April, 2018 – I got out of the studio for a bit with a trip to Pittsburgh to see some art, eat some food and tag along in the scholarly/literary circles of the 2018 NEMLA convention.
I arrived in Pittsburgh and immediately met up with Austin author and good friend Ben Reed. We attended the NEMLA convention and Ben presented a paper about Kurt Vonnegut. He also read a new short story, ‘Angle and Distance’.
I’ve visited Philadelphia a bunch of times, but never visited the Western part of the state. More rural, republican, and midwestern, Pittsburgh was a sports mad city with a unique accent that was amusing throughout each day I was there. Yinzers, Nebby, Warshington… all brought a smile to my face.
We spent a bunch of time at the convention. We attended a few panels and saw some interesting scholarly discussions pop up. That did limit our exploration of the city a bit, but we still managed to run around downtown and check out the Andy Warhol Museum. The Museum was a seven story affair, arranged chronologically, and was quite a treat to see. Warhol’s art makes a lot more sense when you spend time in Pittsburgh. The city, historically hard edged, blue collar and probably unimaginably polluted for so long, run by rich barons, made a weirdo kid so desperate to get out of Pittsburgh he’d try making art out of anything – Brillo pad boxes, soup cans, etc…
At the conference, Ben’s story ‘Angle and Distance’ was a horrifying examination of suicide bombers, identity and monsters. It was by far one of the biggest highlights of all the panels I attended. Later on, in the Q and A portion of the ‘Monsters’ panel, a woman described a monster as, “heightened self awareness of one’s differences.’ It was a great statement then and it still holds up today.
The city was interesting – full of old, beautiful buildings, a nice mix of midwestern, eastern and mid-atlantic influences. The city was dotted with bright yellow bridges. Pittsburg also had a populace that prefers to stumble around wildly drunk at night. It was a fun. lively and oddly young city. The food was hit or miss, but the more time we spent around the the Strip was well worth it. We even found some amazing pierogies there!
Next time I’ve got to spend more time in the museums…