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Becoming George’s Brother

John looks up to see the bull’s sharp horns bearing down on him. As his older brother George runs toward a nearby fence, John seizes a heavy stick and jabs it at the bull’s angry face, intimidating the beast and defusing its fury. Heart pounding, John is shocked by his courage and even more surprised when his brother pats him on the back.

Seven decades later, John Sutej is still proud of his act of bravery as he recalls it at his daughter’s dining room table. Maria McCool (KGSB ’80, EDUC ’73) is jotting notes and documenting her father’s memory with an audio recorder. Every day, Sutej—who lives just up the street—walks to McCool’s home, where the father and daughter compile stories of family history together.

This visit, Sutej remembers how grateful his big brother was for saving them from the bull on that hot afternoon. Funny, outgoing, and at times a troublemaker, George was everything his brother was not. Sutej never believed he would be an equal in his brother’s eyes, but that day at their uncle’s Ohio farm, he earned George’s respect.

McCool turned the bull story into a children’s book, Becoming George’s Brother (BookSurge). It was a surprise gift for her 86-year-old father. —Rachel Hayes

Laboring to Play

Bluebeard warned his wife not to look in the closet. But she rebelled. She tugged on the handle, pulling open the door.

She gasped.

Dangling bodies of women, long hair streaming in front of their half-decapitated heads, filled the closet. They were Bluebeard’s other wives.

The audience gasped, too.

In the mid-1800s, middle-class Americans had limited access to entertainment, says Melanie Dawson (FAS ’97), a visiting assistant professor at The College of William & Mary in Virginia. Many families staged tableaux vivants (living pictures). The grotesque drama of Bluebeard’s wives didn’t just shock audiences, it reinforced social norms, such as the importance of marrying wisely. Yet, Dawson adds, Bluebeard’s wife is the one who ultimately triumphs in this play, so it seems that women staged this drama to argue against the injustice of their own demanding men (women almost always produced the tableaux vivants).

Dawson started her research when she stumbled onto the Nietz Old Textbook Collection in Hillman Library. It was there she discovered a bevy of textbooks and instructional books from the 1800s. In Laboring to Play (The University of Alabama Press), she recounts the Bluebeard story and many others as she explores the history and staging of these “living pictures.” —Meghan Holohan

Miss New York Has Everything

The Boeing 727 hums as Lori Jakiela stocks a cart with soggy ham sandwiches and lukewarm coffee. Wearing an unflattering polyester potato sack of a uniform, she wheels the cart down the aisle and feels it wobble over a bump—former CBS news anchor Walter Cronkite’s foot.

This isn’t the dream I imagined, she thinks.

Ever since Jakiela (FAS ’92) watched Marlo Thomas on the television comedy That Girl, she fantasized about New York City and an exciting life away from her hometown of Trafford, Pa., where her father—a former aspiring Broadway singer—settled for a job in a steel mill. Jakiela chased her dream, becoming a flight attendant based in New York. But all she has now is a two-bedroom apartment with seven roommates in Queens, a tray of ham sandwiches to serve, and an apology to deliver to a legendary TV journalist.

Years later, Jakiela’s father is diagnosed with cancer, and she returns home to realize the life she wants is exactly where she left it. Today, she’s a professor and director of the writing program at Pitt’s Greensburg campus. Her humorous memoir, Miss New York Has Everything (5 Spot/Warner Books), deals with the dream that brought her to terms with her roots. —RH

Unknown Sands

Legs tucked, braying and bobbing its head, the camel goes airborne. John Kropf watches as the animal, swaying heavily from a harness suspended by a crane, suffers a brief flight before coming to rest in a dump truck. Another transaction completed at the Tolkuchka Bazaar, the “Hong Kong of Turkmenistan.”

Kropf (LAW ’88, GSPIA ’88) navigates the crush of shoppers, pressing through air thickened with midmorning heat. To the tune of hawking vendors, he passes pyramids of Turkmen melons and a bushy menagerie of tilpeks—traditional Turkmen hats. World-renowned Turkmen carpets hang like hypnotic curtains all the way down the teeming aisle. The lush aromas of frying sausages and shish kebabs tease Kropf’s nose. It’s a culture that once dazzled Marco Polo.

A U.S. embassy employee, Kropf is in the midst of a two-year stay in Turkmenistan, one of the world’s most inaccessible countries. From here, he will organize the flow of aid into neighboring Afghanistan when war erupts following the terrorist attacks of September 11.

Now director of international privacy programs in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Kropf has written Unknown Sands: Journeys Around the World’s Most Isolated Country (Dusty Spark), a rare account as rich with detail, energy, and history as the Tolkuchka Bazaar. —Bo Schwerin

The Super ’70s

The interview is not going well: “It sounds like you didn’t do your homework. It sounds like you’re not very well prepared.”

A scathing barb, especially coming from the legendary—and famously contentious—football analyst Paul Zimmerman, popularly known as Dr. Z. But in fact, Tom Danyluk (ENGR ’90) has done quite a bit of homework and knows what to expect from the longtime Sports Illustrated writer. Unfazed, Danyluk presses on: “Back to the question. Is professional football a better game today than it was 30 years ago?”

That question, among other comparisons, is implicit in Danyluk’s The Super ’70s: Memories from Pro Football’s Greatest Era (Mad Uke Publishing), a fascinating look back at the golden age of professional football through interviews with 18 of the sport’s major figures, including Archie Manning, Larry Little, “Bum” Phillips, and Art Rooney Jr., one of the architects of the decade’s dominant team, the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Not to mention Zimmerman. Danyluk notes, “Spending an hour with him on the telephone is like zipping a unicycle through a … minefield. Say something with which he disagrees, utter a partial truth, offer a historical inaccuracy, and wham!”
Danyluk clearly navigated the minefield successfully—Zimmerman contributed the book’s glowing foreword. —BS

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