Pitt Magazine Homepage Table of Contents



Is it really possible to be tickled pink?

"I think it is possible. It would be a sympathetic response; as one is tickled,
the capillaries close to the skin open up and the skin appears reddish."
-Mark Mooney, assistant professor, anatomy and histology
School of Dental/ Medicine

"Well, if you get tickled to the point where you can't control yourself, then I
think you'd turn red, more or less on the pink side."
-Marty Pisano, sub-foreman, paint shop, Facilities Management


While planning continues for a new basketball arena to replace Fitzgerald Field House, old- timers may still remember the original basketball court underneath the stands at Pitt Stadium.

Tucked beneath the east seats, between the 20-yard line and midfield, the old gym looks like, well, imagine a thick wedge of pie turned on its side. Nothing meets at right angles, as if the court were designed by M.C. Escher. And, even to the sympathetic eye, the space is a tad grim. High windows against the outside wall -- the only natural light --barely illuminate the lopsided room.

Nowadays, the old gym, which still serves as an assembly area for the marching band and the occasional youth basketball clinic, is mostly idle. Older alums, however, might tell you that back in its heyday, back in the late '40s and early '50s, back when the stadium gym was home for Panther basketball, things were, well, things were pretty grim then, too.

For one thing, much of the surrounding floor was dirt. The stands set up for basketball games helped to hide that fact, but for coeds in heels, it was hard not to notice. For another, the basketball teams weren't too good. The space could hold only 1,000 fans or so, and even those folks were hard to draw. The teams were never better than .500, including a dismal 4-14 record in 1950.

Henry Clifford "Doc" Carlson was the coach then -- had been, in fact, since the earth's crust cooled. His twilight years were less than stellar, which was too bad. Carlson's cagers had once been a terror, becoming, in 1928, the first major college team to post a perfect 21- 0 record.

The field house replaced the gym during the 1951-52 season. The old gym is scheduled to be converted into office space. Soon the whirr of fax machines will replace the sound of squeaking shoes and shouts of, "Hey! Where did all this dirt come from?" - Mark Collins


In Gardening in Clay (Cornell University Press, 1994), AIDS researcher Ronald Valdiserri (Public Health '88) writes about his twin brother's losing battle against the disease:

I don't think there's anything worse than having to watch someone you love die. The experience has taught me that what the existential philosophers say about human existence is true: Anguish is a common emotion. But "taught" is such a puny word.... Think of a lake full of icy water the kind that's so cold it takes your breath away and makes your bones ache even after you've run out onto the shore. Everyone who has been in before you has told you the water is frigid, but only when you yourself plunge in do you really understand how cruelly cold it is....

[In studying the changes in people's lives], Carl Jung and his followers found parallels to the fabled practice of alchemy. The alchemists never did change lead into gold, but they did pioneer the science of chemistry.

Several centuries later, I used some of these same techniques in [learning organic chemistry]. How I hated it...the uncertainty that I ever really understood what was going on in the class....

But this time things have to be different. The stakes are so much higher. I have to be able to understand what all this means -- not just with my head but also with my soul. I could pass organic chemistry without really understanding it, but I know the same isn't true for Alchemy 101. I am absolutely certain that unless I can turn this ugly and sad experience into an opportunity to grow in love and understanding, I will perish emotionally....

Since I can't change the circumstances...my next best option is to continue to search for the gold in this dross. If the one I love so much can bear the pain and infirmity of disease, then I can suffer the process of learning what it means.


Last fall, Teresa Heinz, widow o f Pennsylvania Senator John Heinz, spoke at Pitt on the topic of "Leadership Amid Chaos." Her talk was part of the American Experience lecture series, sponsored in part by the University's Honors College.

"It is fitting that we discuss politics and leadership now, not just because election day is approaching, but because we are about to celebrate another day that is probably more in keeping with our present attitude toward politics -- Halloween.

"Today, we seem to dread politics as a ghoulish thing.... [But] this government was not imposed on us by Halloweenish super-beings. It is our government. And we will not deserve better until we expect better of ourselves....

"The road back to hope, to a new sense of place, is not through the hateful swamp where idealogues dwell; it is through the common spaces of our dreams."

Pitt Magazine Homepage Table of Contents