Posts Tagged ‘Pittsburgh


Comic and Animation Fans: The Pittsburgh Toonseum needs your help!

Hey, everybody. If you’ve never heard of the Pittsburgh Toonseum, it’s a nice little site in the Steel City that hosts great displays of comic book and cartoon art. I’ve visited a couple of times and always enjoyed it. After a flood last week at an offsite storage facility, the Toonseum lost a lot of books, comics, exhibition reproductions and equipment (although, thankfully, no original art).

The Toonseum has a donations page on their website, and they’re currently asking for help to recover from this lousy bit of bad luck. Any help you could provide — including donating some money (a tax-free donation, by the way) if you can or just passing the link along to other websites and Facebook pages — would be greatly appreciated.

You could also Paypal a donation directly to or mail a check to…
The ToonSeum
945 Liberty Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15222



Where have I been, you ask?

Sorry for the lack of updates lately, friends. I’ve been a bit busy lately. It’s November, which means National Novel Writing Month. It’s the holidays, which meant that I spent last week in Pittsburgh with Erin and her family. And it’s near the end of the semester, which means I’m busy as a teacher.

But I definitely want to give you guys some Christmas content, especially after Halloween being dedicated entirely to the Story Structure project. So starting Thursday, December 1, I’m going to try to get back to a regular schedule, with as much Christmas stuff as I can throw at you. Thanks for your patience, and have a great yuletide season.


2 in 1 Showcase Episode 234: A Day With the Dark Knight

Erin comes back this week to talk about her day as an extra on the set of The Dark Knight Rises! There’s no real spoilers here, but if you want to remain 100 percent pristine, you may want to skip ahead to the second half of the show — when Blake gets his nerd on and dissects the most gripping part of DC’s New 52… the logo redesigns! In the picks, Erin enjoyed Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and Blake doubles up with Avengers Academy #18 and Batgirl #24. Contact us with comments, suggestions, or anything else at!

Music provided by Music Alley from Mevio.

Episode 234: A Day With the Dark Knight


Love in Pittsburgh

Last week Erin and I spent some time in her hometown of Pittsburgh, and as I always like to do, I’m going to share with you guys how we spent the week and show off as many pictures as possible. When you love somebody this much, you don’t want to keep it to yourself, after all.

I left on the early morning of June 6. And I do mean early. While my mind and heart were both excited to see Erin, much of my body was rather grumpy about getting out of bed at 3:30 in the morning to catch a 6:10 flight. Fortunately, I’ve got a father good enough to take me to the airport at that ungodly hour on a Sunday, and I even ran into my friends Joey and Laura at the airport, which made the check-in process a bit less tedious than it usually is. Unfortunately, I’ve never been able to sleep very well on airplanes, so I couldn’t catch up on the lost sleep until we touched ground. Erin met me at the airport and we went off for lunch with her mother, then a nap, then dinner with her brother, then sleep.

Don’t worry, the sleeping is reduced dramatically after this point of the trip.

When Erin and I get together, she likes to find places to take me that I haven’t gone before, and she appreciates it when I do the same for her. This time out, she located a couple of comic book stores that were a bit of a drive from her home in Monroeville, but we were willing to make the ride. In fact, while out there we found the comic shop with the greatest name for a comic shop ever:


C'mon, tell me you wouldn't shop here.

Yes, it’s called “Bent Wookee.” Notice how “Wookee” is misspelled to avoid copyright problems with Lucasfilm. Notice how “Comix” is misspelled due to a mistaken belief that using an “X” makes things cooler. Anyway, As great as the name of this shop was, I can’t tell you if the stores within live up to the name, because apparently they’re closed on Mondays. As was another shop we tried that day. Geek tip, friends: if you’re out of town and looking up comic shops, don’t do it on a Monday. We finally did find one place that was open, but it wasn’t really the best shop. I wound up buying two back issues there because we would have felt silly driving all that way without buying something, but both of them turned out to be in considerably poorer condition than the bag seemed to indicate.

The trip wasn’t a loss at all, though, because Erin took me to lunch at Five Guys Burgers and Fries, a burger chain that exists up there that — dear Heaven — ought to spread to the south right now. The western chain Inn-n-Out Burger is good, but Five Guys may have even been better. After lunch, Erin took me down to the Monroeville Mall, where she used to work at the Store of Knowledge many moons ago. This also happens to be the mall where they filmed the classic zombie film Dawn of the Dead. The original, not the remake. Ask Erin, she’ll tell you in no uncertain terms that the creatures in the remake are not real zombies, because they’re fast. I’m telling you folks, don’t argue with her on this one. Anyway, the reason we went to the mall is because it contains a toy/collectible store, which itself has a small “Zombie Museum” in the back. I’ve been there before, but the store and museum had moved and expanded, so I wanted to check it out.


"I'm coming to get you, Baaaaaarbera..."



(Too soon?)


Flying coach, circa February 2011


One of these things is cute and alive. The other one is not. If you can't tell, I will hit you.

Tuesday was the day we designated to head down to Pittsburgh’s famous Strip District. Erin brought me to Pamela’s for breakfast, a decision which met with immediate and delicious approval. Some of the best crepes on the planet. We then wandered around for a while, popping into shops, getting some food from the candy company and popcorn company, and wandering into the many, many stores full of Pittsburgh sports gear. The stores are generally laid out thusly: a mountain of Steelers paraphernalia, a mountain of Penguins paraphernalia, and a small cove of Pirates gear, generally hidden in the back. Erin had given me a Saints jersey that I happened to be wearing that day, and as we went into one of those stores I was approached by the manager. He said, “When the Saints play the Steelers this year, I’m going to make a shirt with Drew Brees on one side and Ben Rothlisberger on the other. And I’m gonna write on it, ‘The Saint and the Sinner’.”

I laughed at this and invited him to send some of those shirts to New Orleans, because he’d sell out here too. (Seriously, people, as much as we love Drew Brees, that’s how much these folks hate Ben Rothlisberger, Super Bowls be damned.)


Erin and I head out to the Strip District.

We made one more stop before we left the strip district: Eides’. This is a store that specializes in all sorts of media — a music store on the ground flood, used books, VHS and DVDs upstairs, and a comic shop in the basement. If there was one of these in New Orleans, I may never leave. We happened there when they were selling used paperbacks for 50 cents each, and wound up snagging so many for my classroom that Erin has to mail them to me because I had no where to pack them.

We also took a walk through the Pittsburgh arts festival, then down on the river front. Erin wanted to find a statue that had been built of Fred Rogers, Pittsburgh native. And find it we did:


It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood...


A beautiful day for a neighbor...

After the day’s festivities, Erin took me to the Harris Grill for two of the sweetest words ever put together in the English language…



The Harris Grill celebrates Bacon Night every Tuesday, a policy which I think the United Nations should finally man up and make mandatory. Free bacon at the bar. $1 baskets at your table! It’s worth noting here that Erin and I gave each other permission to cheat on our diets during our visits this summer. (I also got a special dispensation for the Fourth of July.)

Wednesday being new comic book day, Erin took me to a few more comic shops, including some that were open this time. These guys met us in the first one:


"Between the two of us, we made almost three good movies!"

We did some other shopping and wandering but the real centerpiece of Wednesday didn’t come until that night, when we met her friends for Team Trivia at Mario’s. Team Trivia has been a traditional get-together for Erin and her crowd for a while, and although the locations change, the rules don’t. We came in, I believe, fourth place. But we still had fun.


Yeah! FOURTH, baby!

On the other hand, I don’t think we had quite as much fun as the Chicago Blackhawks fans that were in the bar. That was the night of what turned out to be the finals of the Stanley Cup, and since the Pittsburgh Penguins weren’t in it this year, the prevailing attitude was that they would pull for Chicago, mainly out of hate for Philadelphia.


Inside: mice who wear pants and ducks who do not.

Thursday and Friday were both kind of low-key. Thursday consisted of a nice lunch, some shopping, and a movie. (The Nightmare on Elm Street remake. Don’t waste your time.) Friday took us to the Pittsburgh Toonseum — a museum of comic book and animation artwork.

We actually started to go to the Museum on Thursday, but didn’t think we’d have enough time before it closed. That turned out to be a kind of silly assumption on Friday when we saw that it’s actually pretty small. Don’t get me wrong, it was a lot of fun, but we saw everything in the place and still had time to extensively peruse the very nice selection of books in the gift shop before the quarter would run out on our parking meter. We’ll have to see what the exhibit is the next time I’m in town, though.We did some more wandering, some shopping, and even a little eating. But we ate healthy this time:


Frozen yogurt is still healthy if you add Reece's cups and Cap'n Crunch, right?

We finished Friday evening with dinner at Erin’s favorite restaurant, Mallorca, home of Spanish cuisine. The food was very good, but Erin was a bit disappointed to learn that the freezer was broken and she wouldn’t be able to indulge in the restaurant’s legendary sorbet. Still, the food was delicious, and the perfect prelude to an evening at the Duquesnne Overlook. We’d been there several times before, but never at night, and Erin has always wanted to show me the view after dark. Of the view I can report two things:

1. It is, in fact, lovely.

2. My camera is insufficient for long-distance nighttime photography.

Saturday was the day I went home, but not until later, which allowed us to meet her brother and pick up her nieces for lunch. Lydia, the younger of the two, was nervous around me but seemed okay as long as Erin was there. It took an hour to coax the older one, Elise, out of Daddy’s bedroom around the strange “Mr. Blake,” though. We did finally get them to lunch, where I was introduced to the intricacies of three-year-old tic-tac-toe. Unlike the adult version of the game, you see, the object is not to get three Xs or Os in a row, but to place them in a seemingly random configuration at various points on the placemat until you’re ready to arbitrarily declare a winner.

After lunch, it was time to go to the airport. It wasn’t quite as sad as usual, since Erin is coming here in July. We love every moment we get together.


As it should be.

More pictures, you say? No problem, check out the Flickr album!


One more night in Pittsburgh

Going home tomorrow. I’ll write all about the trip next week sometime. You guys know the drill by now.

Here’s a picture to tide you over.


Thanksgiving in the Burgh

Every time Erin and I get to have one of our all-too-short visits together, I tell the story to you guys. Last week, I went up for the week of Thanksgiving, and it was as wonderful as it always was to be with her. But it’s taken me a little while to sit down and write what happened, because… well… this was a different kind of trip. On our first few trips, there were tons of things to talk about because we were discovering each other. When we go on a “vacation,” like to Philadelphia or Las Vegas, there are vacation-y things to discuss. But this trip was a less wordy kind of wonderful. Being with her, spending time with Erin, makes me happier than anything in my entire life, and this trip was no exception. But this time was more like being at home with her. Happy, blissful, but a bit more ordinary. It’s what I hope things can be like all the time someday.

But I do want to tell you what the trip was like, and share the (surprisingly few) pictures we took, so sit back and listen, friends. Travel worked out great this time — I got an early flight on the Sunday before Thanksgiving. It sucked to have to be up and around at 5 a.m. (and thanks to my father for driving me to the airport), but it was worth it to still have so much of the day left when I got to Pittsburgh, just shortly after 1 p.m. That’s the time I got to the airport, that is. It was some time before I got to leave, because Erin — on her way to meet me — was stuck on the parkway. I claimed my luggage and got our rental car and still had time to read several chapters of a book (Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader: Jingle Bell Christmas, which you can expect a Christmas Party review of soon) before she arrived. As soon as I saw her, it was worth the wait. We grabbed a late lunch, then did some grocery shopping for the week. It was nothing major, nothing special, but even wandering the aisles at Walmart was great, because we were together.

Monday was probably the most touristy day we spent, with Erin taking me down to the Strip District for breakfast as DeLuca’s. This little diner is touted as having “the best breakfast in Pittsburgh,” and while I don’t know if I’d qualify it as the best, it was certainly darn good. From there, Erin took me to my new favorite place, the Pittsburgh Popcorn Company. This little shop makes popcorn in dozens of varieties, from the traditional butter and cheese flavors to specialty flavors like the Pumpkin Spice we got. It was delicious, and to answer your question Erin, a tin of any of that stuff would be excellent for a Christmas present. (The cheese was my favorite.)

From there we made our usual trip to Eides, the ginormous music, DVD, used book and comic book store in downtown Pittsburgh. Eides is a cool shop, with a pretty good selection. My favorite thing is the rapidly-shifting bargain bin, which features new stuff every time. I dove in and pulled out lots of old Superman comics I needed, including a 90-cent copy of Superboy #98, the first appearance of Ultra Boy of the Legion of Super-Heroes, which I am now realizing is the geekiest thing I’ve ever written in one of these blogs about our visits.

The great thing about our relationship is how we reciprocate our geekdoms. She took me to get comics, and I went with her to see Twilight that afternoon. (If you want to know what we thought, you can listen to the review we recorded for the podcast.) The cool thing for me? We went to my favorite movie theatre ever, the Loews by the waterfront. I know I’ve mentioned it several times, so this time I actually took a few pictures of the lobby, to just give you an idea of how cool this place is.

Yep, that’s Santa and the snowman narrator from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer there.

After the movie, Erin took me to the Monroeville Mall (filming location of the original Dawn of the Dead, fellow geeks!), and I would like to take this occasion to offer an apology to my buddy Mike for not taking him here when he was in Pittsburgh last summer. Erin took me to a shop called Toy Galaxy, which is as much a Geek Mecca as Eides. The store has thousands of toys — old and new — along with geekish shirts, DVDs, and some old comic books to boot. To top it off, there’s even a zombie museum in the back room, a tribute to the undead legions of Pittsburgh:

The freakiest thing in the museum?

A motion simulator ride inside a coffin! The ride is supposed to take you through the experience of being a zombie. This is an experience I was perfectly willing to pass on. I get chills just thinking about it.

Tuesday was an even more subdued day. We slept late, we ordered a pizza for lunch, and we watched Casino Royale on DVD. Erin had never seen it before, and as I reaaaally wanted to see Quantum of Solace, she wanted to see the first Daniel Craig Bond film first. When we finally ventured out, we realized it had been snowing most of the day — not a blizzard, but enough to make this Southern boy excited:

We both really liked Quantum of Solace (I love the fact that James Bond now has a story arc) and after the film Erin took me to a little tavern called Rivertown with great hamburgers and home-brewed beer and sodas. The pumpkin spice beer I tried was good, but I’d go back for another one of their root beers or cream sodas.

Wednesday was probably my favorite day of the trip, all things considered. I spend a lot of time online (as you may have noticed) and have acquaintances on several websites, including one who manages a comic book shop in the Pittsburgh area. We looked up the store, New Dimension Comicsin McMurray, and set out on Wednesday to find it. Naturally, we went the wrong way on the interstate and wound up taking a 2-hour detour. Erin enjoyed it a lot — she likes driving around random places — and while I’m a little more antsy about not knowing exactly where I am, I loved being with her and seeing the snow-covered hills.

New Dimension turned out to be a fantastic shop: clean, warm, and inviting. Colin, the manager, was a really nice guy and we talked to him a bit before making a few purchases (including the DC Infinite Heroes Hush figure I needed). Then we headed back to town, rested up, and went out to Erin’s favorite haunt (Buffalo Wild Wings) to spend the evening with her friends.

Due to the Penguins game that night, the usual Wednesday Trivia Game was cancelled, but it was still a lot of fun. Several of Erin’s friends came out, and we were even joined by her brother Shan and sister-in-law Jackie, whom Erin has been trying to get to join her for a long time. The game was fun, the food was good, and we all had a great time.

Thursday, of course, was Thanksgiving, and a total family day. Erin and I joined Shan, Jackie, and their daughters Elise and Lydia at a community lunch sponsored by their church. Afterwards, Jackie stayed behind to help clean up, and Erin and I watched the girls while Shan took a nap. I’ve met Elise before, but as she’s just 3 years old, she doesn’t remember being scared of me last time. And I left the day that Lydia was born, so we’ve never met. The girls were a little terrified of the big, strange man with their Aunt Erin. Elise actually scooted away from me any time Erin left the couch, where she was sitting between us. They warmed up, eventually, by playing with puzzles and attacking their Aunt like the troops storming the beach at Normandy, then it was time for dinner.

The six of us — Erin and I, Shan, Jackie, and the girls — were joined by Erin’s mother for a Thanksgiving buffet. While it wasn’t Petit home cooking, it was really good. Great turkey, ham, and prime rib, a delicious strawberry salad, several trimmings, and tons of desserts (including a thick slab of my beloved pumpkin pie). The only snag came when Mom, Dad, and Grammy were all at the buffet at the same time, leaving Erin and I with the two girls. Suddenly: Elise had to potty, and Aunt Erin had to take her, leaving little 1-year-old Lydia with me. The second Erin was out of her sight, she started to scream bloody murder. Everyone she knew was gone, and she was alone with this big, hairy stranger! Honestly, I can’t blame her for being scared. Jackie and Erin got back at almost the same time, and between the two of them they managed to calm her down and I didn’t have to resort to offering her any of the wine.

Friday kinda sucked during the day. Erin couldn’t get out of work on Black Friday, so she went in for a morning shift while I stayed behind writing reviews for Comixtreme and watching the Mork and Mindy marathon on Sci-Fi. But the afternoon was awesome. The day before, my mother sent me a message informing me that my Uncle Scott was in town. Scott and his family have moved around a lot over the years, but have lived in Cincinnati, Ohio for some time now. His oldest son, Ryan, is a darn good hockey player, and his team just happened to be playing in a tournament in Pittsburgh that weekend. I’d never seen a live hockey game before, and since Erin is a big fan, we happily agreed to meet up with them to watch the game.

Scott and Ryan apparently weren’t too happy with their performance, but knowing as much as I do about hockey, I couldn’t tell what the problems were. Ryan scored a goal 19 seconds into the game, and no one else scored at all. His team, the Queen City Steam, beat the Allegheny Badgers 1-0, and I got to hang out with my uncle, who I haven’t seen since my sister’s wedding two years ago. Plus, Erin and I were the first people in the family to ever get to see one of his hockey games. So I count it as a win.

Erin and I had dinner at an incredible little Italian restaurant (that you MUST take me to again, sweetheart) and then had a quiet evening of watching TV, writing (in my case) and just enjoying being together. We needed it, because the next day, I went home.

We got up early enough to get going, but unfortunately, didn’t get on the road early enough for a Cracker Barrel breakfast, as we’d hoped. We did manage to grab a fast food lunch, and then I was soon whisked away.

I love Erin more each time we’re together, and more than ever (except possibly our Katrina evacuation trip) this visit convinced me that we’re not just good together, we’re meant to be together. She’ll be down here in New Orleans in February for Mardi Gras — my least favorite holiday. But I’ll be with her, and so I know it’ll be the best Mardi Gras ever.


Warm and Cozy in Pittsburgh, PA

So yesterday, I got up at five in the morning, on a Sunday of all days, and for what? To catch an eight o’clock flight to Pittsburgh. I’m up here for the week with Erin. The first flight was fun — there was a seven-year-old kid next to me who was riding on a plane for the first time, so his dad was telling him how everything worked and keeping him entertained. The second flight was not so much — the plane was smaller than the average Hot Wheels car and the flight attendant was kind of rude. Then when I got here, Erin was not waiting at baggage claim for me like usual. Instead, she was trapped in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the parkway.

She finally got me and we went to get some food, because we were both starving, then did a little shopping for the week. Today we’re planning to go down to DeLuca’s for breakfast, something she has been promising me since my first-ever trip here, and then we’re going to catch a movie or two. She wants to see Twilight, and as I just finished reading the book on the plane here, I feel qualified to view the motion picture now. If nothing else, I’ll know what the ninth-grade girls in my class are all talking about when we get back to school next week.

Erin, sweetie that she is, is affording me a little time each day to work on Cross-Purposes so that I don’t fall behind on NaNoWriMo. I think I just may be able to finish before I go home on Saturday. I’ll keep you all posted. And hopefully, the next time I’m here, I’ll have some photos of the two of us to share with you.


NaNoWriMo, Twilight, Don’t Drink the Water and Erin

Just a quick update as to what I’m up to at the moment. I just hit 37,748 words in Cross-Purposes. The book is really coming together at the third act, and while I was initially worried that I wouldn’t be able to connect all of my disparate stories, I now see them dovetailing together nicely. It just goes to prove the theory I have adhered to for many years now: I am awesome.

Second, Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight. Not since J.K. Rowling have so many people gotten obsessed over the works of a single author. Here’s the thing: my girlfriend loves these books. And my sister. And my aunts. And approximately 99 percent of the ninth grade girls I teach. This is the first time, in three years of teaching, that I have had students chasing after me trying to get me to read a book. So in the interest of keeping abreast of current literary events, I’ve borrowed Heather’s copy of Twilight and I’m reading it now. Erin even made me promise to see the movie with her next week, which I’ll be happy to do.

Speaking of Heather, she is currently hard at work directing her first play, Don’t Drink the Water, at the Thibodaux Playhouse. Don’t tell her I said so, but she’s doing a great job. And as of this week, we’ve almost got a complete cast and crew, which puts her wayahead of my last directoral effort. I’m both assisting her and playing Walter Hollander, which is a role I also played in this show back in college, a full ten years ago. Wow, I can’t believe it’s been that long. I’m having a blast, though, it’s one of the few shows I’ve ever been in that I’ve wanted to do again. It’s so different, but it’s so much fun.

And finally, speaking of Erin, you may have heard of this Thanksgiving thing we’re gonna be doing next week. I’ll be boarding a plane on Sunday to spend the week with Erin in Pittsburgh. My posting may be sporadic next week, but be assured, that’s because I’ll be extremely happy.

June 2023

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