Archive for August, 2007

August 28, 2007

Whoa. Chris Twomey, editor of is going to flog me. This is a blog I started to write back at the first of the month, and then the storm—remember the storm, August 9th. How awful for so many people-power outages, flooded basements.Trees falling on houses.

Folks in Millvale suffered so much, once again, but there was a lot of damage in many areas of Western Pennsylvania– and never enough financial support from governmental entities, it seems. For some reason, even though many homes around me lost power for days, my street never lost it for more than a couple of minutes. But the lightning strikes fried my Airport base station, despite its surge protector, and I couldn’t get on the Internet at home. Actually, the real reason is– I caused all my software to be corrupted, because when my computer froze momentarily, after the storm, I staretd pounding the keys at random, trying to get it to unfreeze, and I screwed it up royally. So I had to take it to the Apple store and leave it with them for several days. They had to wipe the hard drive clean, and re-install it. What an idiot I am. Anyway, I took a blog break, because I rarely have time to write these at work. Not that I do that much work–don’t want to leave that impression. I admit, I also used the break to focus on the new dog I have acquired. I had to put down my very special friend, Quino, about two months ago, and this dog replaced him. HIs name is Noris, and he is a hoot and a handful, but that is another story. Too handsome for his own good.

But, now, to return to the blog I was working on, a week or so after I interviewed Troy Polamalu. Fitting I should return to it now, because I am sitting in my office, after rehearsals for our new set, watching the game, and Troy just had a nice play in the first quarter. He is such a joy to watch and to interview. The best part comes after the camera stops down, and he asks me if I have time to talk. He is so cerebral, but in such a non-threatening, calming way. I walk away from these interviews, feeling like I have to change my life–his effect is that powerful. Wish I could carry around a bottle of “Troy” wisdom in my pocket. It is a Zen-like focus, combined with a Christian faith that is rock solid, but theologically complex, at times.

This is a photo of Max Starks, offensive tackle for the Steelers, and Troy . This was way back in June, at the Bill and Kaye Cowher Sports Clinic for Family Resources Retreat Center. The Cowhers had donated land for athletic areas for kids who are served by FR- the center that works to prevent and treat child abuse, and strengthen families. They have been a favorite charity of the Cowhers for years. Max and Troy were part of a group of players who came out to help with the clinic. I took the picture of the guys as they headed down to the field. It is the only photo I have of him, since I keep forgetting to bring my camera to these interviews and events, and I also forget there is a camera on my phone. Michelle Wright is much better at the picture aspect of these blogs. Troy made a pilgrimage to Greece in April, and talked about during the interview. Fascinating, because they went to some very ancient sites that were part of the beginning of the Orthodox Church. He is also studying Greek. I later talked to his wife, Theodora, who was gracious enough to offer to take me to a very special monastery in the area. Full of history. How can you live in an area, and miss such historical, ethnic and religious gems? We just get so involved with the insignificant, and the pointless.
Like taping soap operas and watching them in fast forward. I am ashamed to say I do it, and I have to stop. It is like drinking diet pop…Addictive, but it makes you sick. I am happy to be back blogging, though. I have actually come to enjoy it as another form of reporting. Exercising these writing muscles is a good thing…I must admit, I am beginning to re-think my ambivalence about certain aspects of the blog culture.


August 2, 2007

I know. I seem obsessed with elephants. There are worse obsessions, I suppose. (I am sure I have many of them). But ellies were the hit of Summer Safari, along with the polar bears Koda and Nuka. Carnivore keeper Mark McDonough was on hand to keep the guys entertained, so they would be entertaining for the crowd. Then there are the primates, the wild dogs(they were asleep),the tiger cubs, the ostrich, etc, etc, etc. Can’t choose.

But my friend, Kristen Kurland took all her pictures of the elephants, and we just happened to get this show of some of the magic that is Elephant Manager, Willie Theison.

It goes without saying that there is something magic about elephants. But check out the internet and google Theison. You will find that the late Fred Rogers mentions Willie in a commencement address Fred Rogers gave at Middlebury College. Fred used Willie as an example of someone who loves what he does, and does it with passion.

That was clear to a host of fans at Summer Safari, where over 2000 people walked the zoo, ate, drank, danced, and had a fabulous time. The dress is more casual than the Zoo Gala, and the demographic was all over the board.

Geoff Kurland, Kristen’s husband, remarked that he couldn’t understand why young people said there was nothing to do in Pittsburgh. Geoff is a pediatric pulmonologist at Children’s Hospital, and Kristen is a professor at CMU and was voted teacher of the year in 2005 at the Heinz School of Public Policy. Geoff has been in remission from a rare form of leukemia for over 18 years, and has written a remarkable book about being a doctor who had to become a patient. “My Own Medicine” is truly inspirational. The couple to my right, are friends of the Kurlands. Chuck Fitz is a radiologist at Children’s and his wife, Anna, is an administrator there. None of them had ever been to a zoo party, and they had a ball. With just a little effort, you can squint your eyes and pretend you are in Africa, or Churchill, Manitoba. And it’s a lot cheaper.

Kristen even got some pictures of the group of us who did the elephant training piece on WTAE. Willie, Joe Galvanek, the young elephant keeper who got married Friday the 13th, and his new wife, Libby, the vet tech to whom he proposed on the ear of an elephant.
Again, thanks to Dr.Barbara Baker and Emily Beyer.And all the staff. Emily is the driving force behind the event, and it came off without a hitch. SOLD OUT!! And a personal thanks to Tracy and Connie, and Sarah Poweska, who helped me out.

The woman with the birds on her hand in this picture, Erin Estell, was also there with a group of trainers from the National Aviary. Visiting the lorikeets at the Aviary was another highlight of the last couple of months. There is nothing like having a lorie stick his tongue in your ear. Those tongues are used to get nectar out of flowers, and it was a very strange sensation. Then he started nibbling on my earrings, while the lorikeets, which are smaller than the lorie, are climbing all over you hands eating the nectar in the cup. The story was a preview of the opening of the interactive exhibit that debuted the first week of July. It is a grand idea, a riotous experience of color, sound, and strange feelings. When the birds walk on your head, it feels a little like a massage you get at the hair stylist. But the hair stylist doesn’t poop on your head. At least, I hope not… When I got back to the station, one of the interns was afraid to tell me I had poop in my hair. So what? It was worth it.