Exploring

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The Fort Pitt Blockhouse, circa 1764

A walk along the Allegheny down to The Point, where two rivers (the Allegheny and Monongahela) make one (the Ohio), but they call it three. The old version of new math, perhaps?  What a fantastic day that was, with what felt like the whole of Pittsburgh out enjoying the weather. On bicycles, running, walking, strolling, kayaking, human power ruled the day!

Funny story: when we first arrived and were really and truly lost much of the time and poking fun at ourselves with whomever would listen, a sweet woman at the Home Depot told us how she and her husband, on their first adventure downtown after moving to Pittsburgh, made note of the bridge they came over, so as not to get nearly as lost when returning home. It’s yellow! They then turned to note that nearly every other bridge shared this same hue and laughed at the folly of it all.

I love the yellow bridges! Such cheer and efficiency, “I would like one million gallons of yellow number five, please.” Surely a gigantic nod to the Steelers and the Pirates, but that’s not all. Three of them are named for famous Pittsburghers: Roberto Clemente, Andy Warhol, and Rachel Carson. A baseball player, an artist, and a conservationist. Way to represent, Pittsburgh. Everyone gets a bridge!

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Sitting in the office, watching cloud after cloud canter across the blue. We’ve lived here six months, our personal clocks ticking away at intervals both fast and slow, wholly dependent upon on our moods (bewildered, happy, sad), the skies, the indolent pace of emerging spring leaves. Pittsburgh is a difficult city in winter. Not for the cold and snow and ice, no, these were reasonable, expected, and largely enjoyed. Our shock was in the lack of color in our snow covered world. Though Pittsburgh’s cloudy skies are much the same as Portland’s, it is what lies beneath that is so vastly different. Our winter rolling hills sport only the occasional evergreen and nary a fern (I miss ferns!), the majority a mass of arced bare limbs and rusty fallen leaves. The resultant landscape is hued only by what man makes, houses, cars, buildings, smoke stacks and steam, a shock to our green Pacific Northwest eyes. I had to promise the hubster that it would turn and he would marvel at the change. Thank you nature for not making a liar out of me.

Pittsburgh remains a city of navigational mysteries. The myriad hills and dales (now brilliantly dressed in every shade of green!) and the impossibility of cherished grid systems leaves me in frequent wonder at which direction I am facing. Though we are finding our way, better and more accurately with each passing day, with a car ride driven by our own sense of direction and not GPS a giddy celebration! Adding to the mystery are the curious and confounding drivers. With all the hills and densely packed neighborhoods, the majority of streets are two lanes, making turn lanes a rather unfortunate impossibility. But, thanks to the politesse of the Pittsburgh left, a flash of lights, a waved hand, or a dead stare to get moving, drivers can turn without so much as a problem the majority of the time. It is marvelous, though the feeling can be quickly dashed by the angry honks while sitting at a red light, or a car tailing wildly close and at breakneck speed before zooming past.

It’s a town that doesn’t quite know how to be, and rightly so. When the steel industry collapsed, thousands of people lost their livelihoods, and nearly 200,000 residents vanished in the ensuing decades. Pittsburghers are proud. Proud to have gotten back on their feet largely without help from the outside. Proud to have such wildly successful sports teams. Proud to have fine institutions like the Carnegie Libraries, the Phipps Conservatory (where I took today’s photos!), Heinz Hall and the Cultural District, a vibrant downtown and waterfront, so many beautiful bridges. Proud to have intact small businesses, even if the service is lousy, or in the case of restaurants, the servers are super friendly, but the food is beyond anything the worst cook you know would serve. Pittsburghers are kind and friendly and welcoming despite their wonder. Why did you move HERE?

The truth is, we are still finding out…

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Happy Monday, dear reader! Welcome to the Allegheny Observatory, part of the University of Pittsburgh, and easily seen from our guest room window. As such, we had been itching to walk there practically since moving in. It’s about an hour each way, so it’s a nice way to build up an appetite before dinner and better acquaint ourselves with the neighborhood. It’s situated in Riverview Park, though the moniker makes absolutely no sense, as we saw not one glimpse of water, save at the drinking fountain. Anyhoo, we’re hoping to take one of their free tours this summer!

We decided that the couple on the lawn is future Colleen and Greg (as they had more gery hair and wrinkles than we do). They had four kites, three of which they had going at once, before she started with the bubbles. They kissed and laughed and were quite ebullient in their happiness. The best way to be, I think!

Sunset on a recent drive home…

this was part of a sound machine!

artist unknown

Dream City Art in Wilkinsburg a couple weekends ago, with different artists studios and events open to the public. Wilkinsburg, much like areas of Pittsburgh, is a place of contrasts, with newly restored homes and businesses next door to crumbling buildings and massive piles of illegally dumped garbage. Devastated by the loss of the steel industry some thirty years ago, it is making what seems to be even slower progress than Pittsburgh to re-establish itself. There is much work to be done and ambitious people working admirably to make it happen. My hat is off to them!

We went with our friends Ron & Janet (hi!), and enjoyed taking in the work of artists keen on being part and parcel of Wilkinsburg’s renaissance. Terry Boyd makes fun to watch art with his bow and arrow(!).  James Shipman makes fantastic scupltures on Rebecca avenue (the hanging basket is his), while Dee Briggs creates her work in an old fire station. A fun afternoon of discovery!

Whoa there. I missed a whole week of blogging, wiz-bam-flash gone. The hubster was in Portland on business, and I managed to keep busy with everything under the sun that did not include logging onto a computer. It was a rather surprising turn of events, to be sure!

Life continues to roll along here, as we learn and appreciate more about our new home. I don’t know what is typical, but the weather has been quite lovely, with open windows, the most raucous thunder and lightning laden storms we’ve seen since living in Colorado, and bright sunny days to make this body grateful.

The trees are bursting and frothy with blossoms, and our sepia-hued hills will soon be green and gorgeous. We can’t wait to see full spring!

These photos, however, are the warmest welcome we can muster to a cloudy day in Lawrenceville a few weeks back. We walked our legs off and oohed and ahhed at all we hadn’t seen before. The castle-like entrance is to the Allegheny Cemetery, one of the oldest and largest in the Pittsburgh area. There’s a bakery (La Gourmandine) we must try when the line is not twenty people out the door long. We bought dreamy scented soap from a kindly lady who kept sweet kitties and a dog at the old school cool shop. That coffee is the best we have yet to find in Pittsburgh, and my heart was happy for a fancy gew-gaw on top. It’s the little things!  Frankie’s was a heady temptress, the scent of franks wafting and that terrific neon, but we were gearing up for a fabulous lunch at Marty’s. It did not disappoint.

Off I am for more learning and scheming and hoping you have a most marvelous of Tuesdays.

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Marvelous light of spring and new wingback chairs, I love their acid green, tall backed comfort, perfect for reading and nodding off. There’s a new lamp on the way, a replacement for the one on the right, which will be quite at home in the T.V. room. Then, and only then, will it be ready for your eyes. The dining room fixture is new and  already well loved. The table, our first piece of grown-up newlywed furniture, and thusly clocking in at more than twenty years old, was a desk for ages but is a table once again. Shuffle-shuffle-shuffle. Let’s make the most of what we have, shall we? One fine breezy day, we will open the windows and paint the walls that perfect shade of white.

 

Spring is on the verge, with budding trees and blossoming crocus and snowdrops, too. Our first Pittsburgh spring! So often, I think of how improbable this all was one year ago. Pittsburgh and a 109 year old house, my Grandmother gone, the cats too, how quickly a life can change!

Strolling the South Side Flats yesterday afternoon. A precocious teen, spying the hubster’s rather fashionable spectacles, asked, “Are you a hipster?” We laughed, and I said that we’re probably far too old and nerdy for such declarations, before discussing cameras and skateboards and money, and he wished us a blessed day. These are the moments that enrich our lives.

The bright sun belies a bitterly cold wind. We walked quickly, hands deep in our pockets, wishing for warmth in between a fabulous lunch at La Palapa and treats at The Milkshake Factory. Zooming off to our next destination, we played what the hubster and I not-so-fondly call the Pittsburgh Slalom, a.k.a. dodging pot holes. Jeepers!

Greetings from Mt. Washington! My Grandma Frances lived in Pittsburgh as a girl and relayed such fantastical tales of the funicular and uber-super steep hills that they screamed fiction. Even these photos do such little justice to the city’s rolling and rollicking hills. Alas, you truly have to visit to believe it (our guest room will be ready soon!). Grandma lived somewhere near the Duquesne (dew-cane) Incline, and I cannot help but look for traces of her as I wander the nearby streets, decades and decades after her departure. Was this her church? Did she live in this house? Did she scramble, bare-legged and laughing, up this old tree? I don’t suppose I will ever know, which saddens me some.

Our neighborhood lies just beyond the top most bridge in the photo above. And in the photo just above that, on the left, is the PPG Building (Philip Johnson, Architect), my favorite in the Pittsburgh skyline, just in case you were wondering.

More marvelous murals to add to my collection and a sharp-edged building, too, circa 1893. The history in this town!

See you later, alligator. Don’t be an April fool…

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