Sunday, April 15, 2007
After four days in Pittsburgh, there is much (and little) to report. Of great interest here is the topography of the city. It sits on a wedge between the Allegheny and Monongehela Rivers, and these join to make the Ohio River, which runs off west to join (?) the Mississippi. Pittsburgh wears dozens of bridges like jewels in a spiky tiara. Some parts of the city are quite flat, while in other areas steep, rocky ridges run right throught the town, and whole sections of the residential areas are built along these precipitous hillsides, scattered up and down in places where some mountain goats might have a second thought about setting out for a walk! Don't be fooled by what appear to be grids on this map - the streets wind and twist and torque about in ways that no street should ever have to go. Driving here is torturous at best, and if we did not have our portable GPS system, we would probably be in Cleveland by now, having given up altogether on finding anything. In addition, this is a city of vast contrasts. Its history is of steel manufacturing, great steel mills down near the rivers, with the steel workers climbing back up those hills at the end of a long working day. Now the steel mills are long gone, but the old buildings remain. The big names here are Carnegie, Mellon, and the city boasts a fine array of huge, gorgeous old buildings, opera houses, ballets, museums, skyscrapers, and even a "Cathedral of Learning" (below, visible from our hotel room). We've seen at least 4 universities here: Carnegie-Mellon, Univ. of Pittsburgh, Chapman College, and Duquesne Univ. Perhaps there are more. There are mansions and grand avenues, and then just as quickly there are whole sections of the city that seem to be boarded up, falling down, and just downright grim. From our hotel, we have been able to walk 1/4 hour in almost any direction and find nothing to eat. Commercial ventures such as restaurants are located someplace else. We are so lucky that we have a car here. Others are not so fortunate. An older Italian couple staying here have no car, and are staying on for several more days - their frustration about having to forage for food is verging on the desperate!
We've seen a lot of art, both at the wonderful Fiber Arts International show in which Daniella is participating, and then throughout the city at other venues. Today we went to the Andy Warhohl Museum, and then a place called the Mattress Factory, which does huge installation pieces only. Interesting. (installation above by Deborah Aschheim).
A few vignets of local color. I pushed the hotel elevator button a few days ago and it slid open to reveal an entire packed car full of adolescent boys in bathing suits, heading down to the hotel pool. Turns out there is a wrestling convention sharing the hotel with us so there is all sorts of young boy energy writhing by.
At a gallery yesterday, two young women sat discussing how to order a commission piece from a gallery artist. The women had a huge wad of cash which they were flipping through. The gallery owner phoned the artist while they sat there. The conversation was "yes, these clients would like to commission you for a special piece. It's for a retirement gift. The man is white and very bald, and they want to have his face made in clay. Do you think you can do that for them?? I have his photo right here and I can fax it over for you to look at." Of course I was eavesdropping, but I was also feeling great gratitude that my fellow workers, when I retired, did not come up with a similar idea of a gift for me!
Our plan is to fly out of here tomorrow, me to Denver and Daniella home. But a huge Nor'Easter storm is bearing down on the East Coast, and rain, snow, and wind are forecast for tomorrow. (Today we only got the rain and icy cold). Pray that we get out of here, and don't end up spending the night at Pittsburgh airport instead! Ciao!!