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Saturday, May 9, 2009

2: Yinz Should Go See Star Trek

So I went to see the Star Trek movie last night, and may I say it was light years ahead of my expectations in its awesomeness. My expectation that it might be a passable movie was primarily based on the positive reviews of critics. My expectations for awesomeness did not come about until the positive review of a friend who deemed the movie “awesome.” I actually wrote to ask if there was any sarcasm in that estimation of the movie’s worth that I was missing. I was assured it was genuine.

And so the stars aligned.

A friend used facebook to let the world know he was looking for a movie companion for Star Trek. Suddenly, I was on board for what would end up being a summer blockbuster thrill ride that actually lived up to the hype of the term “summer blockbuster thrill ride.” It was good! It was fun! It was good fun!

My friend and I left with the impression that, not only had star trek lived up to its hype, but it also served as the redemption of the summer movie thrill ride blockbuster slate that had been sullied by the Wolverine movie.

Now, I love the X-Men stories and characters, but I had been warned that the new Wolverine movie, despite what we’d all like to see, was actually lackluster. I lowered my expectations, and figured that because I intended to see the movie on a day after I planned on drinking excessively, I would be entertained and pleased as long as the movie theater had a functioning Coke fountain. Even with my lowered expectations and egregious hangover and large Coca-Cola and multiple flashes of Hugh Jackman’s bum, I was disappointed. Multiple flashes!!!

So discovering that Star Trek was funny, action packed, suspenseful, engaging, and larger than life really was a delight.

But more than rediscovering the powers movies have to be escapist romps, Star Trek led me back to banging the noisy gong of Pittsburgh love. Yep, that’s right – Spock is from Pittsburgh. Not Leonard Nimoy, let me be clear (he’d probably be the mayor, by the way, were he to have come from Pittsburgh. The city might adopt the Star Trek emblem as a representation of the confluence of the three rivers – who are we kidding). But Zachary Quinto – that guy. That Spock. That Heroes character Sylar. I saw him in high school musicals! Often! He went to the all-boys school that was the counterpart to my all-girls school. True story.

Zach Quinto actually was, even then, a standout among the acting talent of my high school peers. The kid had a little more talent in him than the other swashbucklers in the Pirates of Penzance, I must say, and I’m glad he took that talent and ran with it, much like James Harrison took the ball and ran with it, all the way to the end zone during the most recent Steeler Super Bowl victory. (I almost skipped the comparison, but it was just too perfect to pass up). His role in Star Trek is also far more substantial than I expected from what I’d seen in previews. It’s his story as much as, if not more than, Kirk’s. And Quinto is up to the task. And so, as a Pittsburgh native, he has now achieved an even bigger status and probably higher position in the long list of “you know he/she’s from Pittsburgh?” fame and infamy list that every Pittsburgher learns by osmosis during their time in the city of champions.

And it is for just such occasions, when someone with Pittsburgh roots does something wonderful, that we trot out the list, and casually mention the Pittsburgh affiliation any and every time we can. Even if it’s something that has made someone infamous, we’re just as eager to claim it. If Pittsburgh had had a Pittsburgh Strangler, no one from Boston would be able to visit the city without hearing upwards of 200 times how much better the Pittsburgh Strangler was than the Boston Strangler. We just need to make sure no one is forgetting that Pittsburgh really is the best city in the world, and don’t you DARE think of us a smoke covered monument to urban decay. That would make you a jagoff. (Note to readers, “jagoff” is a Pittsburgh word for a person of unsavory character, like a hybrid of jackass, asshole, and douchebag).

The Pittsburgh pride, as I may have mentioned in a similarly glowing and excited post about the highly underrated movie Adventureland, and my pleasant surprise in discovering it was about Pittsburgh, is something that you really cannot half ass. It’s tradition, and nearly a legal requirement of citizenship in Pittsburgh that you make sure that everyone knows how proud you are of Pittsburgh every chance you get. And it’s really not until you’re infuriated to see the word “Pittsburg” in print in something written or published by highly educated or reputable sources that you know you’ve achieved a status as a Pittsburgher who will never let anyone forget you are one. So you get more involved with the list.

I also think that the farther away you physically are from Pittsburgh, the more intense your need to express your Pittsburgh pride may become. There’s some sort of Golden Triangle ratio in there to be sure. I haven’t quite perfected the math, but it’s in there.

Just look at the fans at every San Diego Chargers home game against the Steelers. If it weren’t for the dominant sunshine in the picture (very rare in Pittsburgh), one might guess the game was in Pittsburgh.

As a Pittsburgher in Los Angeles, my loyalty to the list and my new status as an L.A. resident have come into conflict on occasion. Actual interaction with a list member puts the onus on the non-list member to let the list member know how appreciated and recognized they are as a Pittsburgher.
We know. We have not forgotten. You are one of us.

In L.A., this comes into direct conflict with the prevailing attitude that you should be as unimpressed by celebrities that you may see on the streets as you possibly can be. The bigger their stardom, the less you should care about seeing them stoop to common man status to consume food or see a movie or shop for lawn furniture in the same store as you – Joe Schmo (the original Joe Schmo from the t.v. show of the same name was from Pittsburgh – the guy that got duped, him. Yep!).

So when I happened to be in the same coffee shop as Pittsburgh’s own Michael Keaton? I was torn.
Do I interrupt his calm breakfast meeting with a good looking blonde to tell him I’m from Pittsburgh and I love him as does everyone else from Pittsburgh – my unspoken duty – or do I defer to L.A. custom and ignore him?

I split the difference. Walking near their table, I said hello when I passed by. Which one should do, as a friendly Pittsburgher. I mean, what am I, a jagoff?

He returned my hello with a very pleasant hello. And so he moved up my personal Pittsburgher list to "confirmed nice guy from Pittsburgh."Man, he’s great.

When I told my brother, who has a knowledge of, and love for, Pittsburgh that far exceed my own, that I had seen Michael Keaton, he was horrified, horrified that I had not identified myself as a Pittsburgher. I did feel as though I had failed him, and the city, in some way. But I remember having had Pittsburgher list regret. And realized that an invasive breakfast interruption, Pittsburgher or not, was not the right move.

I was once on a plane with Merril Hoge, former Steeler powerhouse, and gentleman beloved to many fans. A good-looking, affable guy, Merril Hoge was on the popular Pittsburgh WDVE classic rock morning show quite a bit, and it was there that I learned of his time ranching and roping prior to taking up football - even more exotic.

When I got on the plane, Merril was in first class. I thought it was him, but was not sure, and continued to my seat in coach. Once we were airborne, Merril Hoge came back to coach with us. He went all the way to the back of the plane, to a row that was completely empty. The stewardess seemed to be apologizing for the behavior of a woman in first class who apparently, had been trying to get a little more personal with Merril Hoge than he liked, perhaps angling toward his tight end. After agonizing about whether to speak to him or not, I decided I had to – it was Merril Hoge!

So I turned around, partially stood up and asked, “Excuse me, are you Merril Hoge?”
“Yes,” he very politely responded.
“I’m from Pittsburgh and we love you so, I just had to say hello. Thanks.”

He nodded very politely with a look that seemed to indicate familiarity with this common Pittsburgh practice.

And even though I was glad to have talked to him and completed my duty, after the fact I felt a little bad raising his profile when he was actively trying to just sleep on the plane like everyone else, going so far as to sacrifice leg room for the sake of anonymity.

It was then that I realized that though our Pittsburgh pride and communal mental list is well intentioned, its use was a privilege, not a right.

So yes, yes I do stand by my decision not to fully attack Michael Keaton.
But if I happened to bump into him tomorrow, there’s a good chance I might bring up the Pens game that’s currently going on.
I mean, our hockey team is in the playoffs.

Is Pittsburgh a great city, or what?

Lets go Pens!

1 comment:

  1. Wow, what a great entry! It was so good that I read it, then read it again out-loud to Sam. I need a drink of water now because it was a long one, but I wish it was longer...
    Here here Pittsburgh love. And something tells me that one day Ginny DeFrank will be added to that list of famous Pittsburghers.