This time of year, City Paper's mailbox fills up with holiday greetings from all over town. Local politicians, business leaders and other notables share their holiday cheer with us in the form of cards, letters -- even the occasional arsenic-laced fruitcake. (Speaking of which, a note to the Santorums: The Penn Hills return address isn't fooling anyone; the postmark still says Virginia.) And of course, the nicest part is catching up with folks you haven't seen or heard from all year -- like the Steelers offensive line.
But then we realized: Maybe it's selfish to keep this holiday cheer to ourselves. Why not reprint some of these holiday letters, so our readers can share the joys and sorrows of their local leaders?
And so in the spirit of the season, we present a few of the holiday letters we've received this year. May God bless us, every one.
Happy Holidays from Councilwoman Twanda Carlisle
Hey gang --
It certainly has been a traumatic year for me, and I'm sorry to have lost touch with so many of you. In fact, I've been so busy lately that I'm dictating this letter to my dear friend Rashall. I'm paying her $5,000 from the office budget to type it up, so she better do a good job!
Actually, Rashall was just teasing me that I should have a lawyer look this letter over before sending it out. You might have heard there's an ongoing investigation into my campaign activities -- something about whether I used city money improperly. Honestly, I'm not sure what the fuss is: I tried reading the election law once, but it's worse than the city budget ... or even some of those ordinance thingies they make us vote on. (Rashall says she can't understand how I go to any of those meetings, they're so dull.)
To be honest, having an investigation hanging over your head does kind of spoil the holiday mood. But I'm sure that when next year's election comes around, the voters will remember all I've done for them as their councilperson.
Until then, have a blessed holiday season, and a happy new year.
P.S. Sorry I had to send this postage due; for some reason, the swipe machine at the post office kept declining my credit card.
Season's Best Wishes from Kevin McClatchy
PNC Park in December is a beautiful sight: the stone accents and bronze statues of great Pirates gone by, still so vivid in the early winter light. On some mornings, a light frost tinges the outfield grass, the delicate lacework unspoiled by cleats since September. And all those dark-blue seats, waiting for the renewal of spring.
This is a special time: just after a World Series we're certain never to reach, but just before spring training, when there will be so much excitement about all those affordably priced young arms. And what more could a person ask than the chance to field one of the worst teams in the major leagues, year after year after year, and still turn a profit?
I owe so much to my fellow team owners -- who generously share their revenue with us -- and, of course, the Pirates fans. Who else would go on buying seats, expecting nothing in return beyond some sweatshop-made bobbleheads and 20 or so fireworks nights every summer?
Sharing and forgiveness -- that's what the holiday season is all about. And the regular season too.
Even so, it's still PNC Park I'm most grateful for. I'd almost suggest that you, too, be grateful for the stadium, but then I reconsider. After all, you paid for it.
Yours in playing hardball,
Happy Holidays from the Block Family!
You're probably surprised to be getting a holiday letter from us! We've always said they seem impersonal, and usually when we want to share happy news about our family, we do it the old-fashioned way: by having our photos appear in the "Seen" column of our family-owned Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
But like dear brother Alan says: It's not like anyone at that rag can write, and besides -- why pay some fat old Teamster to deliver the news if you don't have to?
Ha, ha! Let's just keep that between us, shall we? Our employees have gotten a little sensitive, what with the ongoing labor talks and all. They didn't like it when Alan started telling other papers that his staff was a bunch of no-talent hacks sucking on the corporate teat. It seems like no one can take a joke anymore.
But we've been spending a lot of time down at the Boulevard of the Allies this year, J.R. especially. He says the printing presses really make a racket, and the newsprint gets all over your hands and makes them all black and smeary. Honestly, we don't know how Dad put up with it for so long.
But hey, we certainly don't want to spoil anyone's holiday cheer. We hope the season brings you good tidings of joy and prosperity -- especially if you're in the market for a family-owned newspaper.
All the Joy of the Seasons from the Michael Watson Household
At this time of year, it's good to reflect on who you are, and what really matters. That's why I'd like to take a moment to recall Pittsburgh Roars, the promotional initiative I co-chaired as senior vice president of the Richard King Mellon Foundation.
We really got the city moving this year -- or, should I say, "roaring"! By taking a mess of stuff that was going on anyway, and grouping it all under one promotional campaign just because it was happening in Pittsburgh, we really made this a more special place.
And you don't have to be in the nonprofit game to know what a big improvement we made with all those 30-foot-tall inflatable creatures -- including the ones that drooped over! We put them at the Point, at the Carnegie, on all kinds of buildings. People couldn't help but stop and stare, no doubt marveling at how Pittsburgh was redefining itself before their very eyes. Even the kids who thought that the big blow-up deer was sitting down to relieve itself joined in the fun.
So as we look back on 2006, and ahead to 2007, let's all remember giant sagging balloons in the shape of squirrels and fish. I can't think of a better emblem for this city or the new identity it is forging.
Mike and the Crew
From: Robert Kelly
To: Mellon employees/PGH; media/PGH
RE: Best wishes for all humanity, etc.
This is a season for looking back and giving thanks, and as your CEO, I know Mellon Financial has much to be grateful for. Earnings are strong, dividends robust. Our merger with Bank of New York promises boundless new synergies.
Of course, for some of you, the holidays seem a bit dark this year, since the merger will move our headquarters to Manhattan and cost 600 local jobs. I just want you to know this decision hurt me more than it hurt you. On the inside, I mean.
I fell in love with Pittsburgh almost immediately -- which, sadly, was all I had time for. Its three rivers, the view from the bridge headed to the airport, the inclines that scale Washington's Landing ... not to mention the sandwiches with the French-fried potatoes inside. I never got around to trying one (doctor's orders!) but I'll mention them wherever the flow of capital takes me.
I sympathize with the uncertainty many of you must be feeling. My own wife Rose moved into our Sewickley home just weeks before the deal was closed. She just got the Wedgwood crystal out of the bubble wrap, and now she has to wrap it up again. So this will be a time of transition for us all. Stockholders, executives, those of us who stand to lose our jobs ... we're in this thing together.
Because that's what the holidays are all about.
Merry Christmas from Congressman Tim Murphy!
I bet you were surprised to have this letter hand-delivered! I wanted to give my holiday greetings a special touch this year, and so I sent out members of my staff to deliver them personally. They weren't so crazy about having to do it on Christmas Eve, I guess, and a few of them grumbled about the elf hats. But like I always tell them: I'm the elected official, not you!
Anyway, Nan and the kids are doing great, as you'll see from the enclosed photo. (Sorry if some of the smiles look kind of Photoshopped -- the photographer had to retouch a few shadows.) It's hard to believe that this time a year ago, I was recovering from injuries sustained during my visit to Iraq. The cut over my eye and the bruise on my cheek are gone, but as a doctor I can tell you -- injuries on the inside take longer to heal. I can't help but think back to the horror of Iraq every time I nick myself shaving.
Of course the big news in the Murphy household is ... Daddy won his re-election by 16 points! But every silver lining has a cloud. A couple of ingrates on my staff have been telling reporters that I made them do campaign-related business while they were supposed to be doing government work. Like I told the FBI the other day, "In this office, I am the government."
Honestly, it's so hard to find good help these days. All I want for Christmas is an employee who can keep his mouth shut. Is that too much to ask?
I got to hang with Sienna Miller! And go on Letterman!
Also, I'm now the mayor of Pittsburgh, if you can believe that. So all-around, it's been a pretty awesome year.
It didn't start out that way, though. When Bob O'Connor got sick and people said I might be mayor, I was like, "I didn't sign up for this!" But they said, "Actually, you kind of did. You're president of city council."
It was weird: Suddenly you're supposed to be the boss of all these people you don't know and didn't hire. Also, I had some trouble with this one guy, who kept trying to push me around and make me appoint him to stuff. We got rid of him, but later we found all this stuff in his desk, like some chicken bones and a lock of my hair taped to this doll with strings wrapped around its hands. Who even knows what that was about. (I gave the thing to Dan Onorato as a gag gift; he promised to "keep it handy.")
But being mayor isn't as hard as you think. Pretty much everyone just wants me to do well. It's just this good feeling, like everyone's on your side. And isn't that what the holiday season, and Pittsburgh itself, is all about?
Oh, and if you missed the Letterman show, let me know. I've got it on tape.
Happy Sparkle Season from the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership!
Yes, you read that right: "Sparkle Season" is back.
We at the PDP know that "Sparkle Season" has been controversial. We know it's not "politically correct." But we're not letting the War on Sparkle Season continue without a fight. It's time to get back to the traditional values that define this time of year. If we had our way, there wouldn't be a shop clerk in the Golden Triangle wishing anyone a "Merry Christmas" this year. It just cheapens the whole thing.
And in the true holiday spirit, we want you to know how successful our "Downtown Ambassador" program has been at corralling panhandlers. For months now, we've been positioning our roving "ambassadors" just a few feet away from panhandlers, urging passersby not to them any give money. This time of year especially, we should remember that giving them spare change only encourages them ... just as looking them in the eye only makes them feel important.
For us, the holiday sentiment is best expressed in A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens' immortal holiday classic. Reminding us to be mindful of the poor, Dickens trenchantly asks, "Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?"
We hope you take that to your heart, as we have, and have a holiday that truly Sparkles.
I hate to say it, with the New Year coming around the bend, but Pittsburgh is OVER.
First of all, Anti-Flag sold out big time. I mean, how can you hold to radical politics when you've become a major-label whore? Some people say For Blood and Empire rocks, but they weren't around back in the day when the shit was real.
I'm selling my collection of original shrink-wrapped A-F Records releases, just on principle.
Second of all, Modey Lemon. They did that cock-rock side project with Grand Buffet that totally embraced some really sexist and unenlightened libertarian views. I appreciated it ironically, of course, but most people just didn't get it. Then they played the Arts Festival for a bunch of boomers. Probably even got paid for it. Instead of keeping it local and sustainable, they think they're all rock stars now because they're gonna be in Mysteries of Pittsburgh. Bet they'll get paid for that too.
Third, Brillobox is ruining Lawrenceville. It's full of noobs and fops and grad students. Now they're spilling over to Belvedere's and ruining that, too. These people must not realize the serious ramifications of their short-sighted gentrification.
Anyway, have yourself a bourgeois little Christmas. For what it's worth.
-- Donnie Iris
Joyeux Noël from the Lemieuxs!
In our household, no story is more precious to us than the birth of Christ: the Savior whose advent on Earth is celebrated by three kings, each presenting a priceless gift.
Looks like some Messiahs have all the luck.
I mean, at least Jesus was only born in a barn. I've had to play in one for years. And I can't even get a slots license to replace it.
Plus, I'm not exactly dealing with the Wise Men here, either: Rendell, Ravenstahl and Onorato -- these guys wouldn't know a savior if he crosschecked them into the boards. Which he just might, if you want to know the truth.
Hell, Christ got off easy: I've been getting martyred for years. You think it's been easy, living in Sewickley with a bad back? I keep slicing my tee shot because of it. Jesus, meanwhile -- dead on a Friday, back on his feet before the weekend was over. There's a guy who never had to play a series against the Flyers. He probably never had to deal with this kind of injustice at the hands of government officials, either.
This slots thing -- it just makes you think people have lost all perspective.
It's been another tough year here in Lawrenceville, what with the bankruptcy and all. We still owe a ton of money, and we're not catching on with the hipsters like those bastards over at Pabst.
What do I have to do for these kids? We practically invented light beer, plus the damn aluminum bottle! C'mon, that's good stuff! You kiddin' me? Howsabout we just go belly-up entirely, you little shits? Would our beer be "ironic" enough for you then?
Sorry, my interior filter's a little off. It's the holidays, and maybe I've been celebrating. I'm allowed.
But Christ, I'd like to get those water folks off my back. Water! They want me to pay for it! S'just water! Maybe I should have a glass. Nah.
I'm just tryna keep the damn lights on and make some beer. You want one? No? I'm gonna have another.
Everyone wants to know where the money's coming from to keep us going. I tell 'em "Santa's bringing it, don't worry!" But that's not good enough for them, oh no, not with their fancy-pants lawyers and prelimminerry injunctions.
Ah, to hell with it. We'll keep makin' beer, an' I'll keep the toilets flushin'. May yer days be brerry and might.
-- Joe Piccirilli
Christmas greetings to the Miller clan: Taupe, Khaki, Uncle Sandy, and all the ecru at the Umbers -- from your darling Sienna!
Oh, I never tire of that little joke! It gives me something to contemplate, besides death's sweet release, as I spend my life going from hotel room to bar and back again. If only the camera lens could capture the tragedy of that existence, why, I would be contemplating an Oscar now, instead of spending my hours wondering whether Jude is back in London, hiring new help.
But can you believe what my life was like in 2006?
Neither could my adoring public. Why I was stuck up three separate rivers without a paddle is one of those mysteries I'll never solve.
But I shall keep trying. You see, this is my life! It always will be! Nothing else! Just us, the cameras, and those wonderful people out there in the dark! ... All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up.
X's and O's, Sienna
My Christmas Poem 2006, by Margaret "Ritchie" Scaife
"How the Dick Stole Christmas"
In the Scaife homes
Liked Christmas a lot ...
But now Dick
Who still lives in my mansions
He's stolen my Christmas
My whole Christmas season.
Now, please don't ask why. OK -- here is the reason:
He's stolen my porcelain demilune pot.
It's got gilded borders! Do I have it? Do not!
He took all my creamware. He took the tureens!
He took spoons for terrapins, forks for sardines!
He took everything inlaid, ebonized, rare. He took English fruit coolers! I need some air.
He took the Biedermier. And art by the score!
One silver porringer! My Labrador!
And when I came home just to get back that pup,
They charged me with trespass, assault -- all trumped up!
But I've thought of something I haven't before.
My Christmas, perhaps, could still come from a store!
I turned on the TV, put hands to my ears,
And noticed they've got things called Wal-Mart! And Sears!
I've come to know Kmart, and Penney's, and Lowe's!
I've fought for the best sales. I've trampled on toes!
I've come to know Target, those Depots -- Best Buy!
I've bought from the trunk of some neighborhood guy.
And what happened then?
Well ... in Scaife's homes they say
Those antiques' appraisals
Grew three sizes that day!
And the minute I no longer needed things back,
I'm sure that man's heart turned a deep shade of black.
It reminded me why divorce won't be enough,
And why I ...
I MYSELF ...!
will still sue for my stuff!
Merry Christmas from Tom Murphy!
I watched a snail ... crawl along the edge ... of a straight razor ... and survive.
That is my dream. It's my nightmare.
I've been here a year now, surrounded by my groundbreaking shovels, waiting for someone to call. Every time I wake up, I think I'm going to be back in the City County Building. And every time I turn around, the walls of my Butler County home close in on me.
I know what they say, back in their air-conditioned headquarters. They talk of redding up. They want to put housing Downtown. People! Living Downtown! Yet they call me a madman. They call my methods "unsound."
In order to understand what is necessary, you must have the will. Pure, crystalline will. And you must make a friend of terror. For we must condemn them, we must raze them, we must redevelop them with pricey retail. Block after block, neighborhood after neighborhood, city after city.
The horror ... the horror.