Murray Avenue is Kiltman’s kingdom

by Aaron Warnick

He wakes up before sunrise to steam his kilt.

The daily routine is spiritual for 62-year-old Squirrel Hill native Richard Greenberg. After an hour of relaxation and preparing his distinctive attire is ready to hit the street.

Kiltman ponders his existence during a sojourn from Murray Avenue.  Photo by Alyssa Kramer

Kiltman ponders his existence during a sojourn from Murray Avenue.
Photo by Alyssa Kramer

His ventures up and down Murray and Forbes were originally to lose weight, he said, citing “doctor’s orders.”

Greenberg’s rhythmic strolls have transcended exercise. He has become a noticeable quirk in the daily motions of life along the shops and cafes of the Squirrel Hill business streets.

People notice him, and he notices them. He is exceedingly willing to give a compliment or a parable for anyone who cares to stop and listen.

“Hi, nice people,” he cheerily calls to random strangers.

On this particular brisk Sunday afternoon, he sits at an outside table at the 61C Café to relax after his first excursion of the day. He has a tall porcelain coffee cup with a freshly poured brew, but is too eager to chat with those surrounding him, particularly the “pretty ladies,” to take full advantage of its warmth.

His blue kilt flutters in the breeze as he sits back in the bistro chair. Wearing a fleece shirt and a stitched cotton tom hat that he purchased from Paititi’s clothing store a few doors down, he tells a story that he says he’s told a thousand times.

On a shelf in the 61C Café, where the baristas refer to Greenberg as “The Mayor,” there is a photo of a much younger man – noticeably not wearing a kilt. The young Greenberg is shaking hands with President Jimmy Carter in the Oval Office in 1979. The meeting was arranged by prominent self-help minister Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, whom the young Greenberg sought out in New York City.

“I still have all of my faculties, so I can talk about that stuff,” said Greenberg. “But yesterday is a cancelled check… I’m geared for today.”

After the coffee break, he’s ready for another round of walking.

Greenberg is often intercepted by people on the street. He says that reactions to the kilts are positive, negative and, sometimes, bizarre.

“I’m walking and this woman comes up… and she asks me ‘what are you wearing under you kilt?’” he recounts. “So, I look at her and say ’Well, what you wearing under your skirt?’ that’s fair game, right? She says, ‘Well, sometimes I wear panties and sometimes I don’t.’ So, I look to her and say ‘Well, I am always wearing panties.’”



Odd questions aside, he relishes his eminence in the community. Striding Northbound from the 61C, Greenberg has found himself developing a positive relationship with the businesses in Squirrel Hill. Defying what would be expected decorum, Greenberg often stops in the shops and restaurants on Murray and Forbes just to visit. On a single circuit, he visited BikeTek, the Coffee

Tree Roasters, newcomers Everyday Noodles and Gaby et Jules, and, his favorite spot, Radioshack.

Radioshack, though not a locally owned business, is special to Greenberg. It was where he was first struck with the idea to wear kilts.

“About eight or nine years ago, and there’s a kid wearing a kilt… it just grabbed me. I said to him ‘that is so cool,’” Greenberg recounted. “He says, ‘Thanks, you should have one.’”

That night, he went home and called a company in Seattle called Utilikilts and ordered his first kilts.

“I’m not a Scotsman, I’m a Lonsman,” he said. “So when I hit the street, I was getting all sorts of reactions ‘Huh?’ ‘What?’”