Fierce Anticipation: March 13-15


a blogumn by Ryan Dixon

The Existential Despair Edition or: A Chronicle of a Fugitive Weatherman, the Letters of Samuel Beckett and the Ignominy of the Pittsburgh Pirates


The Continuing Criminal Exploits of Jay Patrick, the Felonious Weatherman

Having been born and raised near the small city of Johnstown, located in the heart of Western Pennsylvania, I know of one unchanging rule to which the area always abides: the local weatherman is a near deity.

Charged with revealing the whims of a climate that can go from frigid to nearly tropical within a period of several hours to an ever eager (at least according to the ratings), yet nervous (when a snow storm approaches) populous, his influence is that of a modern day Oracle at Delphi.

Of course, in Western Pa to only be a weatherman is to not exist at all. Unlike Los Angeles, where weathermen with names like Dallas Raines and Johnny Mountain are respected and listened to, those who dare enter the borders of Pennsylvania with the hope of delivering climate news must not only hold a degree in meteorology, but must also be intimately familiar with the high-tech, cutting edge weather forecasting technology that each station advertises with the same enthusiasm as Steve Jobs introducing a new Apple product.

So it is no surprise that continuing scandalous saga of one Jay Patrick Holcomb, aka “Jay Patrick”, the laconic former chief meteorologist at Johnstown’s WJAC Channel 6, the area’s NBC affiliate, remains one of infinite fascination.

While 2003 will always be remembered as the start of the Iraq war, it was also the year the weatherman formerly known as Jay Patrick started his own war… with the criminal justice system.  In May of that year he quit his job at Channel 6 after his wife filed for divorce, a Cassandra-like harbinger for the really bad weather to come. Then, as June and high temperatures reaching into the upper 90’s arrived, not only was he charged with bouncing a $6,500 child support check, but he was also put on five months’ probation after a judge found him guilty for violating a restraining order and visiting his estranged wife’s work place.

Fast forward to November. When most people were busy shivering away in long grocery store aisles holding overpriced turkeys, Patrick was arrested at JFK Airport for traveling outside of his local Pennsylvania county of residence without permission (he was returning from Kiev in the Ukraine). And, as 2003 turned into 2004, he entered a no contest plea to five charges of sexually abusing a young girl and was placed under house arrest while awaiting sentencing.

jaypatrickFor most mere mortals, these travails would be enough for them to abandon all hope and slink away, head bowed in shame, to prison. But not for the Oracle of Johnstown. Perhaps finding cover under a blustery late-winter storm, our dear Mr. Patrick, wearing his court-provided ankle bracelet, fled Cambria County and then the country in March 2005 and returned to Kiev.

Even with the moniker of “fugitive” thrust upon his shoulders, Patrick was undaunted. Most likely using his position as the former weatherman at the 96th biggest TV market in the U.S. as a selling point, Patrick tried to convince a Ukrainian communications company to develop their own “weather channel.” It can only be assumed that Patrick hoped that the plan’s success would catapult him back to his rightful place as a grandmaster of climate prognostication.

Unfortunately, his dream of forging an Eastern European weather empire came crashing down last week when Patrick was arrested in Kiev while sporting the traditional facial feature adopted by child molesters everywhere: the half grown-in mustache, or as its more famously known: the molestache*.

Under the custody of Federal Marshals, Patrick was flown to New York City on Sunday and now sits in a Manhattan detention center, awaiting extradition to Pennsylvania.

For the city of Johnstown, which has seen far too many bad days (the infamous floods of 1889, 1936 and 1977, constant economic turmoil, being voted the #1 place where people would least like to live and the racist Sarah Palin “monkey” rally) and not nearly enough good ones (Slap Shot and All The Right Moves being shot within the city limits and my own birth at one of its hospitals), it seems that the Jay Patrick saga is just one more black mark on a decent city that doesn’t deserve so many hexes.

But perhaps this strange and sad saga will, unwittingly, allow a glimmer of sun to shine upon Johnstown. While his criminal fornications will never enter the A-list in the annals of true crime (probably not the B or C-list either), it would surely serve as an inspiration to all the citizens of Johnstown if, upon one cool and breezy Friday evening, they were to turn on their TV’s and see a picture of their beautiful city inserted in next to Ann Curry as she introduces a Dateline NBC story about a small city in Western Pa that housed a weatherman with big dreams and an even bigger arrest record.

*Since it’s no secret that the majority of child molesters spend a good deal of their time online, you’d think that at least one of them would create a message board that encourages halfway decent facial grooming.


The Letters of Samuel Beckett: Volume 1, 1929-1940

beckettIf a child molesting, fugitive weatherman hasn’t dampened your Friday spirits, how about 800 pages of the collected letters of Samuel Beckett? In a true publishing event, Cambridge University Press has released the first of four proposed volumes of letters written by the most influential and greatest playwright of the 20th Century.

Thankfully, Beckett’s own supreme novelistic and theatrical brilliance seems to have translated seamlessly into his correspondences with the likes of James Joyce and Sergei Eisenstein. This work is required reading for anyone who wants an epistolary history of Modernism or, considering the volume’s girth and bulk, a quick and convenient exercise to bulk up your biceps.

In Bookstores Now


The 2009 Pittsburgh Pirates

pirates-wallpaper-1-300x232If the Pittsburgh Steelers winning their record sixth Super Bowl championship wasn’t enough to satiate Pittsburgh sports fans, the chances are high that, by the end of the year, the great city of Pittsburgh will have one other major sports record to call its own. If all goes as planned (and there is, sadly, little reason to doubt that it won’t) Major League Baseball’s Pittsburgh Pirates will finish, sometime in early October, their 17th consecutive losing season and officially hold the record for the most consecutive losing seasons of any team in ANY sport.

Of course many people will say that Pirates’ fans really have no right to complain. Pittsburgh sports has done very well for itself recently: Two Super Bowl titles in four years, the Penguins competing in last year’s Stanley Cup finals,  and both Pitt and Penn State football having exceptional seasons.

And sports fans don’t abandon their teams after one, two or even ten losing seasons like you would a TV show after it “jumps the shark” or a movie series when it “nukes the fridge” (Dear Mr. Lucas and Mr. Spielberg, thanks for making a film that created a new phrase for “awful”). Fans hold on to the good times — for example, those Pirates teams from 1990-92 that came so agonizingly close to making it to the World Series — hoping that the memories stay strong enough to last them through the bad times.

But how many years of losing can one fan base put up with before they just stop caring?

In the case of the Pittsburgh Pirates, if history is any indication, at least for a little bit longer. While the legendary string of futility that plagued the Pittsburgh Steelers throughout the first half of the 20th Century is well-documented, many people seem to forget that the Pirates have fielded bad teams for far many more years than good ones.

Yes, the Pirates have won five World Series titles, nine N.L. Pennants, have had the honor of fielding the first all-minority lineup in 1971 and count a number legendary Hall-of-Fame players on their all-time franchise roster, but they’ve also endured a 33-year, mid-20th century drought without a pennant (and are currently about to finish another 30-year period without one), the drug trials of 1985 and of course, the “skinny” Barry Bonds who, despite winning the MVP for the Buccos in 1990 and 1992, was still a jerk even without the ‘roids. Need another sign of our checkered past? How about the nickname?  The reason that the Pirates were called the Pirates in the first place (way back in 1891) was because they were accused of being “piratical” in their effort to sign (some would say steal) players from other teams.

So I suppose instead of dreading the seemingly inevitable coronation of this epic and historic losing streak, Pirates fans should embrace it as part of their wonderfully dysfunctional history. Yes, the Pirates are bad a lot more often than not, but when they’re good, they shine like glittering black and gold doubloons. Ahoy, Mateys!