I just wrote about my craving for a Benkovitz fish sandwich a few days ago, and then yesterday, I got the news that the Pittsburgh institution just shuttered its doors after nearly a century in business. This totally bummed me out.
My favorite memory of the restaurant and seafood market took place many years ago, when my brother and I were just kids. It was the Friday before Easter, and we accompanied my Grandmother to pick up a few items for holiday meals and to have lunch. Being Good Friday, the place was packed with people on their lunch breaks, shoppers, and out of town visitors. The line was out the door, and there were no parking spaces. Instead of parking across the street (my Grandmother would have none of that, only the closest space would do), she sent my brother and I to get in line while she waited for a space she deemed appropriate to become available. So we’re waiting in line inside the bustling store. And we’re waiting. And we waited some more. I was probably middle school age, maybe younger, so who knows how long we actually waited, but it felt like a really long time. As we neared the counter, I finally sent my brother to find her. A few minutes later, he came back to retrieve me. Tucked away in a corner by the store’s entrance and obscured by the crowds, sat the only two tables in the store (counters were the norm). One of them was occupied by my Grandmother, one of the store’s owners, and lots of bags and takeout containers.
After she had found a parking space, and headed inside, one of the owners spotted her, and whisked her away behind the scenes to avoid the line. She was a frequent shopper at Benkovitz, and kind of treatment wasn’t surprising. In addition to her fresh fish purchases, she had three fish sandwiches and a platter of shrimp, hot and ready to eat. We sat and ate and our lunch and talked to one of members of the Benkovitz’s family about how Good Friday (and Christmas Eve) were their busiest days of the year.
I’ll definitely miss this fixture in Pittsburgh’s Strip District, and on my next trip back to the Burgh, I’l start my quest for my second favorite fish sandwich.
I started Thanksgiving Day off right with a 5K through downtown Pittsburgh. A little under 7000 people came out and got some exercise before all the indulging. The weather was perfect, crisp, but sunny. Here’s some action shots I snapped along the route, and some photos of the great scenery we had. The course was far from dull, and definitely made the run go fast and kept me motivated.
I finally was able to see The Perks of Being a Wallflower this weekend. I read the book about 12 years ago, maybe right before or right after my freshman year in college. I think I was prompted to pick it up because of the “MTV Books” label it carried. “MTV Books?”, I thought, “I like MTV, so this must be for me.” I didn’t expect the world I was about to dive into, and how I would feel after finishing the book. It’s a story that grabs onto you, and doesn’t let go. It makes you see things differently, and it’s characters stay with you. I re-read the book last month in preparation for seeing the movie. I wanted to go back to the time and place in the book (Pittsburgh, early 1990s), and the time and place that I originally read the book (Pittsburgh, early 2000s), to see if it still had the same effect.
I remember hearing rumors for years that a film would be made. The author of the semi-autobiographical novel, Stephen Chbosky, turned down multiple offers to sell the movie rights, and opted to take his time in translating this cult-classic to the big screen. Chbosky wrote the screenplay and directed the film, and you can tell. Every second of it treated with such care and kindness. The movie captures what I remember about reading the book the first (and second time), and what it feels like to be in High School. Not a Hollywood version of high school, but what you felt. When every single moment was filled with profound meaning ,and had a song to go along with it. A time when you thought no one else understood. I’m glad I re-read it because it made me remember what it felt like to be a teenager, when I was waiting for the world to come along. You couldn’t pay me any amount of money to go back in time and relive my high school years, but I think it’s important to not forget them.
Go read the book and go see this movie. It’s a love letter of sorts to growing up and to my hometown. It’s perfect. And the references to Pittsburgh (and Penn State) are a delight, and brought a huge smile to my face.
After returning from State College and putting our home opener loss behind me, I was early to bed, early to rise for the Steelers 5K the next morning. The course was super scenic and started next to the Mister Rogers statue on the Three Rivers Heritage Trail then looped back to Heinz Field past the Andy Warhol Museum and PNC Park on General Robinson St. You finished right on the field, and there were plenty of Steelers memorabilia to check out inside the stadium while munching on post-race goodies. More details at Runkeeper
Last fall I started to run more consistently on the treadmill at the gym with the goal of running an entire 3.1 miles without stopping. Using the Couch to 5K app, I’ve worked up my endurance on the treadmill (and on an incline!), but I am completely crap at running outside. I’ve started to do a little training in the great outdoors, but very sporadically. My normal workout time is at 6:00 am before work, and while the the weather is perfect for running outside, the lack of sunlight has kept me confined to the gym. I’ve completed a few 5Ks over the past few months, but haven’t conquered the distance yet. Right now I’m focusing on losing weight and getting in shape, and haven’t given myself a deadline on my 5k goal. But I still want to get there. So while my friends ran the Steelers 5K, I power walked and took lots of photos of the Pittsburgh skyline.
The 5k was just one of many football kickoff traditions in the steel city, and every labor day weekend, Pittsburgh hosts a rib fest. Right before heading into Heinz Field, the 5k course takes you through the rib vendors who were busy smoking and grilling their offerings. The smells running through the booths were intoxicating, so after the prize presentations and raffle (we all left empty handed), we chowed down on some fall of the bone, messy, yummy ribs.
It was a super fun day, and I’m looking forward to
walking again running next year.