In Da ‘Burgh

After a long departure delay (thanks to rain and the yard…long story…) I am in Pittsburgh. I will be here all week. The hubby will be joining me for the weekend, and then I’ll be making a  sidetrip to someplace Canadian, Illinoian, or who knows whatan next week.

Did I mention it was vacation season?

Life in Da ‘Burgh


Downtown Pittsburgh from Troy Hill.

I thought San Francisco had left me too bitter to ever truly love another urban area again. But maybe not.

Pittsburgh really is sort of an amazing place, as I’ve mentioned before: urban without being pretentious, distinctly affordable, and possessed of a surprisingly stable population of working families. As I become more familiar with  the city, I find that there are very few neighborhoods that make me nervous as I drive through them (yes, there are still a few). And there really is some new little bit of wonderfulness around every corner. Of course, your definition of wonderfulness may vary.

And after a (very) few initial moments of skepticism, I’ve come to love my neighborhood, Lawrenceville, as well. It’s nice to be able to walk to the supermarket and pick up something I’m out of while cooking dinner, or to a really good diner for breakfast. And Lawrenceville has urban texture like almost no other place I’ve ever seen. It ranges from the beautiful to the butt-ugly, just like a real urban neighborhood should. And I think I would actually be a little surprised to find my car window broken here, unlike South of Market, where I sort of expected it.

In fact, it has been suggested that part of my problem with San Francisco stemmed from the neighborhood I lived in, and there may be some slight validity to that. That said, in San Francisco, mere mortals can’t just pick and choose their neighborhoods, either. Nor can they afford whole houses in them.

Anyway, I don’t live here full-time now, and it’s not really likely that I’ll be doing so anytime soon. I hope my fascination doesn’t wear off. I don’t think it will.

I have lots of thoughts and little attention span. Thus, here are some more pictures. Pictures are easy.


South Side.


Carson Street, South Side.


Strip District from Troy Hill.


Downtown Pittsburgh from South Side Slopes.

Down at the A&P


This lovely little storefront was my neighborhood’s A&P store from at least the 1920s through the 1950s. What this means is that I’ve started my Pittsburgh research for Groceteria now. My database is already up to almost 900 chain grocery addresses, and I’ve only finished the data entry through 1940. For San Francisco, I only had 600 addresses total. Since both cities used to be about the same size, I suppose that means that SF was violently anti-chain even eighty years ago.

Realizations Upon Hitting Age 45

Thanks to all for the birthday wishes. I was sort of downplaying this year’s birthday. It’s pretty much impossible to look at age 45 as anything other than middle age, and I have to admit that it’s been bugging me just a little the past few weeks. Several times, I’ve found myself whining tonight and thinking “I don’t want to be 45.”

But let’s take another look. Between the little cancer episode of 2006 and that scary heart/thyroid thing in 2001, there were a few times in the past ten years when I wasn’t 100% certain I was going to make it to this point. On the more positive side, in the past few years I have also gotten within shouting distance of a master’s degree and at least the prospect of a career I can actually be proud of, become the co-owner of a house I love in a city I like, as well as a house I like in a city I love, and (best of all) spent nearly eight years with a boy who’s made me happier than I’ve ever been before.

From this perspective, middle age looks pretty damned good, huh? I’ve decided that I’m happy as a clam being 45, thank you.

I Fixed the Internet

The free wifi in my hotel hasn’t worked since I arrived, and per my conversations with other guests, the problem is apparently specific to my computer. But I noticed an ethernet port under the desk, and scurried over to Wal-Mart and Best Buy in search of an ethernet cable. I was not, however, willing to shell out twenty bucks, be it Canadian or US funds. On a whim, I popped into a thrift store on Queen Street and found one for a dollar in a basket of miscellaneous and otherwise useless computer parts. I love thrift stores.

I love Toronto, too, but that’s another post entirely.

Sorry, but…


I’m way too tired, hot, sticky, and sunburned to compose actual sentences. At 11PM, it’s still 23° (although I saw 27° downtown) with 85% humidity. I would choose the nastiest heatwave of the summer for my visit, wouldn’t I?

Would it be an oversimplification to suggest that Canada is like the US with more attractive money and less bullshit?


…is one of those points in my life from which I have very few pictures of myself. And I’m starting to see why.


I found this while pulling other yearbooks for an archival project at work. Once again, I am appalled to realize that my undergraduate years are now considered history.

Taking Woodstock

In the midst of all last week’s Woodstock rhapsodizing, this article stood out for me, but maybe that’s just because I’m another one of those who thinks Max’s farm was one of the most unpleasant places I could have imagined being in August, 1969:

All of a sudden people that fall were wearing Woodstock T-shirts and talking about how it had changed everything. Despite the fact men had landed on the Moon that year, the war in Vietnam was taking the lives of hundreds of American boys each week, there were civil rights riots in the cities, this singular event began to eclipse everything else — even to the extent that people would lie about being there.

Forty years on, I have no regrets that I took a pass on Woodstock and missed a chance to take part in the event that “defined a generation.” I feel no twinge of longing when I hear the song Woodstock, no urge to “get back to the garden.”

When I look at those pictures of young people blissfully swaying back and forth in a sea of mud, all I can do is shiver at the spectacle of it all and give thanks for having said no.

My aversion to Woodstock is probably not normal, but it is visceral. There was something about all those self-satisfied faces, glowing as if they had reached the pinnacle of human achievement by rolling around in the mud with thousands of like-minded individualists. When I think of Woodstock, I see a straight line from 1969 to today’s self-obsessed aging Boomers who continue to seek inner bliss and “growth” and will drive their BMWs anywhere, and spare no expense, to find it.


What could be more fun than spending a half hour sitting naked in a very cold room waiting for a man you don’t find attractive (heck, a man you don’t even particularly like) to fondle your testicles and stick his finger up your ass?

Oh well. At least I’m relatively healthy. In fact, my BP and heart rate were almost startlingly low. I almost wonder if my poor doctor wasn’t a little disappointed that he didn’t get to write any prescriptions.

Randomly Sunday


Random thoughts and links for a Sunday afternoon: