March 5, 8 p.m.: I’m at Hitchhiker, Mount Lebo, on a Tuesday to meet with Aaron Watson of Pipers Creative to discuss the Going Deep Summit. No, it is not a porn convention, but he promises plenty of stimulation.
I haven’t been here since we podcasted live nearly three years ago. Back then, Andy was making his shit beers in a basement the size of a studio apartment. And I’m not talking like the lavish kind. I mean the closets that Manhattan slumlords put a sink in and rent out for $2300 a month. The kid has come a long way.
Every time I come into this place I order the Bane of Existence, but I refuse to do so this time around. I go with the barrel aged Woke. I’m in that BiL (Barrel is Life) gang, and I need as much of the good stuff as I can get before saison season is upon us. This bitch does not disappoint! It’s dumb cold outside and I’m feeling toasty. Just then, Aaron walks in and orders a lager to match his collared shirt.
Me: Tell me about Going Deep.
AW: It’s a one day event at Factory Unlocked on the North Shore, Saturday March 23, featuring a collection of speakers such as Gisele Fetterman, Tammy Thompson, Mike Dariano and Kenny Chen, with a focus on connecting. We want people to come in and trust that we’re going to take them on a journey of learning. Last year, we had one of the world’s experts on foraging for mushrooms, and no one went there to hear from him. They went for some other character, but were blown away by the perspective that this guy had.
Me: Shrooms tend to have that effect. What is your secret?
AW: There’s room for the polymath in a world of specialists.
Me: What’s a polymath?
AW: Someone with a bunch of areas where they’re a five or six out of 10, but not a 10 out of 10.
Me: Jack-of-all-trades. I would say that describes me, but I’m clearly a 10 out of 10 in self-sabotage. I’m a three at best in everything else. What do you look for in a speaker?
AW: They need to be a great communicator and they need to have a secret. That secret has to be valuable to a large swath of the community. Leah Lizarando’s (412 Food Rescue) secret is that there is plenty of food and there are people who need it. Let me tell you where it is and how to get it to people. For Alan (Gannett) it’s that creativity isn’t some divine intervention, it’s what you consume and the repetitive process of honing your craft.
Me: For the last 40 years we’ve hemorrhaged youth. Why did you stay, and do you plan to die here?
AW: I stayed because I was able to pay off my student loans and become a property owner before 30, by keeping costs down and living off peanut butter, which is fairly difficult in larger markets. As far as my aspirations, the company is named after the Pittsburgh Pipers, who won the 1968 ABA Championship before changing their name to the Condors. We will never forget our Pittsburgh roots, but we want to win here, and use the kinetic energy to expand elsewhere.
March 5, 9 p.m.: I ordered a Bane of Existence.
March 12, 3 p.m.: I have time between my meeting downtown and the Mindful/Apis collaboration release, so I stop into the Original Oyster House for a sandwich and some beer. To my surprise it’s fairly empty and I’m able to grab a seat next to the window under a warm spring sun. The bartender hands me a Duquesne pilsner in the dirtiest glass I’ve ever been served. I’m clearly being hazed. I wipe the lipstick off and chug it like a true yinzer. Afterwards, I have no interest in what the rest of the dishes look like, so I hand the bartender my card. “Cash only, but there’s ATMs all around here,” she says. Good to know, if I ever want to pay $10 for a 12oz session. Luckily, I have cash and a beer column for moments like this. Before I leave, I tip her 20 percent, because even people serving hepatitis deserve a living wage.