Archive for November, 2006

November 22, 2006

What is it about polar bears? When the Pittsburgh Zoo closed the polar bear exhibit, there was a minor outcry..Well, Wednesdsay, November 22nd they are officially back, and THEY ARE AMAZING! Monday, I joined some other board members for a behind the scenes tour of the new exhibit, that will eventually include sea otters and walruses. We were all clapping our hands and acting like a bunch of kids..and the big furry kids were endlessly amusing. This picture was taken by one of the guys from inside the tunnel. The tunnel won’t be open until April, and when it is, the question will be, “How do we get people to leave it?” The bear brothers are having a ball. They are just two years old, and weigh in at about five to six hundred pounds, and will eventually mature at over 1000 pounds. The largest land predator!

When we walked into the tunnel, the bear in the water swam down toward us. put his mammoth paws on the acrylic window, and touched his big, black nose to it. Children will just love this experience.

For those of you who are ambivalent about the role of zoos in society, ( and I admit, most of us are, at times), the exhibit is getting raves from researchers and behaviorists. It is highly educational, there is a lot to simulate situations that would occur in the wild, and the bears have loads of outlets for stimulation.
They look so adorable, and yet, they are one of the most efficient, dominant predators in the world. What they do best is hunt.

And switching gears, or gettting on another horse, so to speak—-talk about amazing. I still can not get over what a gifted athlete, and great guy Mel Blount is. Doing the interview with him at the Mel Blount Youth Home in Washington County was delightful, if not exhausting. I am used to riding English-style, but Western riding, especially workng cutting horses, takes a whole different skill set, and a whole lot of leg. And balance. I could hardly breathe when we were finished. Mel had sweat pouring off his head. What is so impressive is that his upper body never moved as the horse whipped back and forth, laterally. And I didn’t have time to explain this in the story, but he is operating the mechanical cow with a remote on his finger, while he is riding. I can’t even look in the mirror and put the brush in the right place when I blow dry my hair!

A big “thank you” to his wife Tianda, who set this all up, and is an integral part of making the Youth Home work. They truly love what they do, and it is so firmly rooted in their faith. It is not an easy life, and you have to give them credit for choosing this path. I know it sounds corny and cliched, but it is a calling.

Also a special thanks to Max Starks and his mother, Eleanor. She is a hoot, the kind of woman you’d love to go out to a movie with, and a champion in the fight against breast cancer. Max is out there working the charity circuit constantly..but in the interview, he and she said he never lets it interfere with the job of football. She says he has the time, because he doesn’t have a wife and children yet. And she’s okay with that..He is still young..and very hansome, I might add.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you. And remembering all those who spend their lives helping those who are less fortunate. Thank God for them.


November 18, 2006

Happy Holidays!!!!! Mike Clark and I helped flick the switch on Light Up Night Friday night, along with a young contest winner, who didn’t know what she wants for Christmas. She was so pretty, but nervous. Refreshing, in this age of non-stop advertising, that a child doesn’t know what she wants from Santa.
MIke is so funny. The podium was too big for her, so he lifted her up (and she was not small) and rested her feet on the shelf of the podium. I was waiting for it all to fall over. Then, I think I said “Let’s switch the flick!” instead of “Let’s flick the switch.” Then I tried again, and kept screwing it up..Please, give me a brain!!!!!!!
There were thousands filling Liberty Avenue–Some of the Zambelli “fireworks” family were there for the show.
We were so close, you could not only see them,you could feel them. The city was gorgeous. And Mayor Luke and Erin were there. She is becoming more and more comfortable in her role as Mayoral First Lady, and is really an asset for him. Gracious, beautiful. And truly genuine.

Talk about genuine — and different: Troy Polamalu. I cry a lot now (it’s something that happens to women my age) and he always says something that makes me cry. Last time, it was when he explained why this was now his “home.” His first real home. In this last interview, it was an eloquent characterization of the people of Western Pennsylvania. I thought of it as we looked out at all those faces on Light Up Night—at least half of them decked out in Steeler scraves, hats and jackets. The length of the TV interview I did precluded runninng his entire answer. But he admires, and identifies with the stalwart, solid, and persevering soul of the “blue collar” face of this region. And trust me, Troy doesn’t say things for their PR value. He hates being interviewed, although he is gracious to a fault. Let’s hope he doesn’t push himself to come back from that concussion too soon. Oh, and that scene where I was laughing. He was talking about his wife’s comments about his play after a game.

Have you checked out the Aviary on the North Side recently? This adorable guy is “Franklin,” as in Benjamin. He is only two months old, hatched at the Aviary, and is a Spectacled Owl. The trainers had to take the egg, because the parents didn’t know what to do with the last one, and they lost it..Have you seen anything so cute? The trainer says owls are great hunters, but not very smart. So much of their brain is taken up with their incredible sight.

And the young man with me was Alex, the son of a friend of mine. He is only eight, and is fascinated with birds. The first time I met him, he started jumping up and down talking about how he loved “chicks.” I thought he was a little young to be talking about girls that way, and his mother said he was talking about baby chicks..The bird kind. She told me the teacher had called her and asked her to try to get him to stop talking about baby chicks.. He knows all about parrots, and so we spent last Saturday at the Aviary. They have group feedings, where visitors can hold up worms and fish into the air, and the birds swoop down and take it from you..You gotta try it..Cool. Also, Alex’s mother works with, and is good friends with Erin Ravenstahl. Six degrees, huh??

Finally…GO BLUE!!!!! and thoughts and prayers for Coach Bo Schembechler. I was at U of M in the mid-70’s and loved that OSU-MICH rivalry he helped to create. It was a great time.

November 13, 2006

I am a horrible blogger. My apologies for not updating this, but the technology of putting pictures in here is daunting, and I procrastinate –kinda like a paper–Remember pulling an all nighter because you just couldn’t bring yourself to start.
Talk about a start. HOW ‘BOUT THEM STEELERS. I know . It is only one win. But it could be the start to salvaging a season. A costly win for Troy. I interviewed him the end of last week, for a piece this week, and he was practicing so hard. I am sure his wife,Theodora was terrified watching Dr. Maroon talking to him on the sideline. They are such a fabulous couple, both very strong personalities. More on that after the piece runs.
Last week, a bunch of us had a raucous, good time cooking Japanese steakhouse-style food for the generous souls willing to eat it at Nakama. It was all for Cystic Fibrosis. Several of the CF kids were there, and their families..and some of the Steelers showed up to help out–the day after that ugly loss to Denver. Initially, it was only Jeff Reed, who came with his parents from North Carolina…and he was, well, low-key–polite, but not effusive. Then Hines, Clark Haggans, Ryan
Clark, and Desea Townsend all arrived to cook, and the guests who had bought the tables were elated. Mike Clark, Wendy and I were there, and there were a lot of other sports and news personalities, as well as former Steelers, and Pitt basketball coaches Jamie Dixon and Agnes Beranato. That’s Agnes and Jamie with us, and the other guy is Ron Coder, a former NFL player , Nittany Lion, and current Christian counselor for athletes at Pitt. I cooked with Hines and Clark, we all made a mess, and I dropped butter all over Clark’s shirt. Accidentally, of course.
Clark also brought his mother, (She is not in the picture. Those folks with us are former Steeler Craig Bingham and WAMO’s Kiki), a veterinarian from California. She is fascinating, having gone to vet school when very few women were accepted. She told me she had wanted to be an equine vet, but back then, women couldn’t break into it. Today, I think there are more women in vet schools then men.
Speaking of vets, I had to take my dog to the Emergency Veterinary Clinic, Saturday night. He had back surgery just over two weeks ago, and he decided to leap out of my SUV(instead of waiting for me to lift him out) when he spotted a dog buddy. Within 5 minutes he was unable to walk, and I freaked. They are great at that place(it is where rescuers took the cat shot with an arrow)..I was wailing like an idiot when I brought him in, saying it was all my fault. Actually, it was. The vet techs were so compassionate. As were the other pet owners. Waiting rooms are tremendous stress relievers. Sharing spots–and the calming effect is the same, whether you are panicked over your child, your parent—even your dog.
By the way, he is walking today– a little wobbly, but walking, nonetheless.

November 1, 2006

Thank goodness for Tom Brady. I actually beat the Mayor in our Fantasy match-up this week..But I do have to thank Trib sports guru, Jerry DiPaolo, for drafting him–and my initial team–in my stead(I was warned not to let the computer do it..I “had to” play in a charity golf tournament). I promise, I won’t bring up Fantasy Football in every blog. It’s just so exciting.

Steelers. Offensive lines. They are such interesting players to interview and when they play well, they often go unnoticed. But when they don’t click, tongues wag. A lot. Call me eternally optimistic, but I believe they will be back on track this week-end against Denver. Max Starks’ mother told me recently that when Ben gets sacked or is pressured, she is pretty tough on her son about doing a better job the next time.. And I know she is in town this week. What a courageous lady–a breast cancer survivor, and Chunky Soup football mom.

Back in town this past week-end, another great football mom. This is Gladys Bettis in the photo with her husband, John, and their friends from Detroit, Debra and Toni. Gladys was here for Good Taste Pittsburgh, cooking Sweet Potato Pie. Yummy, Yummy. She sometimes calls me Maggie, and since my mother was a Margaret, who didn’t want to be a Maggie, we laugh about it. Life for her and John continues to be a whirlwind. Meeting Tiger Woods, flying to the Winter Olympics, watching their son start a new job–on network TV. Gladys said when Jerome made his pronouncement about Cowher leaving after this year, she was shocked. She said she wondered, “Where did he get that?” She was a great cook on stage–and she admits she would love to do a cooking show!!!

Talk about another great lady inextricably linked to football. Pat Rooney came out once again for the Allegheny’s Promise Youth Summit. The Steelers have been very generous to the organization that encourages young people to volunteer to help other, less fortunate children . Heinz Field was once again the site for the event. Allegheny’s Promise is part of Colin Powell’s America’s Promise, and is located at Robert Morris University. By the way, Mrs. Rooney has been teaching there for years. I was honored to emcee again, and the speakers were inspirational, while coming at the kids from very different perspectives–Former Steeler Craig Wolfley was a hoot, talking about flattening Former Jet and reknowned Bad Boy, Mark Gastineau. On the football field, of course. County Executive Dan Onorato was there, and Mayor Ravenstahl told the high school kids that he went to several different colleges before he knew what he really wanted to do.Think about it—he is not much older than his audience. The Mayor paused for this photo after a young university student, Erica, interviewed him about Allegheny’s Promise and the importance of volunteering.

It is a delight to see all these teenagers, getting deeply involved in their community. We can only hope that they choose to stay here, and that there are the jobs to attract them—because, looking at the Mayor, with the West End Bridge towering in the background, and the hills behind—-it made you appreciate how special this region is.