The Squirrel Hill Café is under new ownership since Lee Skirboll bartended there in the 1990s. But the legendary joint is still the logical place for Skirboll to sign copies of his first novel, the not-quite-memoir Cage Days.
Skirboll grew up in the neighborhood, graduating from Allderdice High School in 1980 and the University of Pittsburgh in 1984. After a stint in San Francisco, he found himself back home and dispensing drinks by day. "I was the lucky man who dealt with the morning drinkers," he says. Skirboll later studied creative writing at the graduate level at Pitt with famed professor Chuck Kinder (a friend who'd also taught him as an undergrad).
The self-published Cage Days, subtitled "A Liquid Novel," showcases Skirboll's easy skill as a raconteur in series of vignettes both humorous and poignant. A typical chapter begins with a bar patron saying something offensive, and Skirboll's deceptively digressive interior monologue then spinning into an anti-jukebox rant or autopsying his romantic life.
Skirboll finished grad school in 1997 -- also the year his son, Illinois, was born, and the year Skirboll's wife, Bay Area native Felicia Roche, moved them all to Oakland, Calif.
"She didn't want [Illinois] to be too Pittsburghy," says Skirboll, a free-lance writer. "She thought it was enough that he was born here."
LEE SKIRBOLL signs Cage Days. 7 p.m. Sat., Aug. 13. Squirrel Hill Café, 5802 Forbes Ave., Squirrel Hill. 412-521-3327
Local poet John Thomas Menesini releases his third collection, endo: Poems and Sketches 2007-2011 (Six Gallery Press) at an Aug. 13 book launch.
His previous collections include 2003's The Last Great Glass Meat Million and 2007's e pit ap h. Menesini opens endo with "It Was Too Much and It Was Nothing," a long evocation of a 1970s childhood, and follows with nearly 50 shorter poems. His style, in part, combines a Beat impressionism with hip-hop rhythms.
Here's a sample from "CGI of Meat and Milk": "This steele city is a cartoon on high /
CGI of meat and milk and cell / the mesh chainlink along the bridge / breaks my view into beecomb / Mozart backs me in this city of rivers and bridges / with his Turkish March / everybody needs a schlep track."
ENDO book launch 8 p.m. Sat., Aug. 13 (with special guest DJ Hates You). The Shop, 4314 Main St., Bloomfield. firstname.lastname@example.org