I didn’t have change for the bus but it didn’t matter because I was back home and figured that somebody would help me.

It was nearly 11 o’clock at night, and a frigid downtown Pittsburgh was fast emptying out after the Steelers game. My 13-year-old son and I had raced to a bus that, I knew from childhood memory, would take us to my mother’s home. But I didn’t have the right change for the $3 fare for the two of us.

The bus driver rolled his eyes, but gave me time. Standing in the aisle, I asked, “Does anybody have change?” as the bus lurched around a corner to Fifth Avenue. The “71 Negley” was packed. There were other dejected refugees from Heinz Field, wearing “Big Ben” ski caps or “Bus” jerseys; maintenance workers heading home from the second shift; nurses on their way to night duty at the hospitals near the University of Pittsburgh. Rows of sympathetic eyes looked at us. Passengers fumbled with their wallets or purses. No luck. Finally, a corporate-looking fellow in a ski jacket spoke up. “Here, take the three dollars,” he said. “I can’t do that!” I replied. “Go ahead,” he insisted. “Somebody did this for me just the other day.”

In Washington, I live in a divided world of Red vs. Blue — Republican against Democrat, Heartland vs. Coasts, Rush Limbaugh vs. Al Franken. But last weekend, for two blessed days, I was enveloped in a unified world of Black and Gold. There are lessons in that place for the country and for the president who would lead it, the main ones being: We are all in this together. Winning is important, but not the only thing. In America, pride of place is an all-but-forgotten form of salvation. Cities matter.

Those of you who know me from this column know that I am a native Pittsburgher — the fifth of five generations if you count my immigrant great-great grandmother, who came over late, and may not quite have known where she was. I am absurdly proud of my hometown and devoted to the football team that embodies it. My son and I happily schlepped via Amtrak through a snowstorm to the Auld Sod. We watched the Steelers succumb to the tough and smart — but colorless and technocratic — New England Patriots. The loss hurt, but, in the end, not much.

All about being there
What mattered was being there, with family, in a city that always felt like family. I am not naïve about Pittsburgh. I know the history. It was and to some extent still is divided by race (ask August Wilson) and class (ask the Steelworkers) and income (ask the members of the Duquesne Club), and by its chaotic and divisive topography. Rivers, hills and valleys isolated each ethnic group. Growing up in Squirrel Hill, you headed into foreign territory when you crossed the bridge into Greenfield. You didn’t go to Italian Lawrenceville or Polish Hill or the black Hill District. And you certainly didn’t venture out to Sewickley, where the WASPs were.

And yet, ultimately, no one in Pittsburgh was or is allowed to pull rank. It’s a civic crime. More than that, it’s impossible: If you are a Pittsburgher, well, that’s what you are, whether you are a Mellon or guy who sells them. Pittsburgh is the Bigs, but is hundreds of miles from the biggest of the big leagues (New York and Chicago). Set off alone in Western Pennsylvania, Pittsburghers are united in their splendid isolation and in pride in being better than those other more famous places. When I was a kid, it was both a boast and a curse that everything in our city was the biggest or best “between New York and Chicago.” All that really meant was that we had it over Cleveland.

When I was a kid, the sense of civic identity came from something else as well: excellent public institututions, funded by charities and tax money. We had the best in libraries, schools, museums, parks and playgrounds. They belonged to everyone — and everyone, high and low, used them.

You could see the unity of the city in the parking lot of tailgaters hours before the game. The standard male fan uniform was blue jeans (usually with a Terrible Towel hanging from the belt), work boots and Steelers jacket. But making their way to the stadium were guys in overcoats and college caps, and the Land Rovers and battered trucks were side by side.

A gargantuan twirling marigold
By kickoff, Heinz Field was full to the brim with the largest crowd in its history. The snowstorm had kept the New England fans away (much to the dismay of scalpers, I’m sure), and the view from our box was vivid almost beyond belief: 66,000 roaring people twirling bright yellow Terrible Towels, turning the stadium into a gargantuan marigold whipped by the wind.

In politics, that kind of display can be frightening, an ominous emblem of dictatorship and ideological rigidity. But no dictator ordered the fans to do this, no one organized it, and the only message was a benign one: Here we are! We chose to be here to support our team, our town and each other.

The game went badly, of course. The rookie quarterback played like a rookie. The inspirational but unimaginative coach — a Pittsburgh native as tough and unbending as stainless steel — lost his fifth championship game in six tries.

In the bus, no one seemed angry. It had been a good year — better than anyone had expected. The consensus of the Heinz Field fans and those who had watched the game (just about everyone else) was that the rookie would grow, and improve. As for the coach, well, he was from Pittsburgh. “They’ll never fire him,” said the nurse on his way to the hospital. “He’s family.”

I’m going to type some stuff and then I’m going to get into straightening-up mode!

I had a dream last night that the Falcons beat the Eagles by a score of 8-0. I could see the looks on the faces of the Eagles players and I felt so bad for them. Then, after that, the Steelers played the Falcons. So, if the two were playing, that means that the Steelers beat the Patriots, which I didn’t see in my dreams. I don’t know how the Super Bowl turned out, but the Steelers were struggling against the Falcons. Despite the struggle, I thought the Steelers were still going to pull out the victory.

Shel and I went to Sam’s Club yesterday, which was actually quite enjoyable. He and I wondered around the aisles, looked at jumbo sized proportions of our favorite products and chatted. Ok, so here’s where the cheezy parts come in. I am So appreciative of all the little pleasures in my life w/ Shel. Everything from going to Sam’s to knowing that he eats his cheeseburgers completely plain to getting a goodnight kiss on my forehead from him every night. It’s those little moments that make my life w/ him so happy – although the big moments (like diamond earrings!) are nice, too! I guess I realize more and more how much I love him and how lucky I am to have him as my partner in life.

Blah, right?!

So, yeah, today is the AFC Championship game between the Steelers and the Patriots. I think we’ve got a 50/50 shot, which means it’ll be a good game. I am hoping beyond hope that the Steelers win. I totally think they can do it, but it’s not going to be easy. Come on, Steelers!!!!!

We got our new foster kittens yesterday. They’re both terribly shy, but very sweet. Hines (named after Hines Ward) is black, white and adorable. He’s a little purr monster! And Hannah is a medium hair calico who looks like a giant gerbil. She’s cute in an ugly sort of way, but I like her. Her underneath fur is curly and super soft.

Ok, I’m hungry and I need to put in my contacts. Then I shall eat, watch NFL Gameday and then clean. Then I’ll cheer on my Steelers!!!

Oh my God – Charlie sounds like a symphony! He’s like, “meep, meep, meep, meep, meeeeeer, meeeerrrr, meep!”


I had a bit of a falling apart moment this morning. While running errands, I got a call from the unemployment people informing me that my claim had been denied. Denied claim = no income. What I learned later was that there was a mistake, my claim shouldn’t have been denied, and everything’s been fixed. But in between finding out the bad news and finding out the good news, I was pretty floored. Shel is having a difficult time dealing w/ my situation, so I feel like when I let him know how I’m feeling, it just makes the situation worse. It makes him mad that I feel that way, but I’d rather keep things bottled up than ruin my relationship. So, while I was falling to pieces, I felt completely alone. I wanted to run out of my apartment and into the arms of someone who loves me, but I can’t do that down here. I didn’t realize it until that moment that for the first time I’m in a place where no one loves me unconditionally. I hope I’m w/ Shel forever, but the love we share isn’t unconditional. He could meet someone tomorrow, realize that she’s completely perfect, and leave me. There’s a certain sense of calm that comes w/ knowing that there are people in your life who will never, ever stop loving you, and it’s hard for me because none of those people are near me. So, when I’m sinking into a pit of depression and sadness, I have to figure out how to pull myself out of it and accept that maybe a phone call is as close as I can get to my family and closest friends.

I don’t mean for this to be so dramatic or depressing or whatever, but I felt like I needed to get out what’s been in my head all afternoon. I wish I would have realized how lucky I was while in Pittsburgh and Morgantown because I never felt alone – I always had someone to love and support me regardless of what I was going through, which is an amazing thing.

I want to go get into a long, hot shower. I feel really, really fragile – like if someone were to tap me, I’d shatter into a million pieces. Maybe hot water will do me some good.

I don’t know if I believe in reincarnation, but if I did, I’d bet that in a previous life Charlie was a fish. When I get a bath, which I do nearly every night, Charlie is the first one in the bathroom w/ me. At first it grossed me out, but then I realized that Charlie’s a cat and it’s completely innocent. Anyway. When I’m in the bathtub, Charlie sits on the edge of the tub and gazes at the water. Or he sits on the lid of the toilet seat w/ his soft, fluffy fur gathered up around him; he looks majestic and intimidating while gazing at the water longingly. It’s like he desperately wants to dive in and enjoy the warm water, but he knows he can’t. He’s my water baby.

While Charlie’s wanting to be in the tub, Henry generally rolls around on the floor w/ Purple Mouse, his very best friend. There are actually two Purple Mice, but Henry doesn’t realize it. Purple Mouse is a tiny purple mouse w/ bright feathers coming out of its tail. It sounds like a baby rattle when it’s pushed around and Henry absolutely LOVES it. He plays w/ it every day and gets it trapped under doors – and even the oven – on a regular basis. Henry is so dumb and so happy all of the time – despite his dark fur, he’s one of the biggest lights of my life.

Tonight’s been rough. I’ve shed a lot of tears, but I feel like I’m in a better place now that I’ve done so. No doubt tomorrow will bring more drama, but such is life when one is unemployed and living in a country in which money is a necessity. Maybe I can move to some tsunami-proof island in the middle of nowhere and read books and lay on the beach all day. How fabulous would that be? To lay on white sand while the warm sun beats on you… Wow. I’m drooling at the mere thought of it.

I saw a woman the other day w/ a mullet wearing tapered-leg jeans. I thought that someone needed to yank her into some makeover van like they do on TLC. I don’t care how much money one has or doesn’t have, mullets should never be an option for either sex. Ever. Never ever. I had a mullet once. Yeah, it’s true. It was back in the day when my mother was in charge of my hair. I think it’s my 2nd grade picture where I’m smiling my dorky closed-mouth smile and rocking a mullet that stretched down past my shoulders. My mother curled the top and bottom parts, so at least it was a semi-feminine mullet, but regardless, it was completely inappropriate. The next year my mother’s friend persuaded her to cut my mullet (thank God) and in my 3rd grade picture I’ve got a bowl hair cut and the outfit of a 40 year old. If you asked Shel, he’d probably tell you that I still dress like a 40 year old, but that’s a whole nother story….

Shel recently made a good point (shocking!) and reminded me that I’ve lost site of my goals and ambitions. He challenged me to get back to being the ambitious and semi-naive Yankee who moved to the South. He’s right, you know. I really have lost track of who I am and who I want to be. I’ve gotten into a rut and although I’m happy, I’d be happier if I was persuing my life goals. My goals have shifited a bit since my arrival in Dixie, but they’re still similar to what they once were and I’d like to make good on them. Goal numero uno is to study my tooshie off for the GREs and get into grad school. If I never had to earn a living, I’d study Political Science and get a PhD, but then what would I do w/ myself? Uhhhh… (crickets chirping in the background) Yeah. There’s not a whole lot that can be done w/ a PhD in Poli Sci, so, seeing as how I’m about the furthest thing from a millionaire, I shouldn’t do that. So I think I’ll get my Master’s in communications to build upon my BS in Journalism and give myself a better shot of having a long and brilliant career in internal corporate communications.


I love those Guinness guys! You know those Guinness commercials where the two guys are like “Brilliant!” to everything? The little black book… haha. I didn’t realize the popularity of the Guinness guys until I went home and both my brothers, my father and my uncle were saying ‘brilliant’ to everything. It was annoyingly cute. I wonder if those guys are still alive today – like if they’re pictures of people dressed up as guys from the 1800′s, or if they’re actually guys from the 1800′s. In which case they would be dead and no longer a live. I wonder if guinness.com tells us… let’s check it out, shall we?

Huh. They’re actually real people from the 1800′s. Brilliant! (if you don’t know what the hell I’m talking about, click here: http://www.guinness.com/guinness/en_US/seeing/ads/ad/0,6438,12687267_125894,00.html)

Alrightie. I’m tired. Tears=Sleepy Ali.

Nightie night!

“Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion’s starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there – fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge – they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love actually is all around.”
- Hugh Grant, Love Actually

I just got off of the phone w/ my mother and I miss her already. I’m holding back tears as I’m writing this, actually. I consider myself so damn lucky for having such a close relationship w/ my mother. I feel like I can tell her everything and anything … and nothing at all. I talk to her every single day, which drives Shel a bit nuts, but I think it’s pretty great. When I see her after a long absence, it’s like no time has passed between us because we never lose touch. I always know what’s going on in her life and she always knows what’s going on in mine.

I spent some time today looking for wedding stuff for Kristen. I kinda have in mind what I want to get her, but I’m looking for the perfect versions of them, so I think it’s better to start looking now than have to do it last minute and have both she and I hate what I get her. I’m excited about getting my bridesmaid gown – it’s really pretty. It’s got a sweetheart neckline, which I wouldn’t ordinarily pick for myself, but I’m very much looking forward to wearing it. It’s stepping out of my comfort zone a bit and it’s fun.

I’m making pork chops right now. I don’t even like pork chops, but I feel bad for feeding Shel chicken all the time. I’m trying to spice up his life a bit via fine dining cuisine! Haha. Yeah, he probably waits till I go to sleep and then goes out for McDonalds…