Pittsburgh

From the Archives: My Interview With Donora, PA’s Greatest Partridge Family Tribute Band

While digging through my storage space recently, I yanked some particularly Goodwillable sweaters out of an old trunk and underneath found a stained manila folder. Inside was something I thought I’d lost — the only known extant photocopy of my music newsletter from many, many years ago, “The Bird Stump.” It contains the final interview with one-man Partridge Family tribute band, In a Pear Tree. I’ve scanned in all four pages, below.

The Bird Stump by Seth Madej, pg. 1

OCD is the Same Everywhere, And You’re Never Alone

spiral_path_by_cernig-d45xrgnMy hometown newspaper the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is running a series of articles this week about obsessive-compulsive disorder. Today’s installment, about Pittsburgher and OCD sufferer Amy Iannuzzi-Tingley, will seem familiar to anyone who’s fought the disease. And that’s a great thing.

When people newly dealing with OCD contact me for support, they’re anxious, 1Duh. filled with worried questions, and afraid that their particular situation is viciously unique. But it never is. It’s always typical, so much so that I tell them I could cut and paste a response from dozens of emails I’ve written to other OCDers. In fact, I sometimes do.

That might sound dismissive and upsetting, but only if you don’t have OCD. If you do, you know how deeply comforting and important it is to learn that someone else has experienced the same thing  you’re experiencing and made it out the other side. Which is why I’m happy that there’s one particular sentiment that I most often cut and paste a response to. It goes like this, from actual emails I’ve received:

  • “You described so many symptoms that I’ve been experiencing for years and silently suffered through. It helped me so much to know that you’ve managed to control your OCD and live your life.”
  • “I suffer from similar symptoms. It is really comforting to know others have fought through this battle successfully.”
  • “Some of your descriptions match identically with feelings and thoughts I have. I was so glad to hear I am not the only person who suffers from this. “
  • “I’m in the same boat. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one.”
  • It was cathartic to reach out to someone and ‘hug them’ over the internet.”

I could cut-and-paste part Ms. Iannuzzi-Tingley’s story with parts of my own, or vice versa, and nobody would notice the changes. All of us with OCD start out feeling confused, afraid, and alone. But as soon as we realize we’re not alone, we stop being confused. Then it’s only a matter of time until we’re no longer afraid.

Read about my own experiences with debilitating OCD in my essay “My OCD.”

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1. Duh.

Karl Hendricks Has Cancer and Needs Your Help

In the Nineties, every indie-rock kid at WNYU-FM loved The Karl Hendricks Trio. I spent all my spare time there between classes at New York University, but it wasn’t until years later that I learned the band was from my hometown of Pittsburgh. It never would’ve occurred to me. The KHT seemed too cool to be from Pittsburgh. The only people who’d heard of them were people with interesting hair who listened to the bands no one had heard of, a hipness commendation rarely awarded to any musicians from southwestern Pennsylvania. But Karl and his guitar were from Pittsburgh — are from Pittsburgh, because he’s still there, pursuing his music in a way that lets him create what he wants while still living the family life he wants.

I mention his family because I can’t think about Karl without thinking about his family. I’m lucky enough to know Karl a little bit through our mutual friend, his bass player Corey Layman. 1Coincidentally, a few years ago I got to know the great Pittsburgh artist Wayno and even convinced him to draw some character designs for an animated pilot of mine. It wasn’t until later that I realized Wayno created the covers for the KHT’s most beloved albums. I’d always see the Hendricks clan at Layman-household get-togethers, so I don’t think of a Karl as a musician, but as a guy who loved being with his gregarious wife and two exceptionally bright daughters. 2I last lived in Pittsburgh six years ago, so he might have more now. I’d usually end up talking to his girls about books, and I’ll always remember the oldest giving me a trenchant summary of Twilight before I’d ever heard of it.

When you get to know enough successful artists — especially in cut-throat arenas like the music or TV industry — you eventually realize that the ones you like being around are the ones you don’t think of foremost as artists. The ones who are happy hanging out on the couch with family and friends and friends of friends, drinking a beer, talking about whatever. Because they’re the ones who haven’t sacrificed life and humanity for their art, and vice versa. They’re special. They’re good people. Like Karl.

Which is why it makes me sad to type that Karl Hendricks is being treated for oral cancer. From what I gather he’s doing well, but his medical bills are piling up and he and his family and the employees of the record store he runs could use some help.

Please make a donation of any amount via the widget on this post or via the GiveForward fundraising page to help Karl keep living his life.

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1. Coincidentally, a few years ago I got to know the great Pittsburgh artist Wayno and even convinced him to draw some character designs for an animated pilot of mine. It wasn’t until later that I realized Wayno created the covers for the KHT’s most beloved albums.
2. I last lived in Pittsburgh six years ago, so he might have more now.

Music for a Drunken Friday Evening

Recently Sophie and I have had a couple of chances to hang out with friends in bars, something that we rarely get to do on our unemployment austerity budget. That made me nostalgic for the days when hanging out in bars was part of our regular routine and we allowed ourselves luxuries like paying an extra $2 for a beer that had distinct flavors other than mammal spit. It made me particularly nostalgic for Friday nights at my favorite bar in Pittsburgh, Kelly’s.

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Music to Deliver Papers By

Aldo NovaFor decades, newspaper companies managed to subvert child labor laws by inveigling young adolescents into hauling their very heavy product from door to door. Young nitwits bought the papers from the publisher then sold and delivered them to their neighbors at a markup. As such they could be said to be operating a “business,” not just slaving at the dying remnant of a nineteenth-century distribution model.

In 1986-87, at the age of 12, I was one of those nitwits, working for The Pittsburgh Press. My “business” came complete with a goonish supervisor who would regularly forget to drop off my papers — leaving me to fend off phone calls from angry geriatric shut-ins demanding their box scores — and occasionally try to extort extra cash from me by disputing my accounting practices. 1I was timid and hated doing weekly “collections,” so to pay my bill I relied on the check from one 174-year-old subscriber who always gave me a three-month advance payment (which seemed like perplexing financial decision for someone who should’ve been happy every time he made it through a Metro section alive). It also came with surprisingly backbreaking labor. Pittsburgh’s a hilly town, so my house was at the bottom of a steep incline that was in turn at the bottom of two steeper inclines. And because I was in the last house on the block, all my customers were above me. On Sundays my paper bag was so heavy that I had to run shuttle: carry a bagful of papers to the top of the first hill, drop it off, deliver papers to half of the next hill, get more papers from the bag, deliver papers to the other half, go home and get another bagful, repeat. It took hours.

More precisely, it took three hours. To make those three hours bearable, I bought a TDK 180-minute blank cassette and made myself a mix tape for my Walkdude. 2Couldn’t afford a Walkman. For some reason I was suddenly reminded of that tape yesterday, and I decided to try and recreate the playlist. I used Spotify to do it, so sign up for a free account and you can listen along and relive the memories I’ve repressed.

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1. I was timid and hated doing weekly “collections,” so to pay my bill I relied on the check from one 174-year-old subscriber who always gave me a three-month advance payment (which seemed like perplexing financial decision for someone who should’ve been happy every time he made it through a Metro section alive).
2. Couldn’t afford a Walkman.

What NASA Doesn’t Want You to Know

Please check out Maggie Serota’s extremely enjoyable Daily Urban Legend for my latest contribution, exposing the horrible truth about NASA.

The Horrible, Horrible Reality

After you’ve clicked through, come back here, because I have another urban “legend” to share, this one from my personal past. I dared not let Maggie post it out of fear that people might think it untrue. It’s about “The Damian Grave:”

When I was growing up in Pittsburgh, a persistent myth circulated around a particular burial plot in Resurrection Cemetery called “the Damian Grave.” This tombstone, sitting atop a lonely hill, is carved from jet-black stone and engraved with an upside-down cross, the name Damian, and the epitaph, “This is not goodbye, just so long.” Legend had it that if anyone harmed or defiled that gravesite, terrible events would befall them. Everyone knew someone who knew someone who had been killed, or lost a leg, or God knows what else after they fucked with that grave….Continue Reading →

Crap, Did I Never Finish That Visa Story? I Forget How it Ends.

LAOh hi. What’s, uh, been up with you? I haven’t heard from you in a while. Seriously, would it kill you to update your blog occasionally?

So last I left you, Sophie and I were hunkered down in Pittsburgh, on a prolonged “break” from our trip, dealing with an unnamed medical condition and attempting to obtain visas to India. That was seven months ago. I then disappeared without a trace. This owing to events involving mercenaries, lithium, and a bloodless coup of a small Pacific nation, the details of which are largely uninteresting and overly technical to a casual reader. Nevertheless, I’ll relate them below. Though I insist that your clicking on the “more” link would simply be a waste of time that could be much better spent scouring something or enjoying a drinkable yogurt.

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