Robert Isenberg

Robert Isenberg
December 31
Robert Isenberg is a freelance writer, playwright, photographer and stage performer. He is a past recipient of the Brickenridge Fellowship, McDowell Scholarship, Trespass Residency, and two Golden Quill Awards. He earned his MFA in Creative Writing from Chatham University, where he served as Whitford Fellow, the program’s highest honor. Originally from Vermont, he lives in Pittsburgh. His book, The Archipelago, about backpacking the postwar Balkans, was released by Autumn House Press in January 2011. See more at

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OCTOBER 11, 2014 11:10PM

Our Costa Rican Apartment: A Field Guide


Roach Photo


Species Felis Catus

We brought our cats to Costa Rica. None of our friends could believe it. “You’re bringing your cats?” they asked.

         But we couldn’t leave them behind. Oscar and Felix are like our/Read full post »


After 14 years, my dream is about to come true: My 11-part travel series, Pura Vía, is about to debut in The Tico Times.

         Last April, I attempted a long bicycle trip in Central America. I don’t want to spoil the story, so th/Read full post »

When you have more than 14,000 restaurants in 116 countries, you must accept a difficult truth: not everybody eats the same thing. Some abhor beef, others abstain from bacon, and some would even forfeit the bun. McDonald’s may sling Big Macs everywhere, but they also have to appealRead full post »


TT Paper 

Ever since I relocated to Costa Rica last September, friends have asked: So what are you doing down there? Tomorrow, Jan. 15, you’ll see exactly what I’ve been doing—what my colleagues and I have been working toward for the past 11 months.

The Tico Times was foRead full post »

DECEMBER 22, 2013 1:35PM

Elegy for a Chain Wallet

Chain Wallet 

Years ago, I left my wallet on a bar. I had no idea I’d left it there. I slipped off my stool, headed for the restroom, and urinated in a trough. This was a dive bar in Polish Hill, a ramshackle neighborhood in the heart of Pittsburgh. I should haveRead full post »

MARCH 4, 2013 11:01AM

Introducing The "Rahnd Table"


The first Rahnd Table reading takes place

this Thursday, March 7, 8 p.m.

Most Wanted Fine Art, 5015 Penn Ave., Garfield.

Free and open to the public. Refreshments provided.



The day was July 31, 2012. The place was Lou’s CornerRead full post »

JANUARY 2, 2013 11:07AM

Books by People I Know: "Fringe-ology"


A few years ago, I spotted a UFO.

         It was nighttime. I was standing on the bank of the Ohio River. A green triangle emerged above Mt. Washington. The object lit up brightly, then flashed across the sky and vanished. I shrieked with excit/Read full post »

DECEMBER 29, 2012 11:25AM

Remembering Snowmageddon

Snowmageddon 1 

I picture this: I am old and have many grandchildren. Unprompted, I tell them about the Snowstorm of 2010. “It had just turned February,” I’ll explain. “A mild winter, ‘til then. Nobody saw it coming.”

        Read full post »


Photo of Word Circus, a reading series I co-created with my friend Sarah Leavens, under the auspices of Chatham University. Pictured is my buddy Cory Jones, reading one ofRead full post »

SEPTEMBER 17, 2012 12:25PM

I Have Finished "Infinite Jest"


My road to finishing Infinite Jest is a long one. I first heard about the book in 2001, thanks to my friend and former editor Dave Madden. He gushed about the book, its genius, its generous imagination, but I didn't fully appreciate the undertaking until I saw the physical book/Read full post »

AUGUST 28, 2012 10:01AM

The Myth of Job Creation

Chicago Intersection 

Predictably, TV attack ads have soured. They started hostile, and they grow meaner by the day. You can’t view YouTube without seeing President Obama, and you can’t turn onRead full post »

JULY 26, 2012 11:13AM

Election: Where Are the Visionaries?


I wrote the following essay to vent frustration about a coming election—but the election in question was Obama vs. McCain, back in 2007. Every newspaper editor rejected the essay, or simply neglected to respond, so the piece languished in my outbox for five years. Today, as I re-rRead full post »


(For other Books by People I Know,

visit here and here). 

And so, inevitably, we stumbled into each other.

            When I first met Maureen, it was in the lobby of the Stephen Foster Memorial. I was about to/Read full post »

MAY 31, 2012 12:42PM

The Ride Begins


In two days, I start my bike ride to Washington, D.C.

            This is always the strangest part of travel—the eerie calm before everything happens. Soon I’ll be pedaling away from McKeesport, followed by 326 miles o/Read full post »


Last Christmas, my brother Joe gave me two gifts. “You have to open them in order,” he said. The first was a book, The Authentic Animal, by Dave Madden. The second gift was a stuffed white rabbit, seen here:


My jaw dropped—which was a tame response,Read full post »

MAY 23, 2012 2:26PM

My Documentary: The Name Game


The Passage Movie Poster   

My short-lived demo poster. Luckily, nobody saw it but the Internet.


Next week, I start my bike ride to Washington, D.C.

            Concurrently, I’ll shoot my documentary a/Read full post »


My Mom and me, just past the finish line. Photo credit Richard Isenberg.

The year 2012 has already been a landmark year for Doing Stuff I Always Hoped To Do—starting with January 1, when I jumped in the frigid Monongahela with the Pittsburgh Polar Bear Club. Followe/Read full post »




This morning, I received the following email from my publisher, Michael Simms.

Hi Robert,

The Archipelago is now available as a Kindle Edition!  Please get the word out that the Kindle text costs only $9.99.  See below.



I nearly jumped out ofRead full post »


I’m giddy to say that the book Hungry is now available for download. The novel is about cannibals in Pittsburgh. My friend Dan Parme lovingly wrote this volume, and as far as I know, Hungry is fiction. And it’s positively awesome.

      &nRead full post »

APRIL 19, 2012 10:10AM

Tomorrow Night: My Show Goes Up!

Vang Vieng 

Tomorrow night, I perform One Million Elephants. It’s my one-man-show. Just me onstage. Telling a story. Just a backpack, a steamer trunk, some photographs—and an inordinate number of tennis balls.

            I have wa/Read full post »

APRIL 18, 2012 10:01AM

My Books Hit the Library


Last year, my friend Gina Caciolo wanted to publish a “chapbook.” She’s a former student of mine, now in grad school in California. She asked if I had a really short book manuscript lying around.

            Huh,/Read full post »


Slackers Stoners Drunks 

“So what’s your monologue show about?” people ask.

            “Slackers, stoners, and drunks.”


 Read full post »

APRIL 3, 2012 10:12AM

The Text Department: "ha-ha"?







Hv a gr8 day haha! 

C U @ 9 ha ha

TTYL ha :) 

What, for God’s sakes,Read full post »

 MoonPix 007

 No picture seemed appropriate.

As it turns out, Mike Daisey lied. The stage performer, monologuist, muckraker and world traveler—not to mention a fellow New Englander—simply made up part of his story. His show, The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, one of the most succ/Read full post »

MARCH 17, 2012 6:02PM

How Star Trek VI Changed My Life


I recently read an ad for the Hollywood Theater, a refurbished old cinema in Dormont, just outside of Pittsburgh. In a few days, the Theater will screen Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.

            When I read this, my jaw a/Read full post »