Monday, January 30, 2012

The Sebak Challenge: Stuff Below the Surface in Underground Pittsburgh

The Sebak Challenge
Underground Pittsburgh

A couple weeks go, I shared with you my desire to watch all of the Rick Sebak Pittsburgh documentaries. Well, I'm off to a good start as I've already watched two and have scheduled a viewing of a third. I figure: it's winter. It's cold (but not freezing! thank you, Mother Nature!). Why not spend some quality indoors and under-blankets-and-cats time enjoying the ever enjoyable Rick Sebak taking me on tours of the best city I know? After living in my apartment for a year and a half, I finally figured out how to make watching WQED a reality (I don't understand how much technology works anymore. It makes me feel funny!) and was able to catch two Sebak Pittsburgh documentaries in a row! The first, Underground Pittsburgh, was exciting because not only would it be first, but it was first on my mental list of which ones I wanted to see most.

What follows are notes, observations, and possibly some anecdotes. Use this as a fun viewing guide next time it's on WQED!
  • First featured is Laurel Caverns. Great place. Nice field trip idea in the summer because the caves are so so so cool and walking through them is an adventure. Put it on the summertime to-do list!
  • Next Rick Sebak interviews a guy from a geological society whose offices are on Washington's Landing. First thought: I hope people are SUPER excited when they find out Rick Sebak wants to talk to them. Second, this guy is seriously fantastic. His enthusiasm is contagious. I used to call on geology professors when I was a textbook sales rep in Boston (yuck times about a bilion!), and they were always the nicest people to talk to.
  • After that there is a segment about bugs. Gross. Just gross. However, that cicadas are crazy enough to know to stay underground for seventeen years? That is pretty insane.
  • The tunnels are up next and the epic coming-out-of-the-Fort Pitt-tubes view is discussed. My immediate thought: If Perks of Being a Wallflower screws this scene up in the movie, I'm gonna be so mad. #1 Best Thing about Bringing People to Pittsburgh for the First Time!
  • A couple segments later, the focus shifts to the T. I actually use the T to get to my dad's house in the South Hills. But, another EXCELLENT use of the T is in the trailer for a fantastic film called The Next Three Days:

  • I had an honest to goodness freak-out moment a few segments later after the documentary switched from the T to basements. In the back of my head I was hoping for it, and Sebak delivered: THE PITTSBURGH TOILET. One of my absolute favorite weird Pittsburgh things. We had one in the South Oakland house I lived in my senior year of college. My dream Pittsburgh home will have one. It has to.
  • The Iron Mountain facility is kind of the most awesome thing. Working there has to be completely bizarre and amazing. The lady who takes care of that humongous photography collection there is adorable. It seemed like she feels an amazing sense of duty doing what she does, and that is wonderful.
  • One of the last segments features a married couple who have curated an expansive collection of coal mining memorabilia and materials. Their love of coal mining and their passion for preserving these items was envy-worthy. In the most honest sincere way, I hope I one day love something as much as these two do. The best quote of the documentary: "We are the guardians of this piece of history."
  • Finally, everything wraps up where Pittsburghers almost all eventually end up: [six feet] underground. Not me, though. I want to be cremated and my ashes shot off in a firework against the skyline. (Credit to Rob for the idea. I only wish I were clever enough to come up with something like that on my own!)
My rating for Underground Pittsburgh: two very excited thumbs up!
(Pittsburgh Toliet FTW!)

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