Comrades' goal is to raise a glass in each of city's 90 neighborhoods




For this guy, for what he's trying to accomplish, the setting could not have been more perfect.

There Jim Dilmore stood on a recent Saturday evening with a beer raised to his lips at Penn Brewery, the Downtown skyline poking the cloudless distance behind him. Ah, yes, this was the very essence of this entire endeavor.

Mr. Dilmore, a 36-year-old Edgewood resident and patent agent, has a mission -- a simple one in theory but quite painstaking to execute. Mr. Dilmore is the leader of a group that began a voyage on Memorial Day on which they want to have a drink -- at least one, often many more -- in each of the city of Pittsburgh's 90 neighborhoods.

There's no definitive time frame for completing the idea that was hatched (brace yourself) at a bar. Mr. Dilmore did say that his troop would like to cross off each neighborhood by "around the end of the year."

Normally the roving party consists of anywhere from five to 15 people and is a pretty fair cross section of men and women ranging in age from 20s to 50s.

Always interested in the intersection of booze and shenanigans in Pittsburgh, I decided to join Dilmore and his band of merry mug-raisers as they navigated a few bars in Spring Garden, Troy Hill and Herr's Island. Those neighborhoods would constitute Nos. 22 to 24 in the quest, if you're scoring at home.

And you know, this wasn't some sort of zombie-type drunken trudge complete with vomit and police citations, but rather a group of friends with the sole purpose of having a good time surrounded by good people.

First, at the stroke of 5 p.m., they invaded the Bier House on Spring Garden Avenue. The dynamic of men from the group in white polo shirts drinking shoulder to shoulder with regulars in, we'll call them "weathered," tank tops was purely Pittsburgh.

Sitting at a table, the group's resident nice guy, Al Bolkovac, a 38-year-old carpenter who lives in Mt. Lebanon, was able to encapsulate the crux of this endeavor, saying: "It kind of comes down to just being able to say you did something pretty cool."

Simple but profound stuff.

After an hour at the Bier House, it was on to that hulking brick complex on the side of the hill, Penn Brewery. Then, after a quick stop at Parrott's on Spring Garden Avenue for the requisite "knocking back another," the caravan advanced to the final stop of the night, Redfin Blues on Herr's Island.

It was there, along the banks of the Allegheny River and in the vortex of a predictable waterside cover band, that Mr. Dilmore stood with a satisfied look on his face. At that point, he had switched it up from beer to the hard stuff and the conversation steered from religion to song lyrics to the intricacies of the Catholic Mass to the Steelers -- come on, this is Pittsburgh -- hitting just about everything in between.

It was then, there on the patio at Redfin Blues, that I realized these guys were doing something noble.

"This was just something I wanted to do," Mr. Dilmore said of the muse behind this conquest which he and his group had 26.7 percent completed. "Pittsburgh is such a great town, and you get to see how many different types of people there are in our city and how, in a lot of ways we are all different, but that we're also a lot alike. There's no monetary reward or any kind of reward in doing this, just kind of something crossed off my to-do list."

You can track the quest's progress at Mr. Dilmore's Pitt Stops 2007 blog at pittstops2007.blogspot.com. The group photographs and describes the places they visit, giving "Pluses" and "Asides" for each, as well as "Weirdness." For example: "Red Fin Blues had the most aggressive tiki torches that I've ever seen. About foot of flame flew from each. Doo doo doo. Those who were there will understand."


Colin Dunlap can be reached at cdunlap@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1459. First Published August 22, 2007 10:15 PM




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