the mail and the extra phone call sounded like a great perk.) We added it, and my sister filled my mom in on the new detail.

Mom was on board. We’re basically a family of food lovers and little gift givers who love to gather around the table in celebration. Even made-up celebrations.

Thus, Birthday Eve was born. Today is mine.

~
Jody Brown is the author of Upside Down Kingdom, and is a multi-blogger, poet, and traveler. Her current writing projects, including her daily blog endeavor, #Project365, can be found at JodyBrown.com/writing.

PittsburghToday I’m playing tourist in my own hometown because everyone should spend time being a tourist in their own home.

The morning began with a ride on the Duquesne Incline, built in 1877 as a way for people who lived on the hill (now called Mount Washington) to get down into the city and back up again. Following that was a rousing lunch at the Church Brew Works for a falafel hoagie and coconut stout. (How could I skip Primanti Bros., my ‘burgh friends will ask. But Primanti’s was yesterday. Pittsburgh My Way means there’s always food on the tour.)

After lunch, a quick look around at the Cathedral of Learning, my old haunt when I was a student at the University of Pittsburgh. All of my writing classes took place in this gothic-style building. I love not only taking pictures of this building but walking through it and putting my hands on the stones themselves.Pittsburgh

We then purposely headed south so we could turn around and burst through the Fort Pitt Tunnel for the dazzling panoramic view of the city of Pittsburgh.

And what day would be complete without zombies? We headed north to the tiny town of Evans City where Night of the Living Dead was filmed by Carnegie Mellon’s George Romero. Evans City is also the new location of the Living Dead Museum.

All in all, a great day, and it’s not over yet. Many people remember Pittsburgh of the 1970’s, with the smokestacks and the grit. Today’s city is a world away from that. It’s clean, it’s bright, and it’s filled with historical architecture, comfort food, and a spirit of whimsy that even the surrounding area cannot deny.

It’s so exciting for this world traveler to call Pittsburgh home.

~
Jody Brown is the author of Upside Down Kingdom, and is a multi-blogger, poet, and traveler. Her current writing projects, including her daily blog endeavor, #Project365, can be found at JodyBrown.com/writing

The Booth on the Stone Hillside

The Booth postPitt campus sits in the heart of Oakland, in Pittsburgh. While there are some dorms and even a grassy space known as the Cathedral lawn, really the university buildings are sprinkled in among new and old city buildings that have nothing to do with the campus. When I went to school there, seven hospitals spread out on one side of the campus, each one with a different specialty and each connected by random interior corridors and stairways. Back then, Pitt stadium still stood in the middle of that same concrete hill, and across the street from it was a nondescript parking lot with a little booth that had one of those lever-arms for letting cars in and out of the lot. (And if the arm got stuck while open and you knew the booth operator, you got to drag a large piece of metal on a rope over a sensor in the ground to trick it into thinking a car had passed. And really, if you’re going to do that, you might as go all out and make car noises while you’re at it.)

The parking lot and the booth were nondescript until you knew they were there–and then they became a beacon. My friend Matt worked nights in that booth, checking IDs and letting cars in and out. He had various other duties, too, but nothing too taxing. For the most part, Matt got paid to sit in the booth and study.

It wasn’t long before most of us on the 12th floor of Brackenridge started visiting The Booth, because Matt lived on our floor. I remember when roommates found out that fellow roommates were also talking to Matt–about roommate troubles. Some of the guys would chat with Matt about girl troubles, girls would complain about guys, and in case you thought it was all social venting in our pre-Facebook era, Matt and our engineer roommates would dream up and work on designs for hospital equipment to aid in cancer research and a variety of other mind-boggling pursuits.

It seemed no matter your topic of choice or how big your dreams would become in that tiny booth, Matt would always open the door for you. It was our own warm, well-lighted place in the middle of a stone hillside.

I think of The Booth more and more the older I get. Everybody needs a place of sanctuary. Everyone needs a place to feel welcomed, understood, even celebrated. For us from 12th Brackenridge, that place was The Booth.

For Matt, Marie, Brian, Big D, & Sean T

~
Jody Brown is the author of Upside Down Kingdom, and is a multi-blogger, poet, and traveler. Her current writing projects, including her daily blog endeavor, #Project365, can be found at JodyBrown.com/writing

Work in Progress

Work in Progress--Carnegie in winterI don’t know about you, but I love it when an artist stands up to deliver a work-in-progress that’s raw, unpolished, and unfinished. It goes against the grain of everything we’re told: Put your best foot forward, don’t show weakness or vulnerability, and don’t put anything out there until it’s fully formed.

I tell you, in addition to writing today, I’ve spent hours reading web instructions, lines of code, watching YouTube instructional videos, following guidelines, and frankly, forget the rules. Here’s some unpolished stuff I worked on today, when I finally got to do what I do.

Jump right in, or read the prologue first. (Note: Since the prologue, I’ve moved the whole story to Pittsburgh.)

Excerpt from John Baker

It was already warm when he left the bank. Pittsburgh expected muggy weather the entire week. But John didn’t expect to see the whole week. The Clef had a sordid past, but definitely a past of destruction. In fact, John thought he’d be surprised to see midnight this day. He thought he might make it to lunch, though. He liked lunch.

He knew he should be serious, but unseen danger and lack of sleep have that effect. John headed down the block toward the museum and stopped outside a flower shop.

“It’s time I do something nice for Sarah,” he thought out loud, eyeing up a curious flower in the window as a stranger abruptly ran into him.

“Sorry mate,” the stranger with the briefcase said. “I wasn’t watching my way.”

“No problem,” John said.

The man with the briefcase kept going. On instinct, John checked his pockets for his wallet and cell phone. Both were there, along with the safe deposit box key. He entered the flower shop.

He took a moment to glance at the roses, daisies, and carnations, but he didn’t find anything suitable. He went to the potted flowers in the window.

“Those are orchids,” the shopkeeper said.

“Yes,” said John, picking up the blue one. “I’ll take this one.”

“A very nice choice. This orchid is Japanese. The blue color won’t fade.”

She took the orchid to the register counter where she carefully placed its pot into a fitted box and wrapped crumpled paper around it to keep it steady. John paid her, thanked her, and took the flower with him. As she watched him leave her shop, her assistant emerged from the back room with potting supplies.

“That was him,” the shopkeeper told her assistant.

“Ah,” her assistant said. They exchanged a look.

Outside, John and the orchid headed south in the direction of the museum.

~
Jody Brown
Jody Brown is the author of Upside Down Kingdom, and is a multi-blogger, poet, and traveler. Her current writing projects, including her daily blog endeavor, #Project365, can be found at JodyBrown.com/writing

Going for Broke

Stop me if you’ve heard this one: I was an English major…

But I actually struggled with deciding on writing. It’s all I ever wanted to do, and I always thought I would do it on the side of whatever my “real” career was. When declaring a college major, I stopped and gave that sentiment some real thought.

College Me: “Why spend my time doing something I’m lackluster about, just for money?”

(Oh, College Me, you crack me up!) But there I was, dreading the thought of sitting in college classes that I had little interest in—why would I want to make a career out of something like that?

The answer came to me: I was afraid. Afraid to go for broke and declare myself a writer. What if I were no good? I’d be certain to find out. Could I handle that?

And the answer came from deep within, an overwhelming, “Too bad, you’re doing it. No more fear, let’s go.” (Luckily for me, I grew up in Pittsburgh. We don’t tend to spend a lot of time in wishy-washy-ville. ‘Burgh life says: “Decide. Move forward. You can do it, Kid.”)  photo

When you go for broke, there is that pesky “broke” part to deal with. Oh, but you never regret going for it. Again, and again, and again… That’s the stuff right there, the stuff that counts.

You know what your dream is. Don’t waste time looking for something easy to take its place. Look it in the eye. Take a step forward. “You can do it, Kid.”

~
My first book, Upside Down Kingdom, is available on Amazon. I’m working on more to come.

Character Needs

Dinner yesterday: I sit down with my friend Patrick and we exchange pleasantries. Then we get down to business. He looks at me earnestly and says, “I just have to ask…”

“He’s still in the cab!” I admit.

We’re talking about John Baker, one of my characters, that I put into a cab last November and–low and behold, the man is still in it.

photo-7Now, I haven’t been completely lax, mind you. Mentally, I changed the location of the story from Arizona to Pennsylvania. John is going to the museum where he works. The museum I know the best is the Carnegie on Forbes Ave in Pittsburgh. I spent countless hours doing homework, eating sandwiches, and writing in that museum back in my college days. I even made a special trip there in December with my sister and nephew just to explore.

My sister, “Why are we going to the museum?”

Me, “Because it’ll be fun. And because my character needs it.” (Doesn’t everyone’s?)

My sister, “I’ll drive.”

So, rather than build a mental museum in Arizona, I moved John to Pittsburgh. In doing so, I now need to rethink the cab. Last I lived in Pittsburgh, you couldn’t hail a cab. Much like here in Rochester, you have to call ahead for one. Oh, the trivia in the mind of the writer! So, John won’t be walking out of the flower shop and hailing a cab after all. So before he can get out of the cab, I need to get him in it. Or change his transport entirely.

Finally, and really it was the first thing that struck me: John isn’t going straight to the museum. He thinks he is. And even I thought he was. But no, he’s been sitting in that cab all this time because he’s about to be diverted. I’m sure of this. Where and how will come to me.

I truly think about John on a daily basis, and I’m beginning to know him better than most of my real life friends—another writerly quirk.

If you have a suggestion, lay it on me. I’ll listen.

Love,

J

~
My first book, Upside Down Kingdom, is available on Amazon. I’ll sign it for you.

Lemonade Makers

I thought I’d pen a few lines about a particular Have Not. Some folks are handed everything they need in life, and some have to work hard for everything they get. There are those who turn bitter and angry regardless, and still there are others who take the lemons and make some mighty fine lemonade.photo

I’m thinking about my Nana, here, who passed away a long time ago, and about the incredible hardships she endured in life. I’m thinking that she must have been the strongest woman alive because I knew her as a remarkably kind and happy woman who never complained, the type of person you gravitated toward, a wonderfully-dispositioned little champion who liked purple.

The think is, when put to the test, some people duck and run. Others walk, unflinching, straight through. Attitude can be everything. For those watching with open eyes, it’s the best kind of lemonade.

~

My first book, Upside Down Kingdom, is on Amazon.

%d bloggers like this: