Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Jami Luvfest, Pittsburgh Part 2

I left off in my last post with day 2 in Pittsburgh and our travels as tourists around the city as we waited to surprise Jami at her annual fundraiser for the Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, Jami Luvfest.  Each year Jami uses her birthday celebration to honor our mother, Billie Marlowe doing what Billie did best-feed people.

Jami Luvfest (in memory of Billie Marlowe)Jami Luvfest Facebook Page

Five years ago the Marlowe family was irrevocably altered. Suddenly, we were adult orphans clinging to each other in our shared grief. This past weekend, we honored our mother and celebrated the best she gave: Me, Wally, Betsy, Connie, Jami... and all the "children" she adopted along the way. You are still missed Billie, but the tears aren't quite as bitter.

The event was held at a very cool venue, 720 Music, Clothing and Cafe in the Lawrenceville area of Pittsburgh, They offer a carefully curated mix of vinyl/cd's, indie clothing designers, off beat magazines and books and great tasting coffee, tea and treats. If you are in the area, stop by and say hi to Nate and listen to some very cool tunes.  

But back to Luvfest and the surprise!  We had arranged with Betsy and Wally that we would cab up to Lawrenceville and hide out in a pub a few doors down from the party until the right moment to make our appearance. We got the signal and made our way in the door as MC Marcel was introducing and thanking folks that were involved in the event. And as he was talking about special guests from afar, Jami turned around and spotted us. I think the photo describes the moment better than words can.

And yes, I am crying and Jami is crying and Betsy in the background is crying.  That didn't last too long though because it was a party after all! And it was a great party!! Lots of entertainment including the most awesome Kristen Ross, a performance artist and belly dancer in the Pittsburgh area.

A duet to "I Can't Dance" with Kristen and my brother Marcel....

A great band later in the evening, and most importantly, plenty of generous people donating to the Pittsburgh food bank!

A very successful evening raising a bunch of money to feed the hungry. Local food banks do so much for our communities and the folks that rely on them to survive. For 1 in six Americans hunger is a reality.Many people believe that the problems associated with hunger are confined to small pockets of society, certain areas of the country, or certain neighborhoods, but the reality is much different.

Right now, millions of Americans are struggling with hunger. These are often hard-working adults, children and seniors who simply cannot make ends meet and are forced to go without food for several meals, or even days.

One of the most common misconceptions is the assumption that if someone is hungry, that means they do not have a job and are living on the streets. What most people don’t understand is that anyone can experience hunger. It is a silent epidemic that affects 49 million Americans.

According to the US Census Bureau, in 2010, 21 million people lived in working-poor families. This translates into nearly 9.6 percent of all American families living below 100 percent of poverty have at least one family member working . In fact, 36 percent of client households served by the Feeding America network have one or more adults working.

The hidden nature of hunger and poverty makes us less aware of its prevalence in the suburbs, but hunger does exist in the suburbs and it is growing.

The growth in poverty and hunger in the suburbs is caused by the lure of job growth, the revitalization of central cities making city life too expensive for many poor people, and the creation of cheaper housing in "inner ring" suburbs, as middle class people move further out.

The problem of childhood hunger is not simply a moral issue. Child hunger hampers a young person's ability to learn and becomes more likely to suffer from poverty as an adult. Scientific evidence suggests that hungry children are less likely to become productive citizens

So become involved with your local food bank, their buying power allows a $1.00 donation provides from 5 to 15 pounds of food. So donate or volunteer at your local food bank. A great source of information is
Feeding America . A one stop informational and organizational page that will give you the facts on hunger in America and how you can help. With a network of 200 member food banks across the country, Feeding America supplies more the 3 billion pounds of food and grocery products annually. One $25.00 donation to Feeding America will provide 200 meals. 

So as you plan your holiday feasts this season, think of those in need and make a donation. Your turkey dinner will taste that much better!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Have Yinz Ever Been Dahntahn or the Sahside? Adventures in Pittsburgh, Part 1

If the title has you confused, you are not from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Southwestern Pa has a language all its own. Over this past week Roger and I traveled to the "Burgh to surprise my youngest sister Jami for her birthday. Each year she forgoes the traditional birthday celebration and instead holds a public party for the benefit of the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank to honor our late mother, Billie Marlowe.

Jami Luvfest (in memory of Billie Marlowe)More on the party later and the great venue in Part 2

We arrived a day early, so my other sister Betsy, picked us up at the airport and arranged for our lodging..... second tent from the left!

Just kidding, we actually stayed at the Wyndham Grand Hotel right on the point where the Three Rivers merge.  Right next to Point State Park and across the river from Heinz Field, home of the Pittsburgh Steelers. The downtown area of Pittsburgh is a great walking city. And we really explored it. The first evening we met up with
Marcel Lamont Walker and Wayne Wise.  Marcel was the originator of the surprise idea and a very close friend to Jami. Both talented Artists and Authors. We had met in San Diego a couple of years ago when they traveled west for the San Diego Comicon. Jami called me and said that a couple of her friends were coming out to San Diego and she asked us to put them up for the week. We were assured that they were only slightly weird and not serial killers. Since they were not wearing StarTrek uniforms and speaking in Klingon when we picked them up at the airport, we decided to go ahead and let them stay. We had a great time with them and have been great friends ever since. As you may recall, I mentioned Wayne in my last blog and his novel, Scratch.

M.L.Walker and Wayne Wise
We spent a great evening having dinner at NOLA Pittsburgh with the guys and Betsy, a New Orleans stlye creole restaurant in Market Square, then headed back to the hotel to hide out for a day. We subsequently found out that Jami was right across the Square having dinner with a friend at the same time, could have blown the whole surprise!

View from the hotel room of the river and thats PNC Park on the left.
 After a restful nights sleep, we set off to discover Pittsburgh. Betsy was busily making all of the great food that we would indulge in at the Luvfest that evening and helping Jami set up the venue, so Roger and I set off on foot for the day of playing tourist.  First on the list of priorities, a true Pittsburgh experience...Primanti Brothers Sandwiches.  If you have never had a Pittsburgh style sandwich, they put the whole meal on the bread. Meat, fries and coleslaw all in one sandwich. And Primanti's is the originator of this phenomena! A Pittsburgh institution since 1933.

With a belly full of this huge sandwich, it was time to hit the streets. We wandered out of Market Square to find that Pittsburgh was having a Veterans Day Parade.  I could see the barricades a block or so away, past a giant Macy's store and we headed in that direction. What a great parade, plenty of marching bands and all of the different veterans groups represented.

After the parade, we walked around downtown a little. The architecture of the old buildings and churches was amazing. Something you don't see on the west coast.

I just love the old stone churches, they have great character and there is just a more awe inspiring feeling that you get from them. We made our way through the city until we hit the river. The Mighty Monongahela! So it was turn back to the hotel, or keep going and cross the bridge. We opted to cross over to the southside where all of the great nightspots are at Station Square. Of course as we appraoched the river, it started to snow. And the wind was whipping. At this point it seemed wise to duck into a handy tavern to warm up with a toddy.  A little fortitude to cross on the open bridge. e made our way across and found a Ducky Tour booth and decided that was a great way to see the highlight of the city without wearing out the rest of our shoe leather. And it was a great choice, the tour covered some of the history of the city, as well as the sports venues and a float down the river, Although a bit chilly, still better than covering it on foot!

Station Square across the river

Downtown from the river

Heinz Field home of the Steelers
All in all a great tour. Lasting about 90 minutes, we concluded back at Station Square right in front of the Hard Rock Cafe. Time for another hot toddy!

After some fortification from an Isish Coffee, it was time to head back across the bridge and to the hotel to get ready for Jami Luvfest in Lawrenceville. Part 2 of the blog will be a recounting of that marvelous event and the actual surprise. Stay tuned!