At the door to an infamous annual Halloween party in Friendship, a girl wearing a heavy coat is being refused admission -- "I'm really sorry," says the doorman, "We're really packed right now, and we can't let anyone else in."
Disappointed, and probably a little drunk, the girl pleads her case. "But I'm an electrical engineer," she says, opening her coat, "dressed as a sexy nurse!"
Not far away, on Bloomfield's Howley Street, a group of children are trick-or-treating. One of them, deemed "too smart for her own good," wears a bathrobe, streaked makeup, and curlers. "What are you dressed as?" the benign witch at the door asks.
If the Internet is going to permanently remove a few veils of privacy, it only seems fair that we get a few laughs -- and maybe a little insight -- in exchange. That's why Chris Griswold, a Friendship resident and Pitt graduate, began Overheard in Pittsburgh, a blog recording the more eccentric side of the city, as gathered by eavesdropping locals.
Launched in the summer of 2005, Overheard takes any and all submissions of Pittsburgh moments, be they poignant, personal, or just plain funny. Griswold is also involved in operating the University of Pittsburgh's long-running Friday Night Improvs series, and sees a similarity between the moments created onstage there and moments captured by his roving band of contributors.
"I like moments when people who wouldn't ordinarily be together bump up to one another," says Griswold. "That's one thing attracted me to the format -- little glimpses of people's lives."
Overheard in Pittsburgh is one of many "overheard" blogs on the Web, the most famous being the original, Overheard in New York. Since the New York site's launch, "overheard" sites have been established everywhere from Bucharest to Australia to University of Western Ontario. But Griswold's goal is to make Overheard in Pittsburgh stand out: Rather than simply repeat stupid things people say in line at the liquor store, often with a classist or even mildly racist take, like many "overheard" blogs do, Griswold wants his site to show what it's like living here, right now.
"Everything going on in Pittsburgh is reflected," says Griswold. "Obviously, the Super Bowl was a big time [for submissions], and the mayor's death. One that sticks out in my mind is an elderly man talking about how his wife's mental ability has slipped, to someone at a cash register. It's not funny; it's a really sad moment. I like it, because that's what it was -- that moment in that Pittsburgher's life."
The quantity and quality and submissions can vary wildly. During the summer, things slowed to two or three submissions per week -- now Griswold gets at least that many a day. He quickly learned to spot self-referential submissions, when someone thought they'd said something funny. (They usually hadn't.) Griswold says he's actively trying to recruit more submissions from Downtown and from the suburban parts of the city -- right now, many of his regular contributors are located in Oakland or the East End.
The obsessive love of Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh culture that led to Overheard has also inspired Griswold to begin WikiProject Pittsburgh -- a Wikipedia project dedicated to "representing the city and area on Wikipedia as best possible."
But with all the poignancy, historical importance and signature moments going on at Overheard in Pittsburgh, its popularity still comes down to one thing: humor. And, perhaps, the chance to learn a bizarre pick-up line or two.
Outside Kiva Han in Oakland, for example, a man approaches a female and readies his cell phone's camera.
"I'm going to take a picture of you," he says. "Because you look like Edna St. Vincent Millay."