Update: Pittsburgh

First, I want to thank those of you who have been stopping by here on a regular basis even though I haven't. Second, I apologize for not being around. I'll try to do better. And, for the next couple days at least, I'll be posting some updates.

I mentioned a few weeks back that I was on my way to Pittsburgh to see my pals Ben and Eugene.

Eugene, he was easily the hostess with the mostest.

I arrived starving on Thursday night, and Eugene took me to Primanti Bros. for a Pittsburgh-style sandwich. I didn't know Pittsburgh had its own style of sandwich, but it does, and it involves cole slaw and fries. Eugene said egg was pretty popular, too, so I got a steak sandwich with cole slaw and fries and egg on it, and it was amazing. Plus, we drank several Yuengling drafts. I'd had Yuengling a couple times, but I'd never had it on draft, and I have to say it is one of my favorite draft beers. And it's perfectly matched with a steak sandwich served with cole slaw and fries and fried egg.

We bounced around to a couple bars that night, and the next day Eugene drove me around Pitt, where I got to check out the Cathedral of Learning. I've been on a lot of college campuses, and that cathedral may be the coolest academic building I've ever seen.

Friday night was the reading at Gist Street. I'd read about people giving readings at Gist Street for a while, but because I live in the Midwest, it had remained this kind of mystery, like the Happy Ending Reading Series or the KGB Bar, these places I see referenced on websites and such. Because I always read about these kinds of places on the Internet, I tend to think that they must be overrated--that nobody actually shows up, they're not all that special, etc. So, I set myself up a little to be letdown. And then, of course, I was blown away. There was this amazing space, a sculptor's loft, I think, and it was filled with people and food and a table stacked with bottles of wine and a bathtub filled with ice to which Eugene and I contributed a twelve-pack of ten-ounce cans of Coors Light.

And the reading, of course, was awesome. David Griffith read first and read from one of the excellent essays I linked to a few weeks back. Then Ben read.

I first saw Ben read about five years ago, when he read for a bunch of high schoolers at SIUC's Young Writers' Festival. It was in the afternoon, in a little room, and he blew those high schoolers away. A few may have even asked for his autograph.

And this summer, I saw Ben read at Bread Loaf, where he also dazzled the crowd.

But this one was even better. I spent a lot of the time looking at the crowd, and they were all so into it. I had my eye especially on one woman. She seemed not to want to like Ben--maybe because he's young or because he's had a lot of success already or because he's young and he's had a lot of success already, whatever. At the beginning of the reading, she was giving the man sitting next to her these looks that seemed to me rather dismissive. About five minutes later, though, she was riveted--alternately laughing and looking solemn.

Once the reading was over, Ben sold out of the books he'd brought, and several people took the books back to their seats, ignoring the buffet table and the bottles of wine, and finished reading the story Ben had begun.

So cool.

The rest of that night is a bit of a blur. It involved a bar and lots of talking, etc.

And then Saturday I came home and got ready for the trip J.C. and I took to Key West on Monday. I'll put up some pictures or something from that trip sometime soon, along with a few more updates.

Thanks for stopping by--and again, sorry for the absence.

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