At Home With: John Schalcosky of The Odd, Mysterious & Fascinating History of Pittsburgh | At Home With ... | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

At Home With: John Schalcosky of The Odd, Mysterious & Fascinating History of Pittsburgh

click to enlarge PHOTO: JOHN SCHALCOSKY
Photo: John Schalcosky
Everybody is dealing with the COVID-19 quarantines and restrictions in different ways. While there's no single right way to cope — social distancing and staying TF home aside — staying connected with friends, family, and neighbors is a good place to start. You can contact your loved ones on your own, but you might also be curious how your favorite strangers in Pittsburgh are coping, so Pittsburgh City Paper is reaching out once a day to artists, activists, workers, and makers to see how they're doing.

Today, it's John Schalcosky of The Odd, Mysterious & Fascinating History of Pittsburgh.

What is your day-to-day routine like now?
Well, mysterious and fascinating for starters! I am still working as my alter ego in the life insurance world while still navigating that fine balance of "real" work versus uncovering the true history of our great city.

Things are pretty odd and mysterious at the moment. What events in Pittsburgh's past come to mind that even slightly resemble what we're going through now?
EVERYTHING. The only thing we have to go on is the past and while it might not repeat, it certainly does rhyme. In these darker times, I think about my ancestors and how they overcame even great obstacles. I was reminded of my 3x Great Grandmother recently. She left Ireland at age of 12 to escape the famine, lived through the Civil War, World War I, and even the Influenza Pandemic of 1918! If she could get through all of that, I think I'll be fine.

click to enlarge John Schalcosky's great-great-great-grandmother - PHOTO: JOHN SCHALCOSKY
Photo: John Schalcosky
John Schalcosky's great-great-great-grandmother

What food or dish are you enjoying these days?
I was an odd eater to begin with. I stick with the classics  Kraft Mac n' Cheese.

What piece of art/film/book/TV/music is bringing you comfort/inspiration at this time?
I have been obsessed for a while now with completely transcribing entire scores, by hand, note-by-note of countless composers like Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky, Vivaldi, Williams, Elfman, Hermann, Bernstein  you name it! I'm also getting back into reading everything written by Carl Sagan and other books mainly concerning the concept and philosophy of time, and how it does not exist. 

What are you most excited to do when the restrictions and quarantines are lifted?
Sharing history online is one thing, but to have a crowd of people gathered together to listen to my "campfire tales" of Pittsburgh is a special thing that I miss. I also can't wait just to give my Mom a hug again ... 

click to enlarge William Pitt's original 1766 document declaring him the "Earl of Chatham" - PHOTO: JOHN SCHALCOSKY
Photo: John Schalcosky
William Pitt's original 1766 document declaring him the "Earl of Chatham"

Have you developed any new skills in the past few weeks?
Organization! I've been finally getting the opportunity to really go through everything I've been storing for a rainy day. I might even finally turn a room in my house into a mini Pittsburgh History museum. The coolest thing I forgot I had was a letter signed by John Brashear, an original map of Pittsburgh from 1759 and William Pitt's original 1766 document declaring him the "Earl of Chatham."

What charity or resource would you point Pittsburghers toward at this time?
412 Food Rescue for starters but a very important lesson this has taught me, is to truly support your local businesses and pay attention to where your goods come from and who you are supporting. Support your neighbors.

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