Friday, July 22, 2016


There are no words to describe my jag-u-ar ride, but let me describe a bit of the St. Joe festival for you. Johnny and the Halos had been around for decades, a low rent Sha Na Na, except they focus more on the doo wop scheme of things. Doo wop made huge inroads in Pittsburgh, and my old man can tell you about trying to find the perfect spot in the high school staircase to get just the right acoustics to practice the hits of the day with his pals. (EDITOR'S NOTE--don't let Brad's dad fool you, he was trying to find the perfect spot under the staircase to look up girls' dresses!) Johnny and the gang gave up the leather jackets some time back since they are all so overweight they'd sweat too much on stage, but they still comb whatever hair hey have left into a ducktail. They flirt with the post-menopausal women between songs and make jokes about how times have changed while throwing in references to long gone Pittsburgh icons.

Chipped ham is still around though, and it will always be worshiped as much as anything inside old St. Joe's. In a courtyard outside is a small statue of the Virgin Mary. I pass it on my way to work, and at that early hour there is no one around. Pilgrims leave coins at the base of the statue after mass, and I gather them up and use them to buy fruit pies when I am on a break at work. I think of Mike Hudson reciting "Oh Mary, conceived without sin..." from some prayer of my youth on the Styrenes' WE CARE SO YOU DON'T HAVE TO LP.

My favorite game at the festival is the dice wheel. The Catholic Church has a long list of "no no's" but apparently letting an eleven-year-old gamble is OK as long as it benefits their coffers. I used to get a great charge elbowing in amongst the older players, dropping my quarter on the number I'd chosen and waiting for the bored volunteer to listlessly spin the wheel. Every year you'd be up a little, then down a little, then you'd lose it all. A very sad outcome, because that meant I had no money for the latest issue of WHERE MONSTERS DWELL. And I knew that one day the scantily clad buxom woman on the front cover would actually appear in the feature story inside.

In the rectory of the church they serve wine and beer, and Father Flanagan would always make an appearance and ask for some "fruit juice" which of course was a not-so-subtle reference for wine, and he'd wink at the men getting a break from their wives down there so they'd get that father was just a regular guy who liked a drink. They'd all laugh and yell "How you doin' Father?" too loudly. Actually I don't know if that actually happened but I wrote that exact account in a short piece of fiction because it seemed like it would have to happen.

All of the food is pricey but usually just this side of fantastic, secret recipes jealously guarded for generations and all.

Groups of teenagers walk around staring at their phones. I wonder if there is an app that lets you play with virtual gasoline and set GI Joes on fire in the driveway when your parents are gone like Mark Reiser and I did when we were in Junior High long before there were phones to stare at. Once we made an eight millimeter home movie where we sacrificed his cute cousin Karen on a satanic altar which was an end table from the living room with the doilies removed. Mark's mother came home from working at the Jenny Lee bakery after we were done and had returned the Heinz ketchup (blood) to the refrigerator. She asked us what we had done while she was gone and Mark said the dog had farted so much we passed out. At the bakery the women wore all white uniforms like they were midwifing the birth of doughnuts. Mark's mother was the only one of my friends' mothers who bought Welsh Rarebit frozen entrees which seemed as exotic to me as having caribou in the freezer. She is in a nursing home now and so cannot attend the St. Joe festival but I think she was a Protestant anyway. Most blondes are. 

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