Tuesday, November 3, 2009

And interview by Todd Faltin

The following is an interview that was re-enacted by Todd Faltin at the November 2nd library benefit:

Interview with Andrew Carnegie and Luke Ravenstahl

Some might say that Luke Ravenstahl’s ascent to Pittsburgh’s Highest Hill began when Andrew Carnegie curb stomped that motherfucking Unionizer outside the Steel Works in Homestead in 1892. Ravenstahl then stood on shoulders of Carnegie’s ghost and could see just beyond the stack of frozen souls at the top of this industrial freezer, just beyond Bob O’Connor’s fresh, lifeless corpse. I had a moment to talk with the two influential characters and get their perspectives on everything that’s happened in the city over the past 150 years—from the steel collapse to the G20 to the 2009 announcement to close several of Carnegie’s libraries. Here is what the interview would have looked like if held in a bar like Belvedere’s, with the much shorter Andrew Carnegie on my right and the towering beast known as Luke Ravenstahl on my left.

Todd: So, Andrew, let’s cut right to the fucking Christmas goose here: Several of your libraries are being closed because you weren’t immortal enough and couldn’t continue exploiting steel workers to channel the money they made back into philanthropic causes that their hard working bodies and underdeveloped brains could never use. Now, some historians say that, had you not died, the steel industry in America, particularly Pittsburgh, could have sustained itself for much longer—maybe even to the modern era. How much of an impact did your death have on your future, and our present, Pittsburgh, one of today’s greenest cities?

Andrew: I died?

Luke: I feel like bringing up Andrew’s death is kind of a low blow here, todd. You should probably get on him for being sub-five feet in height; you know, something over which he has control.

Todd: Right. So, Andrew, why did you choose to be four-feet, eleven-inches tall? I mean, even after death, that’s not a desirable height. You surely could have had a better time negotiating with much taller, less literate men with another foot spread out across the vertical length of your bones.

Luke: Your skin, too.

Todd: Yeah, skin. Forgot about that one.

Andrew: I died?

Luke: Yeah, you died; and we’re downsizing your library system, too.

Todd: Luke, that’s enough—the man’s in shock about realizing that modern humans are more captivated by height and sexual prowess than earning power and the ability to secretly walk through clothing racks at department stores as if they were turnstiles.

Luke: I’m cleaning up after Andrew Carnegie: His excessive libraries, leftover steel mills and creation-debunking museums are still causing community disruption 90 years after his overdue death.

Andrew: I’m dead?

Todd: Turn that question into a statement, and we’ll take this interview places it should never have gone.

Todd: Ahem. I am dead. And I have just been resurrected …

Luke: Don’t you mean reanimated?

Andrew: I stand corrected--the venerable HP Lovecraft, and his finest creation, Herbert West-Re-Animator, should be referenced and cited at every opportune occasion.

Todd: Andrew, I’m not sure if you’re aware of this, but Lovecraft’s Herbert West ReAnimator wasn’t published until 1923, which at this point you had been dead for four years; and his work remained obscure to even the utmost horror/sci-fi fanatic until only recently.

Andrew: Certainly my post-life endeavors could not have been limited by my lack of pulse, cognition and response.

Todd: Wait a minute -- Are you saying that Reanimator is nonfiction, and you were the real life case upon which the story was based?

Andrew: Loosely based. Since modern science in my time wasn’t as modern as that in Lovecraft’s fiction, I donated my body to him and his works of reality-based fiction. And so my early post-life experiences were documented in Herbert West Re-Animator, which was also semi-autobiographical for the writer.

Luke: Enough about this old news—Let’s talk about my impending reelection tomorrow.

Andrew: Luke, are you part of the group of weasels who support keeping Old Allegheny City a part of Pittsburgh? How do you feel about Pittsburgh’s 1907 Annexation of Allegheny?

Luke: What does that have to do with what’s going on in Pittsburgh today? Allegheny City has been a part of Pittsburgh for almost as long as it stood on its own two industrial legs. Allegheny was strengthened when Pittsburgh welcomed it into its web. The only people who support the Revival of Old Allegheny are dead, like you, Andrew.

Todd: That’s undead, Luke. And actually, as you must know, because of your upbringing across the river and up the hill, the North Side/Old Allegheny is practically a free state as is: You can get away with anything there. There are certainly folks on the North Side who would support the secession of Allegheny from Pittsburgh if they knew such opportunities existed. If re-elected tomorrow, will you provide this option for Pittsburgh Residents living in areas that were once Allegheny City?

Luke: Um, don’t you want to hear about how I spiritually curbstomped anarcho motherfuckers at the G20?

Andrew: The G20’s suppression of dissent was as heavily stacked in favor of those in Power as every single steelworker strike during my time as a Robber Baron, especially in Homestead where it was rumored that I curbstomped some motherfucking Union member.

Todd: Rumored? You’re saying it didn’t happen? I’ve got a neighbor with photos of the victim’s teeth on the curb and you sitting beside him, holding his head up like a trophy buck, 10 points and nothing less.

Andrew: If you look at the physics of the supposed curb stomping of that motherfucker, it becomes apparent that my short legs could have played no part in such a brutal act of violence against the individual representing organized workers.

Luke: Wait—let’s talk about me! Look at me! (Sits down when no one notices him.)

Todd: So, you didn’t curbstomp that motherfucker?

Andrew: No, I wasn’t even in town at the time. I was trying to convince the world that peace could be achieved through creating a simplified spelling system to make English available to all.

Todd: At least your priorities were in line. Mr. Carnegie, let’s again discuss your libraries.

Andrew: They’re not my libraries. I put down money to construct these libraries, but it’s up to you and everyone around you to fill them with books and hungry readers. I requested that the city set aside $40,000 per year for books, maintenance, and staffing, but that was in 1889 money. The city still provides just that -- $40,000—but that can’t buy you much more than a house or two in Upper Lawrenceville these days.

Todd: So, you’re not here as a fully re-animated billionaire to make a case for keeping Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Libraries open? The system is closing libraries in Hazelwood, the West End, Lawrenceville and Beechview.

Andrew: I have never been to Beechview.

Luke: (Stands again, excitedly.) That’s not even the point! If you’re back tonight, then you can rewrite your will to include adjustments to that $40,000 that include inflation, which will save all of our libraries without being too unreasonable for the city to accept the revisions.

Andrew: Why do you need my presence to modify the past for a future that doesn’t need to be rewritten by my hand? Any number of previous mayors and their city councils could have spearheaded an adjustment campaign for city-library funding. Why would you wait for me to show up at a dive bar to suggest such drastic changes?

Luke: Because I can’t do this by myself. Did you see how many cops I needed to protect the World Leaders in town for the G20? I need you to rewrite history and take the pressure off of me to make it look like I care about this city.

Andrew: Luke, I am but a wealthy corpse; I am no cop. And despite this opportunity for me to sign my name and add a footnote to the original Carnegie Library contract, it has to be up to the people to protect and maintain their communities.

Luke: The people can’t do shit without people like us.

Andrew: The people can’t do shit with people like us, Luke.

Todd: And that’s all the time we have tonight. Luke, I think you’ve made a good case against your reelection; and Andrew, I think you’ve proved that, despite a few decent points here and there, rich people are better dead than alive. Off with you both now, shoo!

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