david schrott is everywhere

Hey, See ya later 2014, here’s a Superweed.

Posted in Farm Life, Personal Work by thebreakfastdictator on 12/30/2014
Superweed; Shirley, Indiana

Superweed; Shirley, Indiana

I didn’t post anything in December and December is almost over, so here ya go. It’s a superweed in Shirley, Indiana. We took this on our honeymoon. I started this blog almost 5 years ago. Crazy how fast five years goes. About as quick as a superweed over takes a field of soybeans, I guess.

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Pittsburgh; Frank Bryan, under the Liberty Bridge.

Posted in Uncategorized by thebreakfastdictator on 11/30/2014

 

Frank Bryan Materials Group

Frank Bryan Concrete

These photos are from July 2012 and October 2014. I love this construction depot. It reminds me of everything Pittsburgh. They filmed a portion of the Dark Knight Rises here. I was thrilled to recognize it during the movie. Pittsburgh is just the best.

November Songs (2b): Letterman’s, Daddy & Aaron Penguins

Posted in Black 'n' Yellow, daily life by thebreakfastdictator on 11/29/2014

Since the week before my wedding, I have been overwhelmed with gratitude. There are these incredibly special people who weave in and out of my life at varying degrees and I am thankful for them in so many wordless ways. For some reason, I thought living in Philadelphia would be a good idea. I didn’t particularly care for it in college, so the logic defies me, but in the spring of 2009, I began living in a series of sublets there. That summer, the Penguins won the Stanley Cup and with a talented young core comprising the roster, there were surely many more to come in the near to immediate future.

In the autumn of that year, I’d bonded with some Steelers fans and we’d watch games at the Fox and Hound (a regrettable place to go for games, but games are games). Spring rolled around and the Penguins were in the playoffs so I assumed that all of those same fans were also Penguins fans. That was unfortunately not the case. I went alone and there may have been ten other people in the entire joint that were there for the Pens’ game. One of them was a tattooed fellow in a baby blue alternate jersey who I ended up making idle chatter with. He was there for game two of the same series and after watching a second game in a row “together”, we exchanged numbers and I entered him in my Nokia candy bar phone as “Aaron (Penguins)”.

We love Aaron Penguins.

We love Aaron Penguins.

We watched most every playoff game together that Spring and more or less parted ways when they were bounced by the Habs in round two.

The following year, I met Ian, and when the playoffs rolled around in Spring ’11, we started watching games with Aaron Penguins. Again, the Pens were bounced by an unlikely opponent and we sulked together in Aaron’s girlfriend’ South Philly rowhome.

It’s now four-and-a-half years later and I am married and no longer live/sublet in Philadelphia. Aaron Penguins came to my wedding. And, yesterday, Aaron Penguins took a train to Lancaster and we caught up with Ian in Kutztown for breakfast. We love Aaron Penguins. I love Aaron Penguins.

Hopefully, the Penguins will soon hoist another Cup and we’ll take a jaunt down the Turnpike to see the Parade.

Blake n Daddy

Blake n Daddy

There is a quaint little town up the jaunt along two-twenty-two. There’s Reading and then there’s Fleetwood and then there’s Moselem Springs then there’s Virginville and after that, there’s Kutztown. It is a place where the hardware store hasn’t been put to death by nameless and faceless big boxes; a place, where, on the day after the day after Thanksgiving, the grey clouds saunter in and drop some well-timed snow showers on this idyllic little place.

It is cold but not too cold. Not yet at least. The snow is still on the ground and has retained is seasonal novelty. Here, they open at 5 am on the weekends. We are early risers but not that early.

There is one long bar and maybe, just maybe four other tables. There is one griddle that can sufficiently cook two omelettes at a time. It is divided in half with a pile of potatoes that smother the other. The wait is long, but this is what is necessary. Food shouldn’t be rushed. Settle in. Drink a cup or two or three or four of coffee. It’s cold outside, so how about a fifth? We came in a party of eight; perhaps four have been served so far. Don’t worry. What’s the rush? We’re here to feast, not to flee.

Letterman's Griddle

Letterman’s Griddle

These plates are plates for fat-men in the making. I’d guess about three pounds each. Who can eat that? Who cares. Just another fork-full. Add some hot sauce. It’ll be okay. This was a train car once, you know?

There is the Maine Omelette, and a Pittsburgh Omelette; smothered, no, covered in cole slaw and fries. Add a ‘mater and you have a Primanti’s inside of an egg or two eggs, but probably three. Well, probably two Primanti’s. Who could eat that?

Most no one finishes but that’s okay. The polite ladies who run the bar offer take home boxes. Everyone differs, but that’s okay too. We come here to eat, to meet, to greet.

We’ll be back because this is our place.

We love it here.

And we are loved here.

 

November Songs (1)

Posted in family by thebreakfastdictator on 11/10/2014

Ten years ago, things were so different here. The city was gritty. There were as many vacant buildings as occupied ones. On the first block of North Prince stood the old Futon Building, full of junk and old frames. We bought some birds and named one Burt Reynolds. He was our favorite; a small white dove bought at Pete’s in the Italian Market of Philadelphia for eight bucks. It seemed a common thing whenever I went to buy birds there. It must have been four or five times at least. Each time, Pete would grab the birds mercilessly and shove them in my dad’s 50 year old bird cage. He had fond memories of that cage. He had a little bird named Blue Boy that he would sing and whistle to in my great-grandparent’s house on top of Milford Street. Those are so remarkably some of his best memories. He talks about his grandparents more fondly than anyone else. Neither of them were alive by the time I was born. By all accounts they were these remarkable Catholic people and when I think of it, my heart is moved toward sadness for having never known them.

They built their house from sticks sometime in the 40’s. Johnstown was peaking then. Somewhere along the line, I took some black and white photos of the house. Someday I’ll get around to finding and scanning them. But probably not. It seems like that’s the way it goes. Good intentions are always just good intentions.

Von Steel

Von Steele

Years ago, on a cold Good Friday, we meandered out of Pittsburgh, 70 miles southeast, to the place where we came from. We got a family history lesson that I’ve long since forgotten but thankfully wrote down in my beat up, handmade journal. He built his house in fifty-nine and has lived there ever since. The old wood-stove still churns in the winter. The crucifixes and icons line the walls. I think the kitchen table was purchased in fifty-nine as well, and if not, not too damn far afterwards. The cabinets almost surely have never been replaced but why would they be? Cabinets are cabinets and if they hold things why do they need replaced?

There are these days where my dad looks and acts more and more like my grandfather and my nephew looks like a mini-my-dad and like he was cut and pasted right out of a photo of me from 1984. I guess I am my dad and Von is my dad and we all are my grandfather and his father and his father’s father and his grandfather’s father; reaching all the way back to Austria now, the details get hazy, like the descent out of the West Virginia mountains on an early autumnal day.

Have you ever been to West Virginia? The stereotypes are true. All of them. And it doesn’t take more than a half mile off the interstate to realize it. People do live in campers. There are dirt roads that lead to nowhere and not everyone is all that friendly. It is a wonderful place to be though; the Second Coming of the American Shire. The sharp green slopes eternally cascade into the horizon line, covered with peak autumn leaves. Find a road, make a right, another right, then a left and you won’t see anyone for hours, maybe days. The beauty and stillness will suck you in. Has anyone even stepped foot here before? It’s hard to believe. It must have been this way for the frontiersmen and their families too. We are the new frontiersman, longing for a simple life and natural beauty.

Nowhere, or Somewhere, West Virginia.

Nowhere, or Somewhere, West Virginia.

Now, we are home and just a few weeks later we find out that my wife is pregnant. If it is a boy, what will he father like? And what will I father like? He will be cut from me and me from my dad and him from Francis and him from Karl and Karl from his father and, are we in Austria yet? I don’t quite think so; I know it’s beautiful there but is it as beautiful as West Virginia? I bet it is and they likely don’t have sprawl. Even the prettiest places have their ugly corners. There’s bound to be a place they call Backwards, but maybe backwards is forwards and progress is a myth.

In high school, I learnt that our last name meant scrapped metal in German. How long does that name go back and what was our grandfather’s grandfather’s grandfather doing? Was he a blacksmith? A junkman? A weapons-maker? A trash-man? There were no automobiles back then, he couldn’t have been the Austrian Henry Ford, but maybe he was. Maybe he was a genius in another way. Or maybe he was a working stiff like the rest of us. Blue collar to blue collar deep into the soul.

The sun is peaking up now and the what’s-left-of-it coffee is getting chilled. There’s a fifty-five mile ride ahead and another blue collar day lurking beneath that low-setting November sun. To-day’s beauty will be roiled by Thursday’s winter preview, but that Austrian husk beneath our flannel will prod us on. So we can father the fathers.

Superweeds, Central Missouri

Posted in Farm Life by thebreakfastdictator on 10/24/2014
Soybeans overrun by Superweeds; Central Missouri

Soybeans overrun by Superweeds; Central Missouri

A few months ago, I heard about superweeds; these herbicide resistant weeds that were no longer able to contained by Monsanto’s Roundup product. They were supposedly taking over GMO soybean and cornfields in the Midwest. Since reports of these weeds kept appearing in less than always-trustworthy activist posts in my Facebook feed, I was a bit skeptical. Then I saw a piece in the Des Moines Register on them. Fascinating. These beasts were real. So when me and my wife took a road-trip honeymoon that included many Midwestern states, superweeds became my three week long obsession. This is from a soybean field in central Missouri, about two and half hours west of St. Louis (home of our favorite poison manufacturer, Monsanto!). These weeds are obscenely ugly and overtook a large swath (about 20 foot wide section, hundreds of feet long) of the edge of the field. Many of the weeds were taller than I was and were so dense they couldn’t be walked through. As a local farmer-friend said to me “This is nature’s way of telling us the Monsanto way doesn’t work.”

I couldn’t agree more.

round and round fluorescent lights

Posted in family by thebreakfastdictator on 10/18/2014

Floating above the dining room table, the icon of Jesus and the broken cuckoo clock spins green light out of a fluorescent tube. It flickers from time to time. It has been a long four hours on the turnpike and exhausted children zoom up and bang on the creaky old screen door. She always opens the door the same way — peeking around the curtains through the window just to the right of the door. Warm yellow light floods onto the splintered green porch. It probably hasn’t been painted since the seventies. Those antsy kiddos pour through the door, to the playroom, and dump railroad tracks and Lincoln Logs all over the floor. This is what they’ve been waiting for for months.

tubes. fluorescent tubes.

tubes. fluorescent tubes.

Now there’s a new tube. It’s on the second floor, just like the first. It’s the dining room too and there are icons of Christ. The cuckoo clock is missing. Don’t worry. We’ll find one. Do you remember playing baseball in the crabgrass-backyard or watching Pirates game on channel 8? There were only twelve channels but they were so exotic. There were those vines up the hill in the neighbor’s yard. We swung and swung and swung on those. Those colored bottles on top of the blue-brick wall disappeared around the same time.

Years back, there were 11,000 in Cambria City; now, they’d be lucky to clear 1,000. The mini rivers powered the steel mills. Plumes of smoke and steel city iron motored this little city in the valley. Just before 1890, the flood pummeled everything alive. And look at it now: the pride of Cambria County. Will these fat days ever end?

A small brown Dodge pickup winds east. Five days later, it heads west. And on and on; and on and on. Soon, the repetition stops. One hundred eighty two miles separate the two dots. Relocation is permanent. We’ll visit lots, though. The glowing tube, seen through old windows, will be our first greeter.

Kansas City, Your Food is Huge

Posted in daily life by thebreakfastdictator on 10/06/2014

It is one of those autumnal mornings. You know, those morningsThe ones where the clouds roll in, drizzle fades on and off. It’s too warm for a jacket but also, not. The AC is still on most places. The windows fog. Steam swirls from the fresh-poured coffee mug. Caffeine excites the nerves. Never let this morning end. Drink more coffee. It’ll prolong the glory of the morning hours.

City Diner; KCMO

City Diner; KCMO

“We should eat. Find a place, please. I won’t be particular.”

“I found a place. It looks glorious.”

“Perfect. Directions, please?”

The sign on the door reads: We Reserve the Right to Refuse Service to Anyone. Perfect. This is exactly the place.

The barstools are black and the countertop checkered. A man in a fedora and jacket sits by the window fiddling on his phone and drinking coffee. The waitress says he’s been there all morning. A regular? No. Waiting for the Megabus. I wonder where he’s headed and where he came from. He’s got a big smile and a happy countenance; the antithesis of the Northeast.

People here are lovely.

Scrawled all over the white-board walls are names. Hundreds of them, for sure. They’re all names of people who’ve devoured two pancakes. Two, you say? Yeah, just two. But good luck. These babies are 14″ across and an inch deep. Fit that in your belly. One lady ate six. That’s right. Six.

Can you eat six of these? Some lady did, once.

Can you eat six of these? Some lady did, once.

We got chocolate chips in ours. The two of us couldn’t eat one if we tried.

The bacon is thick. Like a piece of ham, almost. The rye bread tastes like rye bread and the omelets leak gooey American cheese. An abundance of Cholula hot-sauce sits on the side. There is never enough hot-sauce. Never.

Two midwestern sweethearts serve us. They can tell we’re from out of town and they shoot the breeze with us. It’s been an hour, at least, since we got here and they’re in no rush for us to leave. We shyly ask if we can take a photo of them, and two rolls of film and an hour later, we think we’re content. We tip almost 100%. Waitresses who are good sports deserve a raise.

Closing time is at two p.m. The servers clean up the table tops and we our camera gear. We are full, but not bloated. Satisfied.

We heard a lot of good things about Kansas City. There’s a giant shuttlecock on a lawn somewhere? A coffeeshop that’s more elitist than anywhere back home? Let us galavant. The grey autumn skies wouldn’t want anything less.

 

Kansas City: too much city for one state.

Posted in daily life by thebreakfastdictator on 10/05/2014

He wears boots and you can see the blue jeans sneak just below the bottom of the cassock. He chants Saturday evening’s Great Vespers gorgeously. Afterwards, there is a short meet and greet and his red flannel shirt peeks out under his sleeve. An usher named Theodore roams about in striped overalls. He is a convert and has had his hand in many of the parish’s projects. Especially noticeable are the magnificent quilts he made that are hung about the narthex. Our encounter lasts no longer than forty-five minutes but we feel at home already.

St. Basil the Great; KC, KS

St. Basil the Great; KC, KS

Have you ever had coffee that is more than coffee? It is an experience. Down on Main at Fortieth, there’s a place we go on cloudy days, but only cloudy days. It’s better if it drizzles a bit. The waft of coffee grounds rise through your nostrils and a tingle of warmth and comfort envelop your insides. You were made for this; this was made for you. The coffee here is roasted with love and each cup is made by hand. It feels a little 2002 as “Is This It” circles out of the speakers. $3.25 is a lot of a cup of coffee. $3.25 is a deal when it comes in a Pyrex beaker and served on a wooden plate. The donuts are heavenly: deep fried, chocolate & peanut butter; smothered in tiny peanuts. Please don’t let this end.

Someone famous once said “shake it like a Polaroid”. Someone famous didn’t know that that doesn’t process the film any faster and it often leaves a chemical stain at the base of the image. There’s a box full of new Polaroids being made with each stop on the interstate. First in Frackville, then Pittsburgh, then Ohio, and Indiana (complete with a super-weed!), the Land of Lincoln, the Mighty Mississippi, Des Moines and all stops in-between. There is something magical about prints and Polaroids in particular. The medium is the message.

“Look at those clouds. Do you want to stop and take some photos?”

“That sure would be nice.”

Ghost towns are numerous in these parts but they’re sure hard to find. Most of them are covered up with autumnal grass and leaves and maybe even some hayseeds. The late hay is being cut and rolled right about now. Just like a fine cigarette. The massive rolls dot the rolling hills and the gray light and intermittent drizzle rolls off them gentlly. 3200 speed film is grainy; just like the day. Stand in front of that hay roll. We’ll take some pictures while we can.

Oddly Correct; KCMO

Oddly Correct; KCMO

“Did you hear about that guy who found a Ghost Town in the Smoky Mountains?!”

It’s kind-of on the way home. It’d be a great stop. Ironic how we were looking for just that sorta thing and a news story drops like that. There must be something in the October air.

The sun sets a little quicker these days. I love the chill in the air. The smell, too. Last night I went out to the car to grab my hoodie and it smelled like a wood-fire was burning. Football is in full swing and the Royals are in the playoffs for the first time since eighty-five. That’s twenty-nine years. We shoulda stayed up for the Wild Card game at the High Life Lounge. It woulda been a memory.

Don’t get stuck on missed-memories. We’ve made a bunch and there’s lots more good ones to go around. Just don’t forget your coffee or beer.

Wedding Week – Day 1

Posted in Black 'n' Yellow, daily life, Pittsburgh, weddings by thebreakfastdictator on 09/14/2014

I am so insanely lucky. The last weekend of my single life couldn’t have been any better. I have no words to describe the gratefulness that pours from my soul. Seven and a half years ago, I moved to Pittsburgh on a dreadfully cold, sun-splashed February day. It was the day I decided to grow up. It was only fitting that the bookend to that chapter was placed here, my home away from home, in a quaint little cabin a jaunt up 28 and of course, at PNC Park.

In years’ past, I rarely lacked words, but in the recent months, I have typically been rendered speechless. I am finding that words don’t usually do much justice to the things we wish to explain. I only wish I could describe how much these guys mean to me and how a weekend like this helps put that into a sharper focus. I love them so much and without their kindness and friendship and brotherhood, I would not be who I am and I would not be capable of marrying my lovely lady.

The last bastion of bachelorhood has been conquered, in the place where it truly began. A story starts anew this weekend but that one couldn’t have happened without this one. And it is to these guys who I owe so much to. I wish words would do justice to the deepest feelings of thankfulness that my heart wishes to express…

772 Runs Through Eastern Lancaster County

Posted in daily life by thebreakfastdictator on 09/03/2014

The drive from Philadelphia to Lancaster is not all that far. Somehow, though, it always ends up taking longer than it really should. The blue emergency lights were visible a few stop-lights down and we tried to push past them anyways. It was impossible and fluorescent clad firefighters moved us right. Right behind and 18-wheeler and right behind Route 30. I don’t know this road but it winds and dives through the eastern part of the county. The thick late-summer air is uncomfortable and small little memories crack the concrete of long-forgotten summers. Out of nowhere, PV High School is there on the right. Remember summer leagues in dark blue jerseys? The gym was swealty and Nicole brought her friend Sara who I was told would be my true love. Then she wasn’t. Then neither was Nicole.

Remember post-Thanksgiving day basketball games in their monstrous gym? And that break away 3-pointer that I rang in and out that could’ve swung the momentum? Remember thinking how if we could keep up with them we could keep up with Mt Calvary (we couldn’t)? How about stripping the ball from Kyle Byler cleanly and being called for a foul? He tied it at 22. That was the autumn, but the summers just never feel as long as they should. There’s 19 days left of the current one. Drag it out. Embrace it. Revel and roll in it’s warmth and glory.

The exhaust pipe is creaky. The trunk leaks. Everything is chaos in the backseat. A truck is needed but so are other things. This Toyota will do for now. The sky is almost purple to the left and the lightning aches forth from flat colored clouds. Due west is a golden sunset, the color-wheel compliment of purple and we drive right into it. Will there be rain or won’t there? A little. Here and there. Enough to close the sun-roof and the perfect amount to be slightly annoying. Will we ever get home?

The summer comes. The summer goes. The winter comes and the winter stays. This is simply a mystery. One flies and one grinds. It grinds to the point of breaking. Will there be relief or will this misery last eternally? Make some coffee. Turn the heat up. It just keeps getting colder. I can’t feel my fingers, nor my toes. The spasms at my waistline ache from never-ending shivering. There are people who love this and I hate them for it. Why do you love such misery? Let’s sweat a little instead. There is no need for snow, for ice for miserable coldness and eternal blackness. Please, oh summer, I beg you, stay awhile. Stay till December, January, yes, even February. How could we live without you?