08.03.2011, Concert in Canadaigua, Q. CassettiWild day and wilder evening. We left pretty promptly in a rain storm (imagine!) to go to Canadaigua via Geneva to pick Mr. Alexander up. He was in fine form and it was great to see him. As we pulled out of his host’s driveway, the sky seemed to clear up and as we moved closer and closer to our venue, the sky brightened, the sun shone and the most amazing clouds over our lovely Central New York fields emerged. More English clouds than those of Maxfield Parrish, which Kitty and I gasp and rave over. Beautiful nonetheless. Very linear and shapey.

We were directed through these fields and country roads to a big parking lot complete with a zillion attendants, security folks etc. The real deal…to easily park and access the CMAC (Constellation Music) venue. It is an open air pavillion with huge screens so everyone can see the acts, nice legroom and tons of little service tents from food to beer/ wine (you need a wristband…clever them to buy them…so the ID is done once and for all). Bathrooms were easy and accessible. It gave us a gander at the Community College of the Finger Lakes which is a little gem and worthy of considering. Really, really nice. Rob and I were by far, the oldest people in the venue…with fashion highlights being the universal white hotpants, flipflops, bandeau top with a shredded or modified teeshirt on top. Boys were pretty Bro-ie (both in manner and in looks). The place reeked of pot…and no one had any, I mean ANY problem lighting up etc. The teeshirts were lyrical (see above, the Front of the said shirt simply said “wake up drunk”. Poetic. Right? However, after the rappers amused us with their dancing with their pants hanging way off their hips with their boxers more than peeking out—the crotch fondling and the hand gesturing, and the evocative lyrics inspiring one to meet “Hoes”, acquire and consume weed, and of course roll it. There were all sorts of things one does with the Hoes (complete with buy a teeshirt that says Hoe on it)..No mystery here. Not really family values.

However, after that stuff was done and the the fans gone, the real fun began. I love Gregg Gillis, the pride of Pittsburgh and did not disappoint. Kitty and Alex and team were crowding the stage….and then Gillis started tailoring a bespoke musical presentation, sewing little patches of music together, fusing them, stitching and tuning—matching thread with thread so the final suit, the final musical event was seamless…and a single fabric…not the layers and pieces that composed these witty pieces. The crowd loved it, as did I. There was the requisite balloon drop, confetti, and then the lively use of a leaf blower with spools of toilet paper to spew white ribbons into the air. Gillis engaged, entertained, enthused, inspired. And I am…inspired that is.

NY Times on Gregg Gillis: “The 373-Hit Wonder”

Download Greg Gillis/ Girl Talk “All Day” gratis from Illegal Art>>

More later.

Almost Friday.

I was talking to my pal, client and Pittsburger, Lynne about Isleys, chipped ham (to some chipped chop ham), a "ham barbeque" (chip chop ham in sweet Kraft's barbeque sauce, or a combo of catsup, sugar and vinegar), and of course, Lemon Blennd. Isleys was also the home and creators of the famed Klondike, which is now available nationally--but lived in all of our refrigerators growing up. We didn't go as far as the George Aiken's discussion (and their terrible, smelly chicken)--but it was hovering around the edges. Turns out, the Pittsburgh Macaroni Company (from the Strip, otherwise referred to by my mother and husband as "The Bent Can") has a website that you can buy Lemon Blennd from which i plan to today. Blennd is great in iced tea...but by itself it has a certain CitraShine lemon quality combined with a cloying sweetness that is unforgetable. Notice, I did not say delicious...but it is memorable and a good add.

K brought home a report card with some good grades and bad grades in classes she should excel at..but "forgot" to turn papers in. Did you hear the airhorn (me) blow the roof off the house? I am confounded. A did well in the track meet. He runs well and looks comfortable doing it...and the group on M School kids are a happy, chatty bunch. So, its fun to watch the sidelines as well as the sports.

House of Health was excellent. The inclines are increasing, the pace picking up...and I am beginning to understand what to do when I get bored. Lots of huffers and puffers today. Ran into some lovely local Tburg ladies, celebrities I am a bit hesitant to name...We had a nice jawbone in the locker room with some interesting tidbits falling about fashion, branding, local real estate and the old time music scene. It was great to see them...lots of active brains ticking with those two.

Saturday is coming up. Pasta and pesto for 50. Hello Wegmans. Bread too. And, some cut fruit? Petit Fours to be picked up on friday. Too much. We will need plates and napkins, piniatas, frisbees and of course the sound system. Perhaps projecting the Ballywood version of Pride and Prejudice. Seems like fun to me.

Am hitting a creative wall for a second. Need to change horses.
More later.


1. A social system in which the mother is head of the family. 2. A family, community, or society based on this system or governed by women. In both senses also called matriarchate.

My cousin Liz called last night about a memorial dinner she is having to celebrate the life and spirit of my Aunt Jean, my father's sister, who died on the verge of cousin Liz's daughter's wedding. So, the family postponed Jean's gathering to her birthday in April for the appropriate send off. Interestingly, the wedding was a bit of a tribute to Jean, her humor, her love of all things common in Pittsburgh, her edge and this memorial dinner seems like the other bookend in this experience. Tribute and Memorial. They are really two different things. One is a salute, the other wrapped in memory of things past, a life lived.

In that spirit, I have been thinking. Liz said that there would be speechifying (no pressure but somehow as the group is going to be small...) and I was musing in that zone between awake and actively awake. We are as a family, on my father's side, a very matriarchal group. We have, in each little sector, little subgroup, an organizing, opinionated woman making plans for the larger group. I don't know how it happens, but it does. One becomes the matriarch. In my subgroup, and that of my husband's family, I am a matriarch. I make plans. I cook dinners (and serve them). I make holidays (when I can't avoid them with holiday travels etc.). And when I flex my muscles, some people wince (including me)--so I keep that rare and brief. I didnt get voted into this job--it just happened with a significant funeral, wedding, party, holiday--and everyone calls you. "What's happening?" etc. and surprisingly, a ton centers around food, eating and more food. And often, it is a now thing. Not a lot of planning--but 24 are coming for dinner--you fire up the engines, chop everything in sight, get out every plate in the house and start backing a plan out of what is hot, what is not, wha is for the vegetarians, the heart unhealthy, the picky and the foodies. When is the food on? Who sits next to who? Who can I rely on to be pleasant? fussy? prickly? And where does everyone sleep? Breakfast? Decaf or Caf. And then there are the rules and rulings that real matriarchs make. I have yet to do that. Judgement for others is rancorous...that maybe this matriarch will shrug it off.

Liz is an impressive I bow to. She is a planner, organizer extrordinaire with tact, taste and style that existed (from her Mother) wayyyyy before that upstart, social climbing Martha Stewart made an empire from her matriarchy.Liz is kind. She listens and hears. She weighs and balances. She knows she might step on toes and yet in her sheer worry, makes everyone understand none of this is easy and is taken lightly. She is considerate and funny. She is someone I respect and wish to emulate...though, I fear, I am meaner than. Don't get me wrong...Liz has an edge...but it is softened with love. Jean, Liz's mom, was a matriarch...but not to the degree Liz is as she was the child of the Queen of our Matriarchy Clan, Grammy. If Grammy was a viking, her name might have been Jean, the Emasculator. She was matchless in her terror. It took a generation for the tribe to calm down from her. And now, her granddaughters have taken up the scepters and are wielding them in their respective clans.

Jean was often referred to as a bad child. I have always been bothered by that. Bad in opposed to good. I would like to think of her not as bad, but as strong minded, singular maybe a bit willful. And she grew up strong minded, singular, and a bit willful.And, that is what we loved. She was a women with her own mind--not giving a hoot for what other people thought, for social conventions that were so important in Pittsburgh (of the time and currently). She liked to smoke, drink coffee, speak her mind in a very forthright way and live on klondikes (an ice cream confection made by Isleys in Pittsburgh)--waking up late, and going to bed very late amusing herself with crossword puzzles and talk shows. She fiercely loved her children...and those she hand selected. Fiercely. And in that close group, the prickles on this rose unfurled to show us the beautiful bloom that this willful, stubborn child grew to. She allowed all of us to be a bit stubborn, a bit singular and a bit ourselves...and held up a mirror to encourage us to continue on that path. She laughed a lot...and told stories with sharp insights and messages...with absolutely no candy coating. She too, had great style from her backhanded, eccentric handwriting, to perfectly wrapped packages at Christmas that looked like a professional did it. Small details were her gig...and she was excellent at it. And, you know, Liz is focusing on the details to make her memorial just perfect.

Good stuff

Esquire recognizes the best sandwiches>> and guess what? Primantis in Pgh. ranked! No surprise here... Here is what they say:

Ham and Cheese
Primanti Bros., Pittsburgh

A relic of Pittsburgh’s steel days, this sandwich was made for steelworkers who had to eat fast. Everything that typically comes with a sandwich comes on it: meat cooked hot, bacon, tomato, provolone, pickles, slaw, an egg for fifty cents extra, even fries. Shove it in your lunch box. (46 Eighteenth Street; 412-263-2142)

So when down in what the locals do...chow down on one of these goodies.


We bought one of these babies at the Oakmont Bakery. They were selling smaller versions of them hot on the Strip by the Still-Ler tables of stuff. Pepperoni bread. Never had it, didnt know what it was all about. After A ate almost one of them in one sitting, we had to buy 4 more to take home to freeze to keep the calories coming for our tiny little baby boy. Essentially, you slice this bread and it is packed with pepperoni and cheese--packed so much so that the bread was minimal to the stuff jammed in there. This, like the Primanti's experience is pure Pittsburgh. Perfect for the game either in front of the tube with Iron City or tailgating downtown before the Steelers or Panthers play. If you are in the burgh, get your hands on one of these.

Oakmont Bakery

Oakmont Bakery Hours:
531 Allegheny Avenue Monday–Saturday: 6am–7pm
Oakmont, PA 15139 Sunday: 6am–3pm

Yesterday before we left Pittsburgh to come home, we stopped by the Oakmont Bakery I spoke so glowingly about the last trip to the 'Burgh. I must say, they only get better. First off, they were all ready for the next holiday with cakes with pointsettias and red and green jimmies on the racks upon racks of cupcakes offered. I went a bit nuts with the camera and took a load of pictures of the place as it was so much of a Wayne Thiebault moment, it was hard to even think straight.

First off, they have this enormous creche, nativity scene below the number that is displayed in order to have counter time. Then, there are miles of cookies, icing, white flour, butter, and sugar configured with jelly, fruit, nuts, jimmies and the rest of the stuff that make up good days in Kindergarten, a birthday, wedding or anniversary, or just making a nice party even nicer. And from visiting the Oakmont Bakery, it is amazing to see the amount of pies, cakes, cupcakes, cookies,bread, rolls and the like sold. People are cheek to jowl waiting for their turn to place their orders and get their white bags and boxes of wonderfulness. We partook K and A.s delight...with my camera snapping away. There are pictures in these images. To visit more of the Oakmont Bakery, you can visit this album on Flick'r>>

More later on our purchase.

Primanti's for Lunch

Then, off to Primanti's for lunch. We were going to go the original in the Strip distict, but decided given the time and day, that it would be a madhouse--so we opted for the Oakland branch. Primanti's is a sandwich shop that started in the Strip district where all the trucks would come and unload all the produce and groceries at the warehouses. It would (when I was in college) open a bit after midnight--and it was a wild time to go down to the Strip for a sandwich. What they excel at beyond a totally greasy morsel is the gummy white bread with whichever filling you would like (our runaway favorite is Capicola, egg and cheese) and then strategically stack french fries (freshly cut and fried--very meaty) and top with a large dollop of cole slaw and top with another gummy piece of white bread. The whole thing is smashed down a bit and cut in half. It looks like a cross section of a wonderful geological form--with the square ends of the french fries facing you and all the other squiggles and chunks promising an extrordinary stomach bomb that will either delight or kill you.

Thankfully, I am still alive! The home team delighted in this extravaganza with A eating 1.5 sandwiches and K doing justice to hers. After this fun, we split the group. K and R were going to try and see the "Bodies" show at the Carnegie Science Center. I couldnt begin to imagine my dreams with those images happily floating though, so A and I walked the strip and shopped the Steelers gear (which all Pittsburghers revel in ) to find some stuff for A. I mean they have everything. Yellow or black pocketbooks with a players number on it. Checkbook covers, hats, teeshirts, jackets all in numerous styles and orientations. To be quite honest, to be a true Burgher, one should wear Steeler gear from the top of your head to the tips of your toes daily. From the moment you wake up until the moment you go to bed. And we arent just talking outerwear> There are steeler marked sodas and beers, black and gold chips....even Steelers food (the locals call them the Still- Lers ie "You'uns goin' dawn tawn to see the Still- lers?")

Don Pitt

So, after the Phipps, we came out of the front door and there was the University of Pittsburgh, which the natives fondly refer to as "don" or "dawn" Pitt. "Dawn Pitt" means down at the University of Pittsburgh, or at the University of Pittsburgh--whichever works. The top image is of the Tower (Taur in yinser) of Learning--a building with wonderful classrooms decorated (with gobs of coinage) to reflect the different cultures that make up Pittsburgh. Then, our sights travelled across Schenley hill to Hammerschlag Hall at Carnegie Mellon (my alma mater). On the hill, there were a few engineering types from the Institute for Robotics at CMU with their robot project they were taking for a test drive. Almost as if it were a commercial for CMU, the driverless car (the back up) came down the street for all of us to ooh and ah over. Do you think the development people were up to something? It was all very exciting.

Chihuly at the Phipps Conservatory

On Friday, a bunch of us went to the Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh to see the Dale Chihuly installation there. It was tremendous. The Phipps has been undergoing a growth spurt with new buildings, new conservatory space and a general upheaval of the physical plant. The windows sparkle. The plants are lush and abundant and are groomed and beautiful. The Chihuly work sings in this environment even more so than that of the Fairchild installation we saw in Miami earlier this year. His floating pieces in the almost black water was sensational and very evocative--making the flowers and plants resound. There was another more floral installation over a black pool that was stunning, with the glass reflecting in the mirrored surface of the water giving it that extra wow. There was a pointy star chandelier hung amongst the pointy palm leaves in a room devoted to cactus that was a beacon for the space but once you were there, allowed the plants to take center stage. If you havent seen one of these installations, they are great and worth the trip. Bless Chihuly for bringing glass and the things glass can do to the thousands of people that wait patiently in line to walk the entire expanse of the institution to see what other treat he has laid down for consumption. He is a master showman who knows what he is doing--and a spellbinder who can encourage the general population to visit a plant installation and LOVE IT. Plus, he has his own merchandise, work, posters, cards and sketchbooks for sale (priced dearly) that the crowd is happy to shell out for.

And they got rid of the wierd stuff like the enormous constructions of a zillion chrysanthemums configured to be something seasonal like a floral Santa in a badly constructed plywood, painted sleigh with plywood deer. Or my all time favorite, Humpty Dumpty at Easter. They also had a bunch of "themed" rooms like the Mill or the other, the asian room that were sadly realized and biased about the cultures they were to represent. Disneylike without the humor, style or frankly, the coinage to pull it off. Something they should return, was the man in the front of the Phipps playing the Wulitizer organ the entire time one viewed the flowers and the floral "displays". This ridiculous bouncy, roller rink music was truly the secret sauce that held all the wierdness together.

For more pictures, please click to the flick'r album. Couldn't resist.

More later on Pittsburgh>>

...and now we wait

The turkey has been carved. The pie devoured. The little blops of cranberry, moved about the plate. "The Game" continues. And now, we wait. The minutes tick by until tomorrow emerges and we have coupons and cards to redeeem and spend on the wildest day of the shopping year. I am giving thanks in my small way that much of my shopping is done, wrapped and delivered. There is a bit more, but nothing a trip through Amazon might deliver without the blood, sweat and tears that the trip to the mall delivers with far less hassle and far more pleasure than the random shopping spree accomplishes. Imagine. Another Christmas is in evolution. Seemed a bit more possible with the grains of hale clinging to the windows and trim of the car this evening.

I plugged away on the Syracuse presentation which is lookiing quite polished and as I have a bit more time, I can expand a bit without much sweat. R. tuned me into some museum "tricks" with lap dissolve etc. that helps build an idea simply and effectively. Will manifest it here. Its a bit late. Need to put my head down.

Tomorrow, Chihuly at the Phipps. Hopefully a visit with Uncle Andy (Warhol) too.

good night!