Friday, July 29, 2011

Pedestrian Pittsburgh - Troy Hill: Charmingly Isolated

[Pedestrian Pittsburgh is a collaborative effort between Eric Lidji and me. We're gonna walk all over this fantastic city. Check out his blog for his account (which will be much more elegant and whimsical than my account that follows). Also, we have a tumblr and a twitter.]

When I ride my bike home from work, I take Smallman Street from Downtown all the way to the 31st Street Bridge before switching over to Penn for a long, steady climb uphill to Bloomfield. Smallman Street is a calmer street with less traffic than Penn or Liberty, and it also affords one a great view of a row of homes that teeter on the edge of Troy Hill. Seeing those homes always reminds me of my first summer back in Pittsburgh when my friend Dan and I took an epic bike ride up Troy Hill Road to get the neighborhood's spray park on a hot day. The other weekend I returned to Troy Hill, just about a year later.

On this trip, we didn't bike. But we also didn't technically drive. We started our walk like any good walk in Pittsburgh should begin: ascending a seemingly never-ending set of city steps, covered in overgrown brush and smatterings of graffiti.

This is the view, going down. But we were going up!

One of the views, right after finishing our ascent.

Is it possible that a bad view of Pittsburgh exists? I think not.

Some Things I Have Learned About TROY HILL
- It is the second-most isolated Pittsburgh neighborhood in terms of ways into the neighborhood.
- Troy Hill was founded in 1833. And for the first ten years, it was nothing but cemeteries.
- At it's peak, the population of Troy Hill was 10,000. Today, it's more like 2,500.
- St. Anthony's Chapel boasts the largest public collection of relics in the world.
- Rialto Street, a.k.a. Pig Hill, has a 24% grade. The neighborhood used to have an incline, and it directly paralleled Pig Hill's steep grade.

Once we made it to the top, we started our way around the neighborhood. Here are some things we saw, some things we came across, and some things we stumbled upon.

One of my favorite simple pleasures in life is a good flea market, which we happened upon during our adventures in Troy Hill. Our visit coincided with a weekend-long Troy Hill celebration, and I reaped the benefits of that by spending $5 and getting three pretty excellent wooden pieces/decorations for my apartment.

This is Rialto Street, or Pig Hill. Farmers on Troy Hill used to drive their pigs down the hill to the butchers by the Allegheny.

Without a doubt, I was most charmed by the graffitied pigs on Rialto Street.

Troy Hill might be isolated, but it felt welcoming. In fact, on the Pedestrian Pittsburgh walks that Eric and I have done, I've never felt as comfortable as I did in Troy Hill. It's got character, and it feels like a community. If it weren't for the climb, I think I'd be happy living on the edge.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Sad Wednesday - Pittsburgh Cheers It Up

Last Wednesday, I got a bit of upsetting news. It was news I'd always expected to hear some day, and it didn't matter when I heard it, it was always going to be upsetting. My initial plan was to find a bar, someplace dark with cheap beer, and drinks some sorrows away. But, that plan has never really worked out before, so I put myself in my friend Eric's hands, and his company and a beautiful Pittsburgh night on the South Side took care of everything.

First objective was food. Being that I was still in an upset state of mind, I needed something quick and something comforting. I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm a comfort eater. I spent many nights toward the end of my time in Boston making pizza boats for dinner and eating ice cream by the pint. How I am not 300 lbs. is a mystery to us all (well, not really - not having a car will force you to exercise a lot more than you think). So, pizza it was.

I would like to wish for a Pizza Sola downtown, so I could have their delicious pizza at least once a week for lunch. The pizza was delicious and my drink, appropriate for my mood, was Cheerwine. In keeping with what will be an ongoing theme of things I always forget, I always forget there is a Pizza Sola so close by in East Liberty. I should keep a list by my front door with these things I forget.

I want to get back into the habit of actually buying music. A somewhat foreign concept in 2011, but I'd rather give $15 to a local record store a few times a month than download a bunch of random stuff and hardly listen to any of it. With that in mind, Eric and I stopped into The Record Exchange so I could pick up the new Washed Out album, which I then listened to about five times that night.

This was the exact message I needed to see on Wednesday. Thank you, anonymous street artist.

We walked all the way from Pizza Sola to the South Side Works. Eric and I walk more than any other two people I know, and it was time for both of us to get new shoes. Once we settled on new shoes, we put them on and made our way back up East Carson with a single destination: The Milkshake Factory. (Remember: pizza AND ice cream will solve all of your problems.) Eric settled on plain chocolate. I went for mint oreo. (And a fresh-squeezed lemonade.)

My only requirement for the night was that I needed to pick up cat food. From Twitter, I'd heard that the new Target in East Liberty was (finally) open, so what better place to go for cat food? That I can now bike to a Target and a Home Depot is such a pleasing thing. Not that I need these places to survive, but living in Boston, I was never able to get to these sorts of places without asking someone for a ride. Now, I can get there all on my own. It's freeing, in a way.

A couple years ago, I would have let the bad news destroy my night, and maybe my week. But I was in a different place then. Now, I live in a place where I think there is an adventure around every corner, a surprise down every side street, and a simple message on the sidewalk can turn my night around.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Everything Better Pittsburgh This Week - 7/25/11

Some great PGH stories from last week.

I live in Bloomfield, but Lawrenceville, Friendship, and Garfield are all just a few steps away. Some days I walk out the door, and I feel like I walk into a technicolor world. There are murals; there is graffiti. There is street art; there are houses bursting with personality. I live in a city that is exploding with color. And it feels like I exist in the epicenter of it. This article from Pop City is great. It gives a nice overview of some of the projects that are making Pittsburgh Pittsburgh.

This Monday past I went to Out of the Gutter at the Carnegie Library. Daniel McCloskey was the main presenter, and he talked about how he got started with comics, zines, and writing. He's started a writer's group/living space in Lawrenceville called Cyberpunk Apocolypse. Pop City's article highlights the group's Zine of the Month project.

I read this CNBC article, and went "no duh!"

Friday, July 22, 2011

Polish Hill Day - Arts Fest, Pool, Gooskis

Last Sunday we celebrated Polish Hill Day! Not an actual day of celebration, but it may have well as been, because we did all the Polish Hill things. All the best Polish Hill things. Here is the day, in reverse order. (Because, why not?)

Our day ended at Gooski's with a couple rounds of pool, cold cold beers, and yummy bites to eat. I failed beyond miserably at pool. Beyond sad.

Walking to Gooski's from the pool, I saw some excellent graffiti on the abandoned school. Polish Hill is definitely the best spot for graffiti in the city. It's like walking through a subversive art museum. And I love it. One day this summer (maybe fall) I want to walk down every street in Polish Hill, taking pictures of all the great graffiti and street art.

The pool! It only took until mid-July for me to buy a pool pass. Now that I have it, I hope to find myself at the Pittsburgh City Pools much more often. Like, tomorrow after work. My apartment is a disaster, but biking directly to a pool and jumping in sounds like a much better option.


The Polish Hill Arts fest. Didn't end up buying anything, but it also seemed smaller than last year. Still though, always nice to be a part of a solid community event. (Who knows, if things pan out, maybe I could be sitting at a table there next year!)

We stopped to do some quick browsing/shopping beforehand and Copacetic Comics and Mind Cure Records. I'd never been to either, so it was nice to finally make the trip. At Copacetic I picked up a Jeffrey Brown book. At Mind Cure I found an awesome record for a friend's upcoming birthday! We got some cold drinks from Lili's (lemon ginger ice tea for me!), and made our way to the Arts Fest and pool from there.

Before meeting up with Corey and Carrie, I biked down Gold Way into Polish Hill because I wanted to get a shot of the POLISH HILL sign under the Bloomfield Bridge. Of course, this did leave me with a bloody and bruised knee when I misjudged my agility and ability to hop over a guardrail. I'm graceful! There was some other great graffiti/street art under the bridge on Gold Way. This is just a small sampling.

I don't think I could ever live in Polish Hill; the distance from a major grocery store and insanely steep climbs would keep that from happening. But it's a great neighborhood, and I should try and spend more time there.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Saturday Night - Picnic in the Outfield

Saturday night, a few friends and I decided set up in the outfield of a Regent Square baseball field for a picnic. It was pretty spontaneous, as picnics go. Everyone brought a sammich of their own. I brought some odds and ends (whoopie pies!) to share. Corey and I biked over to Regent Square from Bloomfield. Corey led the way, and we ended up going down some really beautiful backstreets in Shadyside. BUT! We also had to tackle some major hills his way, one of which was pretty killer. I'm fairly certain that if Corey hadn't been with me, I'd have just dismounted and pushed. But, we prevailed, and were rewarded with two very nice downhill glides on S. Dallas and Forbes.

After we all gathered on sheets in right field (we figured if a real game started up, we were in right field, so we'd be about as useful as the kid who usually gets stuck in right field), we ate our foods and goofed around. Eventually, we got into a round of the Noun Game. We were probably so loud and obnoxious, but we having fun and putting on a good show for the S. Braddock passerbys.

Whoopie pies, made by me! Sadly, not PGH-themed. My food coloring may have been expired, and I can't bear the guilt of having poisoned my friends.

It might have been the perfect summer night.

Buffalo mozzarella from my trip to PennMac in the Strip that morning. Delicious.

After a second round of the Noun Game, we all parted ways for the night. Some of us on bike, some of us on foot, and some of us by car. But for a few hours, we were just a handful of kids, sitting on sheets in the outfield of a baseball field, hanging out and laughing on the perfect summer night.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Pinball Wizard - Wildcard's Insert Coin to Play

I have a very obsessive nature. I get wildly excited about bizarre things and make no apologies for liking them as much as I do. When I was a kid, three things captured my attention like no other: Newsies, Genesis & Phil Collins, and The Who's Tommy. I used to have a VHS tape with a VH1 special on Tommy recorded onto it, and I watched it pretty much every day for what felt like years, but was more likely months. I'm slightly less obsessed now, but whenever I hear of events that involve pinball, my eyes perk up a bit and I'm inclined to find out more.

After the Gallery Crawl last Friday, we headed away from downtown toward Lawrenceville to check out Wildcard's Insert Coin to Play, an exhibit featuring pinball machines and pinball inspired art.

First off, I love Wildcard. Every time I walk in, I want to buy everything. It's almost dangerous how up my alley 95% of their merchandise is (the 5% is baby-related and that will never be relevant to my interests). I resisted picking anything up and taking it home with me on Friday, but I know I need to go back and make mine some pretty awesome things I saw (a zombie-inspired map of PGH, a card with people biking through the air over the PGH skyline).

We played one of the pinball machines and had our own mini-tournament. Stupidly, we didn't realize that the machines were playing for free, so we put $2 in quarters into the machine. Oh well! Hopefully they use our $2 for a good cause. It was a lovely way to wrap up a Friday night in Pittsburgh.