Part 1 — A Visit to Pittsburgh’s Famous Penn Brewery
Part 2 — Dining With the Weinstocks (Grand Concourse Restaurant)
This week, I’m visiting Pittsburgh.
This city was pretty much a hellhole a century ago. Once cloistered with gritty steel mills and coal depots, giant smokestacks barreled out a toxic blanket of blackness, gradually turning day into night, transforming any human lung within breathing distance into something that resembled a charred Brillo pad.
Today, Pittsburgh is a very different city. A much cleaner city. A city completely transformed. Virtually unrecognizable in many ways from its early heyday as a buckle on the rust belt, what once was an industrial junction of steel, coal, and railroads is now a major center for banking, medicine, and higher education.
Yet even now Pittsburgh retains a core toughness about it, rooted in the rocky cliffs towering over the city’s three rivers and picturesque downtown, capped with fresh snow in early December. It’s a city of contrasts — of tradition and innovation, of rivers and bridges, of long drives and short walks.
Pittsburgh’s also home to countless local breweries. One of the oldest is the famous Penn Brewery, perched atop a hill in the historic working-class district of Deutschtown, once the home to thousands of struggling steel mill workers which ultimately helped spark the formation and eventual power of trade unions in America.
A stadium hasn’t been constructed yet that can keep me out.
Well, maybe one. More on that later.
This week, I’m visiting Pittsburgh. The hotel and casino where I’m staying are adjacent to the stadium where the Pittsburgh Steelers play their home games. I’d mention the actual name of the stadium, except that the ketchup company which pimped the naming rights isn’t sending me a royalty check, so you’ll just have to try and guess the official name of the place.
I have a fetish for stadiums. Like some kind of sick pervert. Some guys like tits and ass. I get a rise out of triple-deck overhangs and natural grass. As far back as I can remember, I’ve made pilgrimages to every stadium humanly possible whenever I visited a new city. Seeing stadiums up close in person are not only impressive as the architectural marvels they are, they’re also part of history. Exciting things happen in stadiums, especially for us sports fans.
Moreover, visiting a stadium adds a much greater sense of perspective. Watching a football game on television gives the average fan no sense of the actual experience of attending a game. Sure, I’d rather stay at home too, and flip my Direct TV channels back and forth along with everyone else. I also don’t fancy forking over $300 for seats in the end zone. But there’s also a rite of passage of going to games when you can — parking, walking to the gate, taking a seat, tasting the shitty food, freezing your ass off, getting into fist-fights, and witnessing everything first-hand. Otherwise, you really don’t “get it.” It’s the difference between seeing your favorite band live in concert versus listening to a studio recording. Sure, the sound quality is much better on your the iPod. But which is the better “experience?”
I’m issuing a public announcement.
DO NOT SHOOT POOL WITH TODD ANDERSON.
Keep you’re sanity. Preserve your hope. Save your money.
The chrome-domed gentle giant from the great white north of Minnesota has spent a decade masquerading as a poker executive. What an act. He effectively established his cover story, first as the co-creator and owner of the Heartland Poker Tour (HPT) which exploded into a national success. Then, he most recently turned his attention to Poker Night in America, which he also founded and now oversees.
Come to find out, this was all just a sham.
In fact, TODD ANDERSON IS A POOL HUSTLER.
What’s the best meal you’ve ever had?
That’s really an open-ended question, isn’t it?
Most of us would probably answer an expensive dinner at a fancy restaurant with our family or friends, perhaps on a special occasion. That seems to be the most logical answer.
But ask Terry Anderson about his most memorable meal. For those who don’t remember that name, Anderson was held captive for nearly six years in Lebanon by Hezbollah, an Islamic militant group. While held prisoner inside a dark room most of the time, he was fed a horrible diet. Anderson lost a third of his body weight while being a hostage.
When Anderson was finally set free, he was flown to a U.S.A.F. base in Germany, while in transit back to the United States. At the time he landed, Anderson had not enjoyed what we would call a “normal meal” in six years.
Anderson was led into a cafeteria. A chef was summoned to cook whatever Anderson wanted. Imagine what that instant must have been like for him. Think of being denied what you enjoy most. What would you demand in that situation? What would you hungry for the most? Can anyone even contemplate making such a decision, unless you’ve lived through that kind of hell for six long years?
Even so — what do you think Anderson ordered? Go ahead, take a wild guess.
I’ll return to this question (and answer) at the end of today’s article.