I did a 4-day vacation with my Dad this summer. We did one last year as well, just him and I, where we did the Meyersdale to Cumberland branch of the GAP Rails-Trail, whitewater rafting in Ohiopyle, and visited Punxsutawney. This year we took a trip out to Pittsburgh, mainly (but not entirely) to go to Pulpfest.
On the way up to Pittsburgh, we hit the Abandoned Turnpike Tunnel Trail with our bikes. The ride is about 17 miles round trip one end is just outside the Sideling Hill rest stop on the extant turnpike and the other end is at Breezewood. The stretch of road had to be abandoned because the tunnels were incapable of handling the traffic volume, and instead of expanding the tunnels it was cheaper just to build new ones. The road is still there and it’s not illegal to ride on, however, it’s also not advertised. The road can be rough in some spots too, so it’s not wise to bring thin tire street bikes on it. This is the third time we’ve done this ride, the first two were done from Breezewood to Sideling Hill which is mostly downhill and then uphill. This time we did it in reverse, so we were cruising more easily coming back when we were more tired. But this had an unusual effect in the first tunnel. It made it seem much longer (since it’s close to the beginning) and it’s a long tunnel anyway, cold and full of fog (at least it was in the morning going east to west) and in the middle, you can’t see either end. If you’re going to do this ride, bring a flashlight.
After the ride, we went to Breezewood to take showers and then to Bedford for an early dinner at a place called “Ed’s.” When we finally got to the hotel where Pulpfest was being held, my Dad and I sat at the bar and watched a baseball game. It was the first time we ever watched a baseball game together and probably the last time, neither of us like sports and just about all our knowledge of baseball comes from Seinfeld, and we made a lot of Seinfeld references that night while watching the game.
I asked for a Dirty Gibson, but the bartender told me “for the first time ever at this hotel we are out of cocktail onions” so I got a martini with blue cheese stuffed olives, Dad got a peach Gin Fizz or something like that.
The next morning was the main point of our going out to Pittsburgh… Pulpfest. It’s kind of like Comicon but for pulps, a much smaller venue, a much more niche crowd. Pulps are the magazines from the ‘20s to the ‘50s that were published on a very cheap high pulp concentration paper, similar to the paper used in the original Goosebumps books. The other magazines (the ones still published today) are usually called slicks. Pulps are best remembered for the artwork on the covers. Check out the link supra or do a google search and you’ll see what I’m talking about, check out the spicy ones especially… they have the best pictures.
There were a number of dealers at the show selling pulps, paperback books, at least one guy had penny dreadfuls (which I had never seen before – but I’m pretty sure that’s what they were), modern authors selling their own books, artwork (one guy had the covers sans text, blown up and nicely framed which then came with a copy of the book or magazine the cover was from.), and T-Shirts.
I did have an objective going to this convention, collecting pulps was only part of it and a small part. The main part was to look for new publishers, small presses, and independent authors to chat with to see if I can get some kind of in. I made up a new business card with my name on it to try and get it out there. I may have a slight lead with Raw Dog Screaming Publications, but I’m not too optimistic about it, I may give it a shot next year.
I also wanted to see if maybe next year I should set up a table of my own (not that I have a book to sell… yet) or to see if it might be something my friend Josh Mavis would be interested in. His stuff is hard-line pulp-inspired, mine is less easily definable. I reported my findings to him and we’ll see what he does with it, at least he does have a book to sell and may have another by next Pulpfest.
At these sorts of conventions, I always buy books from the independent authors and I did so this time. I’m not sure if I should admit this part or not, but I almost never read these books. This year might be different though, one is a very short novella, one is a short collection of short stories, and one is a collection of very short stories from 2 Authors.
Here’s what I picked up from those authors.
Lawson VS. LaValley – I’ve never seen one of these before, but I like the idea… I like it a lot actually and may try something like this later on. This is a collection by two different authors, mostly Flash Fiction. There are 37 stories in 112 pages. I met John Edward Lawson and chatted with him the most (at least as far as primary objective went). The stories, however, are (at least from what I’ve read so far) Bizarro, not a genre I write in or know a whole lot about, so maybe Raw Dog Scremeing will not prove fruitful, I still may try though.
The House on Concordia Drive by K. W. Taylor – apparently this is the prequel to a series about a supernatural disc Jokey. It was the shortest thing she had there which is why I picked it up, giving me a chance to actually read it.
Tales of Gods and Monsters edited by Joab Stieglitz – it’s edited and mostly written by Stieglitz, he wrote 3 of the stories and his wife wrote one. While talking to him he told me the basic plot to his “Utgarda Trilogy” which sounded really good, but again I wanted to actually read the books I got from these Authors, and I can’t easily read a novel on paper.
I love t-shirts and where them primarily when I go out. Mine usually have interesting images and I tend to get comments on them. Dad is always impressed with how many comments I get. I was wearing my Legend of Zelda T-shirt at Pulpfest and that will come up again a little further down. There was a booth selling T-shirt’s with pulp covers on them, and I picked up two. However, they are just a little too off-color to wear everywhere. One is Thrilling Mysteries March 1940, this issue features 2 stories by Ray Cummings, another by DL James, the cover story is by Joseph Archbold, and there are 4 other stories (I’m wearing this shirt right now as I edit this). The other T-shirt is a cover of Weird Tales May 1941, which has the first half of a short Lovecraft novel (the cover), a Seaberry Quinn Novelette, 6 other stories, and two poems.
On Friday night there was a guy at Pulpfest who was telling us about the convention and we found out he was a dealer, Ray Walsh of the Curious Book Shop in East Lansing Michigan, he was nice and had a good sense of humor and I wanted to make sure I bought something from his table. As it turned out I bought two magazines from his table (which I’ll get to in a second). I had pulled up a bunch of pictures on my phone and asked him if he had any of them. I showed him a Spicy Adventure cover and he told me that he can’t even hold onto the Spicy’s and that they’re rather expensive. I showed him an Oriental Stories cover, but I already knew the answer, I saw it at a different table for 700$ and I want it because I want to read the cover story of that issues: “The Dragoman’s Slave Girl” (and I can’t find it online anywhere) I also wanted to read the story “Dreamboat” in an issue of The Original Science Fiction Stories, that apparently was not a pulp magazine but a digest (looks like a paperback book) but he didn’t bring any with him to the show. He didn’t have the issue of Jungle Stories that I showed him, but he did have some issues of the magazine… jackpot. And I also picked up a copy of Railroad Stories, a magazine I did not know about until this year. I asked him about reading the magazines, “read a pulp? Who does that?” He asked, as a joke, he recommended that I be careful while doing so as the paper is rather brittle, but I didn’t need to wear gloves or anything like that. I did actually read one of the stories in one of the magazines before the trip was over. After we were done at his table he welcomed Dad and me to the world of pulp. It was a nice welcoming to a hobby I plan to stay with for a while.
Here’s a quick review of the actual pulps I picked up.
Railroad Stories April 1936 – I picked up this issue because I liked the picture on the cover and wanted to read the story based on it. It was later that I saw the mark at the bottom of the magazine which reads “25$ cash to the best title for this picture” I seriously doubt that 83 years later the contest is still open, but I am quite good at titles so Challenge Accepted… my submission: “High Tea and the Hobo Makes Three” now I should probably write a story for it. This was the oldest magazine that I picked up at Pulpfest and ergo the oldest in my collection. When this issue was released, Hitler had just taken over in Germany. When this magazine came out, people who had phones most likely shared a line with another house, and now phones are the primary reading medium for many. I actually saw a picture of this magazine on my phone before I got it. History and entertainment writing that has been largely forgotten, that’s why I enjoy this stuff. Stories included in this issue are: “the Big Hill” by Edmund E. Pugsley, “the Angle of Canyon Pass” by Charles W. Tyler (I’ve read another story by him called “The Western Union Kid” he was a very prolific but little remembered writer) “Link And Pin” by Ed Samples, “Wood Burners” by Watson B. Berry (which I have read by this point), “The Skipper Uses His Head” by Harry R. Drummond, “Riding the Freight” by James C. Southcott, “Broken Links” by Highball John Burns (what a nickname), “Closing Days” by Ralph A. Snyder, “Rolling Down to Reno” by Eugene Picture Kid (quite a name there as well), “Along the Iron Pike” by Joseph Easley, “Railway Express Messenger No. 1” by H.R. Edwards, “Streetcar Thrills” by George Beater, “Concoring the Hoosac” by Clif Belcher, “A Race that Cost 44 Lives” by E.B. Heineman, “Who’s Who in the Crew” by Stookie Allen, and “Juggling a Nitro Train” by R.A. Emberg.
Jungle Stories Summer 1946 – Stories included: “Death Seeks for Congo Treasure” by John Peter Drummond (a Ki-Gor Novel, each issue of Jungle Stories features a Ki-Gor Novel, basically a Tarzan ripoff, John Peter Drummond is a house name, I don’t know who actually wrote the novel here), “Jungle Jinx” by John Ropke, “Trail by Magic” by Tom O’Neil, “The Golden Assegai” by Alexsander Wallace, “Relictant Warrior” by Duncan Zara, “Phantasma” by R. A. Emberg, “Too Many Witch Doctors” by Cordwell Staples (which I read before the trip was done, it’s a good story about a guy transporting rubber who gets caught by a witch doctor and is tied to a tree to be slowly beheaded), and “Black Devil Magic” by Joe A. Small.
North West Romances Fall 1944 – don’t let the magazine title full you, these are not romance stories in the traditional “love” sense. Northerns or Northwestern is a genre I’ve only recently come across, basically westerns set in the northern territories of Canada with Mounties standing in for cowboys; and lumberjacks, fur trappers, hunters, first nationers, and gold prospectors as the stable of characters. I first came across the genre when I was researching a W. C. Fields short called “The Fatal Glass of Beer” during a very cold night last winter. And I’ve loved the concept of this genre since. My friend Josh Mavis (mentioned supra) writes Northers, as of now his are the only ones I’ve read in the genre, it will be interesting to see how his stories hold up with the originals of the genre. I am looking forward to reading these stories which include: “Lady of Plunder Trail” by William Heuman (which I’m currently reading), “The Chechako Brigade” by Clay Perry, “Mountie’s Last Mission” by Curtis Bishop, “Steel Portage” by Dan Cusman, “the Invader” by Jim Kjelgaard, “Trail of Carcajou” by W. E. Knibloe, “Silver-Tip” by William Rush, and “Skin Game” by C. V. Teuch. The issue I really wanted was from Fall 1946 and has the story “Satan’s Timer Claim” now I have to read that one… and again, can’t find it online.
Here’s the full set of all I picked up from Pulpfest:
I found out about a store called Cash-In Culture from a gamer that I watch on YouTube. It is not a retro video game store, or I should say it is not just a retro video game. They also sell toys and DVDs. I would love it if there was a store like this a little closer by, but on the other hand, maybe it’s a good thing they aren’t. Dad wasn’t too interested in the store, but that was perfectly understandable, so he left and checked out some other stories. While I was in the store another customer asked if I had been at Pulpfest, he recognized my shirt, and we had a nice little chat for a few minutes. Here’s what I picked up at the store:
Taboo [NES] – I’ve been looking for this game for some time and I didn’t think I would ever find it, even though it is a common game (though I’m really not sure why and you’ll probably think the same when you’ve read what it is). It’s not so much a game but a tarot card simulator. You write in your name, birthday and gender and it lays out a spread explaining each card and what it means based on its position in the spread. I wanted this cart quite a bit, but I was also a little hesitant to get it and that had nothing to do with its price. If it was an Ouija board simulator, I wouldn’t have even touched it.
Casino Kid – I didn’t like this game very much. It has a 2-star rating in the Ultimate NES Guide, and I give it the same. There are obviously roulette and craps tables in the game (my two favorites) but you can’t use them, instead, you can only play blackjack and poker and you have to find the right people to play against at first (and I had to use a guide on the internet just to get started). Maybe if it was my only game and I had nothing else to do it would be better, but that’s not the case. Oh well, one more game in the collection, there are worse games out there but there are also much much better games (both gambling simulators and others) to be sure.
April O’Neal – Cash-In Culture doesn’t just sell video games, they sell toys too. In fact, this is the only store I’ve been in that sells loose action figures other then maybe a flee market. I had to pick some up. There were a lot of star wars toys but I don’t really care about them, they also had some Real Ghostbusters figures but they didn’t have any of the ones I wanted. There were also some carded TMNT figures but they were from the StarTrek crossover line, so I wasn’t super interested in them either (slightly interested but not enough for the sticker price), but they did have plenty of loose TMNT figures. I had to get April O’Neal, there are very few female action figures in my collection. If I was as I am now when I was a kid, I would have gotten mostly female action figures, but as a kid boys didn’t play with girl action figures… it just wasn’t done. Regardless it wouldn’t feel right not picking up a girl action figure now. For those of you unfamiliar with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, April was the news reporter that first discovered the turtles and was involved in some capacity in a lot of the episodes, she was a friend of theirs and always tried to take there side in the news reports, even when no one else would. She was voiced by Renae Jacobs in the original series.
Rat King – again if I was like I am now as a kid I would have opted for the bad guys. Most of my loose toy collection (the action figures I got as a kid) were male and protagonists, I was missing out on some good stuff. I had to get a bad guy while I was in the store, and the Rat King was the best option, I’ve wanted him for years (I wanted Leatherhead more, but they didn’t have him there). He came with a dime bag of some of his accessories (grappling hook, crossbow, and loincloth made out of a flattened roadkill cat). The detail they put into these old figures is far greater than the detail in the modern release TMNT figures. The Rat King lived in the sewers with the turtles but he was not a friendly neighbor. He was voiced by Townsend Coleman who also did the voice of Waldo and the Tick.
Ace Duck – as far as I can tell Ace Duck is one of the few action figures in the TMNT line, that is not actually a character on the show. He had his own comic book, and I don’t know much more other than that. Regardless I’ve wanted an ace duck figure for a years… now I have one, unfortunately, he didn’t come with any accessories either.
Night Court Season 2 – for Christmas last year my friend over at Oblivion’s Realm gave me a copy of Night Court Season 1, and during some rather bad times in my life over the past year I would watch it on my laptop in bed (or in the bath) and it helped me get by. There were a lot of DVDs to choose from at Cash-In Culture, But when I saw this one, I had to get it. I have since watched it and enjoyed it quite a bit. Maybe better than the first season. I remembered two of the episodes, one where a guy is convinced the devil is sending messages through music, and another where Bull gets a son from some kind of charity thing who turns out to be a girl. There are other good episodes here too. One about a computer hacking kid genius who’s a real asshole, another about a nun who leaves the sisterhood so she can date the judge, another Yakov Smirnoff episode, and more.
Part of the draw for Pulpfest was to see my dad’s hometown, where he lived until he was about 12 in Canonsburg. It’s about a half-hour outside of Pittsburg. On the way there we passed by a car vending machine of all things, dad pointed it out, he said he had heard of them before, I never have.
We stopped in front of my dad’s old house when we were in Canonsburg. I had seen it before when I was probably 10 years old, or thereabouts. I remembered the yard being bigger and there being trees around, this was 25 years ago… things always seem bigger and trees and come and go.
He was tempted to knock on the door of one of his neighbors in the small chance that she, or her family, might still be living there, but he (we) pussyed out. He drove down a road that was a dirt road when he was a kid and showed me the old pond he used to canoe in and where he thought the drive-in movie theater might have been, another small neighborhood he used to ride his bike to, and his old elementary school… he hated school as much as (if not more then) I did, strange since he was a teacher for almost 20 years.
When we were leaving he said. “Well I’ll probably never see my old house again,” and when he said this she showed almost no emotion, which was strange, if the roles were reversed I would have had trouble both leaving and/or going there in the first place. You know I’m going to write a story based on the idea, and yes I already have a title… “Leaving Canonsberg”
Another highlight, something we wanted to do in the town was to see a certain statue. There are actually two singers of some renown that came from Canonsburg: Bobby Vinton, who did the song “Mr. Lonely” (though the sped up sampling in the Akon song “Lonely” is the better variation in my opinion) and the more famous Perry Como. Como was immortalized in a statue in front of the library/police station of Canonsberg. Not really my kind of music but still worth seeing.
That evening Dad and I went into Pittsburgh, found a parking garage and set out on the town for dinner. We ate at the famous Primanti Bros. You May know them, though not by name. It’s the sandwich place that puts the coleslaw and French fries right in the sandwich. They started as a lunch counter for the steelworkers, who didn’t have a lot of time to eat, so they put the sides right in the sandwich. And today they still do the same thing. I got a Capocollo and cheese, Dad got a Pitts-Burgher. The sandwich was quite good, the experience even better. We needed up staying in the restaurant for an extra half hour or so because it started to downpour and we were on foot.
Once the rain cleared we headed over to “the point” which is the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers to form the Ohio River. We could have real easily jumped into the river and went for a swim if we wanted to, or even more easily fallen in, there was no barrier between the edge of the point and the water. My guess is it happens frequently.
For breakfast the next morning we went to the Eat’N Park right across the road from the hotel. I remembered eating at one before, the last time Dad and I went out to Pittsburgh some 25 years ago. It was good. A cheap diner chain, very reminiscent of a Friendly’s (which was my Dad and I’s favorite restaurant for a long long time, and sadly the one we always went to close down about a year ago). I had Grilled Sticky Buns for breakfast (among the eggs and bacon), and I haven’t had them in years, Dad never had them before, but he tried mine and then ordered some for himself.
On the way back home we stopped for a night in Bedford, to visit my dad’s family, he has one cousin in law who he is still in contact with, who is an angel of a man, he has a granddaughter who I hadn’t seen since I graduated from high school. She was visiting when we were there and we had a good time chatting, and I gave her my contact info, hopefully, she will keep in touch.
We had dinner with the family at a little greasy spoon just outside of Bedford, it had an old country atmosphere on the inside, and antique Decor, it looked like a Cracker Barrel, but smaller and more authentic. I got the fried chicken. On the last father/son trip I also had fried chicken and it was some of the best bird I’d ever had before, this chicken came close.
The following day, the last day of our trip, Dad and I did another bike ride. The trail was called the Johnstown Path of the Flood Trail. It started at South Fork and ended at Johnstown. Though we didn’t make it that far. The ride was very hot and very downhill, with a variety of placards posted along the trail explaining the flood, how it effected which town and other bits of railroad trivia.
It would have been a more enjoyable ride, however, I was worried the whole time because it was a lot of downhill, which meant a lot of uphill back to the car. Dad and I pulled into the town of East Conemaugh to regroup and figure out what to do next. He called an Uber while I waited with the bikes and worked on a story on my phone.
On the way home, it was starting to get late, and we were both starting to get a little hungry, so we stopped at a restaurant in Harrisburg called Fiesta Mexico. We’ve eaten there every time we’ve done the abandoned turnpike ride, and even though we had done a lot more than just that particular ride on our trip, it still seemed required. Required or not, it was still a good way to end our trip.