Hi,

Today is Diwali, the beginning of the Hindu festival of lights that lasts five days.  It celebrates the return of Lord Rama to Ayodhya after a 14 year exile.

I did something pretty stupid today.  I was going up to Meadville (up by Erie) for the Western PA B & B Association meeting (I’m a member).  I’ve been wanting to go to the Wendell August Forge (more to follow), it’s up by Grove City (about an hour north) and decided that I would stop on my way back.  I had a fair amount of cash on me in case I saw something (s) I wanted to buy at The Forge.  Just as I got on I279, there’s a young guy hitch hiking and I stopped to pick him up.  I did look him over and he didn’t seem like he’d be an issue, but you never know.  I was mildly apprehensive and he turned out to be a nice kid.  Going from Cincinnati to up by Williamsport looking for a job. But apparently, I wasn’t the only one nervous.  WYEP no longer plays the news on the hour and I noticed it just past ten a.m. and my hand darted to the middle of the console to change the station to WDUQ and his hand darted down to his knee.  :)

So after the meeting, I did stop at the Wendell August store, right outside Grove City. Wendell August Forge is America’s oldest and largest forge, producing hand-wrought ornamental metalware and elegant giftware in aluminum and other metals since 1923. The company was founded in Brockway, Pennsylvania by Wendell McMinn August, who, at age 38, was active in the coal industry.

August engaged Ottone “Tony” Pisoni, a blacksmith in his coal mine, to hand-forge door latches for his home. Admiring the low cost and high quality of Pisoni’s work, August was inspired to start a decorative ironware business. Pisoni was joined by three more blacksmiths who handcrafted the first product line, including one-of- a-kind fireplace andirons, candlesticks, lighting standards, doorknockers, latches, railings, and grilles for windows and doors.

F.W. “Bill” Knecht, III acquired the company in 1978 from Wendell’s son, Robert August. Knecht operated the company until his death in 2004; the Knecht family still owns the company today.  There was a fire that pretty much totaled the business a year or two ago.  The community rallied around WA and helped them get back on their feet.  A neighbor, The Slovak Folk Crafts offered to share retail space in their store so WA could start bringing in some income.  They are still paired together and if you are around Grove City, or the outlets malls, you should stop in.  If for no other reason, to see the hand carved 17′ x 6′ x 8′ village with 82 moving figures.  It is the largest animated wood carving in America and is truly amazing.

Let’s start with my whining about the Pittsburgh anemic pension fund.  They have it about twenty percent funded and by state law, they need 50% funded by December 31.  The mayor proposed leasing our parking assets to a private firm (actually a group of two, one that would actually run it and the other is a big bank for the funding) for 50 years.  I think I said earlier, I am basically behind this option.  Not that I want to give up city assets, it’s that the Pittsburgh Parking Authority is so poorly run, why not give it to someone that can run it efficiently.  Yes, parking rates will increase, but these are business people, they are not going to raise the rates more than the market can bear.  I think this is what’s wrong with many things, we want something for nothing and are used to the government handing us stuff (like cheap parking).  City Counsel wanted to sell our parking assets to the Parking Authority.  Bad move, they can’t handle what they’ve got.  My question stems from the big fear of the state taking over the pension fund. There is this HUGE fear of this and everyone’s predicting dire consequences.  My BIG question is why can’t we get a quote of what this state take over is going to cost?   It seems to me these are concrete matters.  These aren’t variables like weather, amount of snow that’s going to fall this winter, etc.  We have so much money invested in various places, we have returns coming in on these investments, we have administration costs and we have bodies that are either retired or going to retire.  There are variables, different people die at different ages, returns on investments vary, etc.  But there’s actuaries and investment experts that should be able to give us a good idea of what it would cost.  I think we should make a decision based on facts and not scare tactics.

Next Tuesday the cast comes off (if it doesn’t drive me totally nuts first).  I think my finger is pretty much healed and I’ve gotten used to maneuvering around with the cast with many things.  But yesterday I put the Plexiglas up in the kitchens and laundry room and it was quite the challenge with the left hand in a cast.

Guess what?  It looks like I’m going to be in the Tribune Review next Saturday (November 20).  One of their fashion writers is doing a piece on guest rooms in people’s house with the holidays approaching.  she contacted me to see if I was interested in sharing my ideas on it and I said of course.  So she came by last week and we chatted and her photographer’s coming by tomorrow.  Watch out Martha Steward.  :)

I got myself in trouble with my neighborhood association again.  The city is finally installing the trees on Western Ave and started on the corner of Western and Brighton (the opposite end from me) and the trees are pretty small.  I sent out an e-mail commenting on their size and it was promptly pointed out to me that the trees were spec’d out and met those specifications.  If anyone wants to see some trees of a decent size the city just planted, go to the corner of Brighton and California.  Those are nice sized trees, ours are wimpy. :)

That’s it for now,

ed

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