Stuff I Write, Stuff I Like

Stuff I Like: Beer, Books, Snack Cakes, Pudding Pies, Small Acts of Survival, and Coming and Staying Home

In Uncategorized on June 22, 2013 at 3:26 pm

Full Pint Brewing is sponsoring the dual-book launch for Dave Newman’s The Slaughterhouse Poems and my The Bridge to Take When Things Get Serious Saturday, June 29. How awesome is that?


Full Pint is in North Versailles, Pa., where I lived until I was in third grade. North Versailles wasn’t much about craft beers back then. My family lived on Bevin Road, a really steep hill not far from the Dolly Madison Outlet. Dolly Madison had cheap day-old bread and egg buns and chocolate pudding pies my dad would buy in bulk.

dolly madison chocolate pie

By the time I was old enough to notice, my mother had made my father quit drinking beer. He replaced it with pudding pies. He loved chocolate-pudding lunch pies so much it embarrassed him. He would hide in the dark in the kitchen to eat his pies and think about everything else in life that didn’t give him that kind of pleasure.

All this has me thinking about ways to map a life. I can map my own life, for instance, by snack cakes and beer. I remember my first Zinger more vividly than I remember my high school graduation. And I remember my first taste of beer.

Firsts are always important, but some are more memorable than others.

When he was very young, my dad drove an Iron City Beer truck.

beer truck

My uncles all drank Iron and they’d sneak me sips. Sometimes I think they ashed in the beer first to be sure I didn’t like it too much. They didn’t mean anything serious by it. They were just rough like that. These were steelworkers and cops and numbers runners and men who didn’t seem to like their wives.


They didn’t need to worry about me liking Iron City back then. If you haven’t had Iron City, suck on your car keys. It’s pretty much like that.

As a kid, I thought it tasted like pavement and feet. I would know because one of my older cousins took after my uncles and would sometimes push me face down on the sidewalk and make me lick his feet.


It helped to remember I was adopted.

Sometimes my uncles would pretend to pick me up by my hair.

“It’ll make your hair strong,” they said, and flicked their cigarette butts off my grandmother’s porch.

“Iron,” they called their beer.

“You have to be strong to survive,” they’d say about the world.

It would be many years of keggers and frat parties — where I never gave much thought to the kind of beer I was flicking quarters into — before I’d come to appreciate great beers like the ones at Full Pint.


Some personal evolutions are easier to map than others, too.

Still, if I’m far from home and end up in a bar where they serve Iron City, I’ll probably order one. I’ll drink it for sentimental reasons. I’ll tell everyone around me I’m from Pittsburgh, that this beer is home. Then I’ll look for something wonderful from Full Pint.

full pint lineup

It’s important to remember where you come from, you see.


The book launch for Dave Newman’s The Slaughterhouse Poems and Lori Jakiela’s The Bridge to Take When Things Get Serious will be Saturday, June 29 at 7:30 p.m. at East End Book Exchange in Bloomfield, Pa. Free and open to everybody. Also featuring readings from New Yinzer columnist Adam Matcho and other special guests, as well as paintings on exhibit by Lou Ickes, cover artist for both books. Beer provided by – you bet! – Full Pint Brewing. Book signings and reception follows the readings. For more information, contact East End Book Exchange or e-mail

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