ROAD TRIP TO PITTSBURGH – Day Two – Crazy Ray and Josh Blue

Friday arrives and we get up at the crack of 9:15. We really don’t know what the fuck we’re going to do today. That’s actually the point however, to just sort of go with the flow. We decide to walk across the bridge for some breakfast and then to the Andy Warhol Museum. Oddly, we forget to stop for breakfast – since the museum is pretty much right there and there isn’t an IHOP or Denny’s in site. It’s 10:30, so even if there were a McDonald’s in sight, it would be too late for a Sausage Egg McMuffin.Andy Warhol was quite an interesting figure who accomplished quite a lot in his 57 years. Originally from Pittsburgh, he made his name in New York. He also made an awful lot of artwork, which was packed up and shipped back here, spread out over 6 floors and a warehouse. We found his personal time capsules extremely interesting. Seems for many years, he would literally take pieces of his everyday life and store them in a box, one box per month. So upon his death, a veritable time line could be created to show what he was doing, reading, seeing, listening to in any given month and year. The contents of several of those boxes are lovingly displayed throughout the museum. Chrissy and I have decided to start doing that ourselves, tossing a bunch of random shit into a box every month and then randomly displaying it around the house in a nice Lucite display case. Probably won’t be as interesting as Andy’s though. Lots of empty Miller Lite beer cans and assorted hair care products, not really very interesting.Since we missed breakfast we grabbed a very early lunch at a sports bar right at PNC Park. Pittsburgh has a heavy German population and the restaurant offered an authentic Oktoberfest menu. Hmmm…schnitzel or bratwurst? 

I really wanted to order the schnitzel just for the sheer thrill of actually ordering schnitzel. I pussied out in the end and went with the bratwurst. Looking back, I think I probably should have tried the schnitzel.

After lunch we pulled the car out of the parking garage for a small king’s ransom and drove across the city to the Carnegie Museums. It was dreary and raining, which as we came to learn is fairly typical Pittsburgh weather, but that made for a perfect day to wander around another museum. The Carnegie Museum of Natural History is really very impressive, plenty of reconstructed dinosaurs and taxidermied bears and moose to keep us occupied for a while. We wandered into the horticultural area and found an example of a scarce Joe Pie Weed which seemed oddly appropriate. By about 4pm we’d both had about all of the culture we could stand for a day and headed back to the hotel. Being Friday it seems it was getaway day for the University of Pittsburgh, so the traffic was backed up. Not a problem for us asshole New Yorkers though, as we schooled those Pitt students well on just how to cut off a bus and make it look like it was their fault.

Friday night, we didn’t have tickets to the Penguin-Ranger game (nope, ol’ Trots didn’t hook us up) but we did have tickets to see the 10pm show with Josh Blue at the Pittsburgh Improv. He was the winner of Last Comic Standing Season 4, and is very funny. The Improv is located in the Waterfront area – a huge mini-city with dozens of restaurants, venues, bars, stores and such, about six miles from the hotel. Being the responsible folks that we are, and both of us having been voted most likely to exceed the two-drink minimum these clubs insist on, we felt it best to take a cab there and back.

Here’s where the adventure part of the trip kicks in.

Apparently, Pittsburgh is not known for its taxi system. Unlike New York where you can step into a cab easier than you can step into a Starbucks, there’s often a bit of a wait involved after you call the cab dispatcher. Hailing them off the street is pot luck at best. We tipped the doorman to get us one – and he actually flagged one down in less than 15 minutes. Neat-o!

Well, let’s rethink. We climb into the back seat and tell the driver, a relatively harmless looking fellow with rather large ears, where we want to go. He wonders why we would want him to take us there at this time (early evening, still rush hour). Didn’t we know that the traffic was heavy, and that the meter was going to be running? Explaining to him that we were from out of town (hence the pickup from in front of a hotel) made him realize we weren’t all that stupid after all, simply ignorant to the Squirrel Hill traffic backups.

He’s from Wisconsin and his name is Ray – and his brother’s name is Chucky. His brother drives a cab in the city too – and everyone calls him Lucky Chucky. We decide very shortly thereafter that everyone also undoubtedly calls our driver Crazy Ray. Within a block from the pickup he randomly asks us if we know the different types of Molson Beer there are. Thinking it odd, we rattle off the styles anyway, Molson, Molson Golden, Molson Light, Molson Ice, Molson Canadian (US Sales only), Molson Old Style, and Molson Triple XXX. This gets him all excited, because he says; no-one ever gets Triple XXX! We’re thinking he gives this little quiz to all of his passengers.

I confess that Molson has been a client of mine for many years, so that’s how I know the styles. Crazy Ray just wants to ditch the ride to the Waterfront and go get some beers with us. It was after all Friday night! Ray is a big fan of the Triple X which is a malt liquor and is extremely potent. Then we’re onto a conversation about some local beers that he can’t seem to recall the names of – so he starts calling other drivers battling the downtown traffic to ask them. I notice as he’s flipping open his cell phone, that he has a picture of nice pickup truck as his screenshot. None of his fellow cabbies can help him out, so he decides to tell us of a time when he was back home in Wisconsin and he called himself a cab to take him home from the bar. Seems his driver was drunker than he was, and halfway through the trip he had to take over for the cab driver. That must have been some night we say, as we pull out of traffic and speed along a very narrow bridge heading toward our destination.

We have him drop us off at a P.F. Changs, as we count our blessings that we arrived alive. He gives us his card, just in case we get stuck looking for a ride later on, after all, he says, the taxi’s are just not that reliable here in Pittsburgh, so if we’re stuck we can take comfort in knowing that we can dial up Crazy Ray anytime!

The wait time at P.F.Changs is almost two hours, which seems excessive for a P.F. Changs. Even if it was a good P.F.Changs we’d be hungry again an hour after we eat – and the cycle of eating to hungry just gets all fucked up when you have to wait for two hours before you can even get a table at a P.F.Changs. So we walk to this Italian style chain restaurant across the street. Bravo. No wait here – of course, it’s the size of a football field, so we get a table right away. Our usual placement, near the bathroom. That’s typical, we’re normally seated there or near the kitchen, a tough reality of being an interracial couple I guess, some folks just hate white people.

Our waiter, Rodney was excellent. He sold this food like Gordon Ramsey and Bobby Flay were in the kitchen cooking it for us. He more or less told us what we’d be eating and drinking this evening – and we agreed to let him decide what we’d like. It was actually not bad for chain restaurant fare – but I’m sure it tasted better as along with dinner, Rodney gave us a bit of a show.

Still over an hour till we have to be at the Improv so we walk across the mini city to a Dave & Busters where we embarrass ourselves trying to look cool playing the games. Happily uninjured we head to the comedy club. Once inside, we’re seated, again as we typically are in a comedy club, right up front. We must look like we’re used to being the butt of jokes.

The show featured two local comics, Tim Dimond and Jeff Konkle who both were very funny. There was a stocky handicapped woman and her somewhat dimwitted husband sitting right up front and center. I use the term handicapped loosely, as she had a walker, but you really couldn’t tell what her handicap was, other than she was very chatty and chubby. The headliner, Josh Blue took the stage and started his act. If you don’t already know, he has cerebral palsy, but has made a name for himself despite his handicap. The stocky woman up front no doubt felt a certain kinship with the handicapped comic and kept interrupting by answering his routine often, and loudly. She and her husband (think his name was Cletus) had polished off a couple of bottles of that horrible rose wine, adding to her volume. Typically, he handled her interruptions through a series of hysterical retorts, but eventually he simply told her to shut the fuck up, which drew the loudest applause of the night from the relatively stoic crowd.

The show was nearing its end and the wait staff began passing around the checks. Everyone paid without issue, except of course for our obnoxious couple up front. Seems her credit card was denied. As Josh was looking down at this incident taking place in front of the stage, the woman asked him if he could make an announcement regarding her predicament. Maybe if everyone in the place chipped in some spare change, we could cover her bill for the cheap shit Boones Farm Candy Pink Rose wine they were drinking. Again, he basically told her to go fuck herself which of course brought howls of laughter and applause from the audience. Not really sure what sort of deal she cut with the waitress, but then for some god-forsaken reason, our annoying sideshow decided she had to release some of the swill from her bladder. So she had to struggle out of her seat, pull the walker around, adjust her bloomers over her fat ass and started to waddle up the aisle.

Everyone wondered why she couldn’t wait the two minutes or so until the end of the show. Also wondering was Josh Blue, who at first wanted to wait until she returned to finish up – but then simply realized he couldn’t compete with her – so he ran up the aisle and tried to get everyone out of the club before she got out of the can.

So after the show we begin the treacherous task of trying to get a cab to come and pick us up, it’s about 11:30, and several cab companies that we call tell us that it might be a while since the Penguin-Ranger game just let out. We figure it’s ok – since there’s other bars right in the area to keep us occupied. We head next door to Dave & Busters and grab a couple of beers – then we realize we forget to get a picture with Josh Blue and decide to walk back to the Improv to see if he’s still there. Seems as we were heading over he was leaving the club with one of the other comedians and he calls out to us. They both actually thanked us for laughing throughout the show! They were after all, very funny, and we are, after all, generally Giddy. But for the most part, the crowd was really pretty lame. We mentioned that we were waiting for a cab which may or may not arrive, so they invited us over to the Rock Bottom Brewery across the street for a few drinks, since the chances of the taxi actually showing up were quite low.

Chrissy, Josh and Tim head to the bar and meet up there with Jeff the other comic that night and proceed to enjoy several tasty local beers. It was well over an hour, and still no cabs had shown up – so we began thinking it might be a good idea to call ol’ Crazy Ray to come and pick us up. Either that or ask our new friend Josh to drive us back to the hotel – but that just didn’t seem right.

Shortly after 1AM, a taxi shows up. Then, oddly, another right after that. Then another. Apparently, our calling to check on their availability dispatched several additional cabs to our pick up point. Dave & Busters had just closed so it was no big deal, lots of folks needed a ride – we just hopped into the one with the driver who appeared to most sober and asked him to get us back to the Renaissance Hotel.

We returned quickly and safely, then for some reason decided to join Trottier again at the bar for some scotch and Merlot. Apparently this was not a good idea, as the bartender would inform us the next day.

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