Following Ryan
Off The Wall, March 25, 2011

He had just come off the elevator of the Pittsburgh Incline and his movements sent me into gear. I knew I wasn’t an official paparazzi, but nevertheless, I knew I had to do my job – photograph the one true rock star from New Zealand. It so happened, he was on tour throughout the eastern part of the United States and decided to drop in on the Volkmann family in Latrobe.

Ryan Marshall, along with his band, Battle Circus, found himself living in their agent’s house in New Jersey. They had just finished entertaining a group of people in Boston that Thursday night. It was back to “Jersey” in the wee hours of Friday morning where the group would catch up on some much needed sleep. The next day Marshall would rent a car and head over to the Commonwealth to visit yours truly, my wife, Teri, and son, Aaron.

So there I was, grasping my camera, trying to get as close as I could to the lad, all the time walking backwards not knowing, or even caring, what was behind me. I kept hearing faint sounds of “Watch out, you are going to trip,” but those words didn’t even phase me. I knew I had a job to do and I had a mindset to do it.

Finally, I positioned myself just so and looked through the viewfinder and got the “snapshot” I was waiting for, and if I don’t mind saying so, it was perfecto.

The four of us then strolled up to the little shops and the buildings of Mt. Washington. Introducing a part of the city to an out-of-towner is always special, but to see the sights that were new to me were also a much needed treat, for I always enjoy taking in new surroundings I hadn’t seen that would provide me with a much wanted education.

As we made our way up the graded sidewalk we noticed a quaint little coffee shop. It was though someone had turned on a vacuum cleaner and the three of them were sucked into the nozzle depositing them inside the tight little quarters. Not a coffee drinker, I parked myself by the doorway, watching as the three ordered specialty items of brew and then we all squeezed around a small little table.

Shortly thereafter, it was back to the incline, ready for the decline to the main street. I could tell Ryan was well pleased with the beginnings of our little tour as were the three of us as well.

Staying to the Southside of Pittsburgh, Aaron had an idea. Since he learned that Ryan was of German descent, he suggested we go to the German pub. Unfortunately, it was so jam-crammed, there was no way we could get in. We then tried the Irish pub across the street. No dice. I met a family standing on the corner and asked, “I’m trying to show a New Zealand rock star around Pittsburgh and can’t seem to get in any of the restaurants. Do you have any ideas?” The first comment I got was, “How did you meet him?” I told them we had met before. A teenager just looked at me and finally said, “Wow…” as his eyes got bigger and bigger and his mouth opened with the accompanied motion. They had no suggestion. We ended up at The Wine Loft that was a perfect place to top off the evening.

It wouldn’t be unlike me to get into a philosophical conversation at best. “Ryan, why is it, do you suppose, that when you order a glass of water that ice cubes come with it?” Fifteen minutes of suppositions followed.

We then departed, dropping our son off at his house and headed back to Latrobe.

As we motored along the many highways, this very cordial and fine mannered man hinted, “Do you suppose we could stop at a Dunkin’ Donut and pick up some donuts.” He seemed to have a sweet tooth for these pastries. In the course of our conversation, we had learned, much to my surprise, his countrymen have not mastered the skills of making such “delicacies,” something I believe we take for granted here in the States.

Upon rising Sunday morning, I decided to set the table in such a fashion like none other before. After all, I was doing so for a rock star of New Zealand and how often does that occur, now tell me? Everything was present that he liked – eggs, bread, jelly, orange juice, coffee with half and half and even hot dogs. One thing was missing, though – donuts. Unbeknownst to him, Teri sneaked out of the house earlier and got him a large box. To see him light up with the biggest smile on his face filled us all with equal amount of joy. He ate two and told us he would save the rest for his trip back to New Jersey.

There is something I didn’t tell you. Ryan is my sister’s eldest son, my nephew.

- Paul J. Volkmann
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