Friday, August 31, 2007


On Tuesday night, I officially moved out of my McDonald apartment -- my pad since April, 2001. I lived there longer than any other place in my life.

Above is a picture of the bare mantle in my old living room taken just before I left the apartment for the last time. (Thanks to Ed for the pic, and for helping me with the final few hours of the move.)

The mantle was one of the nicest features in the apartment, which is one one quarter of that old house (built at least before 1893) on West Lincoln Avenue. Around the mantle were held parties and political meetings alike.

I pray that the future inhabitants of Apt. #4 will know great joy and peace. May it be the home for you that it was for me.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Funny Offensive

Monday, while I was still back in PA, we caught "Superbad" during $5 night at the SouthSide Works Cinema. The 10:05 p.m. show (one of two at that time that sold out) was packed with college-aged young people.

It was a great crowd with which to see this Judd Apatow/Seth Rogan & crew production (who also brought us "Knocked Up" earlier this summer.)

The obligatory disclaimer: This is a bad, bad, bad movie. It's raunchy, vulgar, inappropriate and offensive on all kinds of levels. It's got violence, drug use, underage drinking, premarital sex and other morally offensive themes -- earning it a very deserving "O" rating from the USCCB and a skeptical look from Katie over at Waldie's World.

BUT, it's also probably the funniest and most entertaining movie I've seen all year. Michael Cera and Jonah Hill (pictured in the movie poster) are very good as the high school friends trying to well ... you know.

Keep the kids away from this movie. Adults with a sense of humor -- check it out.

Leaven in the World

Rocco Palmo has written a moving tribute at whispersintheloggia for a friend and teacher who died suddenly following a tragic accident. Men and women like this are why many of us remain Catholics even in the hardest of times.

From Rocco's post:

Two weeks short of his 58th birthday, Dan Parrillo was big in body, but even bigger in heart – and until his last breath, his Lord and his church were the great love of his life, the spring from which all the rest flowed.

To have this example in my life through my formative years is one of the greatest gifts I’ll ever receive, and I can honestly say that, if there weren’t a Danny in my life, there wouldn’t be a Whispers, either. From the stories he told, the larger-than-life presence he brought to them, to his spirit of prayer, his contagious joy, warmth, oft-biting humor (but with the palpable undercurrent of affection always evident) and, most of all, his commitment to the good people he served, always with great love, and often at great sacrifice. All of it, and experiencing it all at close range for a decade and more, became my master-course in the art of churchmanship and what, at its sincerest, most exemplary core, it means to be a believer, to be a Catholic, to be a leaven in the world, and that taking on the work can only begin it by living it out oneself.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


In true Sunday in Pittsburgh fashion, after that 6 p.m. Mass at St. Paul's, it was time for some football.

It was my luck that the Steelers (now in their 75th Season) were playing a Sunday night home game at The Mustard Palace. I'm happy to report we were able to score some tickets and were there in person to see the Black and Gold beat the Philadelphia Eagles 27-13. Here's a shot from the game (from the Steelers Website):

And a camera phone field shot:

Note to self: Look for Steelers bars in NYC.

The Narrow Gate

On Sunday, the drive back to Pennsylvania from Detroit/Toledo was too long for me to make Mass at St. Alphonsus in McDonald so I went directly to the 6 p.m. Mass at St. Paul's Cathedral in Oakland.

The cathedral looked beautiful from my vantage point in front of the Blessed Sacrament Chapel (pictured above). You certainly can see the results of the restoration campaign. And, in addition to the superficial beauty -- the cathedral also was filled with college students returning for the new semester at Pitt and CMU.

The Gospel at Mass was a good one for those beginning something new: Christ's teaching to "strive to enter through the narrow gate" -- to do things that are right and good, even if not necessarily popular.
Jesus passed through towns and villages, teaching as he went and making his way to Jerusalem.

Someone asked him,“Lord, will only a few people be saved?”

He answered them,“Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough. After the master of the house has arisen and locked the door, then will you stand outside knocking and saying, ‘Lord, open the door for us.’ He will say to you in reply, ‘I do not know where you are from. And you will say, ‘We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.’ Then he will say to you, ‘I do not know where you are from. Depart from me, all you evildoers!’ And there will be wailing and grinding of teeth when you see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God and you yourselves cast out. And people will come from the east and the west and from the north and the south and will recline at table in the kingdom of God. For behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”

Monday, August 27, 2007

Vince & Klinger

This weekend, I was in Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, for Vince Guerreri's bachelor party. The festivities (which also celebrated Scoop's 30th Birthday) began with dinner at The Keg on Windsor's Riverside Drive and included a visit to the Beer Market.

On the return trip today, we had an excellent lunch at the original Tony Packo's in Toledo, Ohio. It's the hot dog joint Klinger recommends in M*A*S*H. The dogs were delicious -- maybe even better than Shorty's in WashPA.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Late-life Friendship

John Allen's new column over at NCR is a good one -- the story of a late-life friendship between a bishop and an atheist.

The column mentions the dome of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore (Florence, Italy). Here's a visual:

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

A Bicentennial Approaches in WashPA

Congrats to the Observer-Reporter. WashPA's daily has officially entered its 200th Year.

Go here to read a history of the paper. From the O-R Website, below is what 122-126 South Main Street looked like once upon a time:

On Their Way

Earlier this month, Michael Glabicki, the front man of Pittsburgh's own Rusted Root, played a solo gig here in New York. I'm sorry to say I missed the show.

But, in honor of the occasion, above is a very good YouTube spoof of Rusted Root's biggest hit "Send Me On My Way". (I'm guessing these talented folks are on an Aircraft Carrier.)

I saw this clip today after checking out another sent to me from by cousin, Casey Braunstein Colby, from where she and her family live in Germany. It's of the first solo bike ride by her son, Pierce. Way to go, Pierce! Keep riding!

Sunday, August 19, 2007


The Gospel at Mass today was not comforting.

From Luke Chapter 12:

Jesus said to his disciples:

“I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing! There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished! Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. From now on a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three; a father will be divided against his son and a son against his father, a mother against her daughter and a daughter against her mother, a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”

Saturday, August 18, 2007


Last night, we wanted to see "Superbad," the raunchy comedy getting all the good buzz. But, all the convenient show times at the all convenient movie theaters were sold out.

So, we opted instead for "Stardust," the romance-adventure-fantasy flick starring Michelle Pfeiffer, Claire Danes and Robert DeNiro. Check out the movie's wikipedia site for a plot synopsis that's too complicated to go into here.

I found "Stardust" enjoyable to watch -- it was worth the $11. I was genuinely rooting for the main characters.

But, it was lacking in the texture and nuance of "The Lord of the Rings" movies and others of the genre. It just seemed too "Hollywood." In fact, I wonder if it wouldn't have been a better movie without all of the big name faces distracting from the story.

The movie was based on the novella of the same name. But, I can't help think that both would have been better titled "The Wall."

Friday, August 17, 2007

Ode to an E-Mail Account

A few days ago, I ended one of the longest relationships of my life.

Yes, it's true -- I broke up with my Internet Service Provider.

So, after nine years and a month, my longtime e-mail address is no more. I first acquired the account when I worked at the Observer-Reporter, the daily newspaper for Pennsylvania's Washington and Greene counties. The O-R's parent company owned Cobweb back in those caveman days of the Internet and employees got a discount.

In the spirit of supporting a local business, I kept the account all these years -- even after the Observer Publishing Co. sold Cobweb to Winbeam.

The account saw me through three State House races, more than five years on McDonald Council and several different jobs. It's a relationship pattern I've replicated with no other tech company -- I've probably had six or more cell phones in the same period of time.

But, alas, Cobweb-Winbeam does not service my new locale. And, wifi has become my new medium of choice.

Farewell, You served me well.

All correspondence may now be addressed to my other steady -- hotmail.

The Spy Who Lived

In time for the weekend, I thought I would share some quick movie thoughts:

Last Sunday, we caught "The Bourne Ultimatum."

It might be one of the better action movies I've seen in awhile -- and I was able to follow it despite having not seen the first two installments of the "Bourne" series.

Matt Damon did a credible job portraying the CIA hitman gone straight.

I enjoyed seeing Albert Finney on screen again ("Murder on the Orient Express" is a favorite). Joan Allen stole each of her scenes. And, Julia Stiles and David Strathairn also were fun to watch.

After "Bourne," we had a chance to see "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" (a second time for me, I guess I should admit).

I thought this latest movie of the "Harry Potter" franchise was well-done and a fair retelling of the Book No. 5 -- which was sometimes a difficult read due to the moodiness of the teenage Harry. I also liked the score by Nicholas Hooper.

I hope a future director's cut inserts a few elements from the book that didn't make it onto screen.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Happy Birthday, Betty!

Today is the 85th birthday of Betty Brodmerkel of Frankfort Springs Borough, a good friend and one of the great supporters of my State House races.

Each cycle, she collected more signatures for my nominating petitions than any other single individual except myself. That's in addition to the many, many hours of fundraising, networking and door-to-door campaigning she did on my behalf (along with the rest of our wonderful crew of supporters from southern Beaver County).

In addition to often supporting political candidates, Betty is an active volunteer for other community groups, including the Southside Historical Village Association. Currently, she's also at work on a book about the history of Frankfort Springs and Hanover Township, Beaver County.

Today, when I called Betty to wish her a happy birthday, she reminded me that she, too, once lived in New York City. For a few years during WWII, she worked at the Army Exchange in Manhattan and lived in Queens.

Happy Birthday, Betty! May God bless you and all you do!

Endings & Beginnings

Amelia Soisson wrote a piece for the latest edition of PA Focus on the end of my tenure on McDonald Council.

In the same edition, Amelia has a feature on Joyce Hill's new resale shop on East Lincoln Avenue in McDonald (in the retail space once occupied by the Record-Outlook). Joyce is one of my mother's oldest friends and the sister of my Aunt Patty.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Country Fried Machismo

You know things are bad for the Republican Party when NASCAR embraces a Democrat.

In his article, NYT reporter Danny Hakim refers to NASCAR as "possibly the vehicle for the nation’s most overt display of country fried machismo."

An Inexhaustible Treasure

I was home in PA this past weekend to attend the wedding of my cousin, Mary Ellen Snatchko, to Dan Ketterer. The wedding took place at the Mayernick Center (pictured), a beautiful "log hall" at Avonworth Community Park.

We're all incredibly proud of the bride -- for the nuptials and more. Mary Ellen recently took on a new leadership role in hearing services at Pressley Ridge.

The Gospel at Mass on Sunday had a message that would be appropriate for newlyweds. In it, Christ calls us to have no fear and seek a real "treasure."

From Luke Chapter 12:

Jesus said to his disciples:

Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your belongings and give alms. Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven that no thief can reach nor moth destroy. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.

“Gird your loins and light your lamps and be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding, ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival. Amen, I say to you, he will gird himself, have them recline at table, and proceed to wait on them. And should he come in the second or third watch and find them prepared in this way, blessed are those servants. Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour when the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”

Then Peter said, “Lord, is this parable meant for us or for everyone?”

And the Lord replied:

“Who, then, is the faithful and prudent steward whom the master will put in charge of his servants to distribute the food allowance at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master on arrival finds doing so. Truly, I say to you, the master will put the servant in charge of all his property. But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the menservants and the maidservants, to eat and drink and get drunk, then that servant’s master will come on an unexpected day and at an unknown hour and will punish the servant severely and assign him a place with the unfaithful. That servant who knew his master’s will but did not make preparations nor act in accord with his will shall be beaten severely; and the servant who was ignorant of his master’s will but acted in a way deserving of a severe beatings hall be beaten only lightly. Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.”

Friday, August 10, 2007

Homer & Jim

This week, we saw "The Simpsons Movie." I liked it. The reviews are all pretty much on target -- it's not a blow out but is solid and funny.

We made certain to stay in the movie theater until the very end of the credits to catch any extra moments (and there were a few).

But, staying for the credits also let me see that an old NYU friend, Jim Dooley, provided some of the music for the film.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Five Brothers

I don't consider myself to be a Mitt Romney fan. He just seems to be too plastic -- and I'm skeptical about the evolution of his pro-life stand. But, I have to say, I think his campaign blog is very well done.

It's mostly written by his sons: Five Brothers: The Romney Campaign Blog.

Showing the day-by-day of the presidential primary run largely through the eyes of the Romney brothers is an interesting concept. They do an especially good job using the photos of the day like this one:

I'd bet serious money one of these guys runs for Congress before too long.

I was reminded of the Romney brothers by yesterday's dust-up from a question to Governor Romney over the fact that none of his sons have served in the military (vis-a-vis his support for the Iraq War).

RE the blogs of GOP presidential contenders, John McCain's blog is boring. Hardly any pics at all.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007


I'm writing tonight from the Starbucks at Union Square West and 17th Street in New York City. But, this post has nothing to do with all the slick urbanites chatting around me, the salsa beat playing in the background or anything else relative to the metropolis in which I sit.

No, my thoughts are on McDonald -- the little town of about 2,000 souls that's nestled in a quiet valley on a county line in Southwestern Pennsylvania. Specifically, I'm recalling McDonald about the time I grew up there in the 1980s.

For four or five years when I was a kid, my mother, brother, sister and I lived in the second floor apartment of the little yellow metal-siding house at 113 Grant Ave. in McDonald.

It wasn't a bad spot. It was close enough for us to walk to school. We attended McDonald Elementary in those last years before the consolidation of the school district's elementary schools. Back then, that block had lots of kids who were often outside playing or going to the library that was just down the street in the old borough building.

I loved the library. In the summer, I was there nearly every day attempting to be the No. 1 reader in the Summer Book Club (which I never did achieve, always coming in second).

Sometimes the librarians showed movies in the council chambers at the borough building. I don't remember what the movies were but I do distinctly remember the little bags of popcorn we were given. Some of the kids even got to sit in the big old chairs used by the council members.

Of the little apartment we lived in, I especially remember the view from the window in the bathroom at the back of the house. From that window, you could see the spires of the old European-style buildings at McDonald's one red-light intersection. It was such a cool view, especially on cold winter mornings when the snow covered all the rooftops. For a week each July, through that open window, you also could hear the sounds of the volunteer fire department's street fair just a few blocks away.

All these memories came back on Monday evening as I walked through that same intersection. I was walking from my apartment on West Lincoln Avenue to the borough council meeting in the (relatively) new council chambers in the (relatively) new borough offices on School Street. I wondered what that boy back in the late '80s would think of the 31-year-old today.

At Monday evening's meeting, I submitted a letter to my fellow council members resigning my seat about a year and a half prior to the end of my four-year term. It was not something I did lightly. Almost five months since beginning my new job in New York, I have stayed on council, flying home for each of the monthly meetings. But, as I'm closing up my McDonald apartment at the end of the month, I soon will no longer meet the residency criteria to serve.

I was a member of McDonald Council for some five years (cumulative in two different terms). I was grateful to have had the opportunity -- it was a source of personal growth and I think my colleagues and I were able to accomplish goals over those years that strengthened the town and made it a better place to live. I am certain that growth is going to continue, too.

As most readers of this blog will know, I made three attempts to represent McDonald and several other local communities as a state representative. (You can call me "Mr. 46 Percent.") In fact, on that walk to the council meeting, I also strolled past the location of my 2006 campaign headquarters in the old G.C. Murphy's 5 & 10. Had some 1,700 Canton Township or Chartiers Township residents thought differently, it might have been the district office of a state rep.

With the help of prayer, time and (yes) distance, I have begun to accept the reality that this goal is not likely a part of my future -- especially as come September 1, I will be a resident of New York State.

But, I don't think I will ever lose my interest in Pennsylvania politics.

And, I know I will never stop loving McDonald.

That little town -- complete with St. Alphonsus Church, the library, the parks, the Fort Cherry Schools and so many good family members and friends -- nurtured me and helped to develop the man I am today.

On my travels through life's quiet valleys and urban canyons, I pray that I will do you proud.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

En Route

I am writing this from the small airport in Wichita, Kansas, while waiting for the first of two flights that (hopefully) will bring me home tonight. I'm en route to Chicago for a flight to Pittsburgh. I'll be home in Western PA for just about a day to attend tomorrow evening's McDonald Borough Council meeting.

The Midwest Catholic Family Conference here in Wichita was well organized with a solid turnout of about 1,500 folks. The featured speaker yesterday was Fr. Benedict Groeschel, C.F.R. Fr. Groeschel (pictured) is one of those great old curmudgeons who tell it like it is -- blunt and maybe a bit jaded but always displaying humor and love.

I attended the conference's large Sunday Mass today at the Century II Center. It was celebrated by Bishop Michael O. Jackels. (Bishop Jackels is notable as the last bishop to have been appointed by JPII.)

The Gospel at Mass was Jesus' parable that cautioned to not stockpile wealth and instead seek to be "rich in what matters to God."

From Luke Chapter 12:

Someone in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, tell my brother to share the inheritance with me.”

He replied to him, “Friend, who appointed me as your judge and arbitrator?”

Then he said to the crowd, “Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.”

Then he told them a parable:

“There was a rich man whose land produced a bountiful harvest. He asked himself, ‘What shall I do, for I do not have space to store my harvest?’ And he said, ‘This is what I shall do: I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones. There I shall store all my grain and other goods and I shall say to myself, “Now as for you, you have so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat, drink, be merry!”’ But God said to him, ‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’ Thus will it be for all who store up treasure for themselves but are not rich in what matters to God.”

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Kansas City

For three days this week, I was in Kansas City, Missouri, where we were exhibitors at the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. It was my first-ever visit to "The Show Me State." The conference was attended by approximately 700 leaders of the 60,000-plus Catholic sisters in the United States.

Last night, we had dinner in the city's beautiful old Union Station (pictured above and at right). I'm a sucker for old train stations -- especially ones with such amazing ceilings and other ornamentation.

Being in Kansas City and the old train station put me in mind of the song "Kansas City" from the Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein show "Oklahoma!" You know the song -- when Curly sings of "the skyscraper seven stories high" and states "they've gone about as fur as they can go."

Earlier today, we left Kansas City and drove about three hours southwest to Wichita, Kansas, for the 8th Annual Midwest Catholic Family Conference where we also are exhibitors. This is my first visit to Kansas, too. I'll be here through Sunday.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007


The New York Times did an old-fashioned stake-out to catch NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg being something of a hypocrite.