18 August 2007

Pittsburgh is a Nice Town, After All

My Better Half and i visited Pittsburgh for the first time (for either of us) last weekend.

Someone once described Pittsburgh to me as the Iceland to Philadelphia's Greenland: in our national mythology, Philly is the beatiful "City of Brotherly Love", one of the templates by which all modern American cities are to be judged, while Pittsburgh is the grimy industrial center whose steady decline tracks our economy's shift away from manufacturing. The aforementioned Someone indicated that in reality Pittsburgh was the nice town, Philly the dump.

As i can now say with the authority that comes with fantastically limited experience, Someone was at least partly right. Philadelphia's got a lot going for it, but Pittsburgh has a nicer feel. Of course, my opinion of both cities is colored by the places i've visited and the people who have shown me around, but i'll be darned if i'm going to back down from a first impression.
My opinion of Pittsburgh also is colored by its many yellow-painted bridges. Yellow is a good color for bridges. It's also nice to have a city with accessible views of itself: the hills around town provide for a lot of beautiful vistas.

Our raison d'visit was MBH's college friend Laurie, who not too long ago bought a house with her boyfriend Jeff. More of MBH's college friends (Dorilona, Michael, Ann) came in from the Philadelphia and Boston areas, as well, so it was kind of a housewarming sleepover weekend. Highlights were a trip to "The Warhol" and brunch at Zenith, a junkshop and vegetarian & vegan restaurant, which satisfied even the omnivores in our party.

One section of Pittsburgh is called the Mexican War Streets, for reasons that were explained to me but which i never quite understood. Anyways, in that neighborhood of nice brick row houses and community gardens, we came across a nifty peephole/door-knocker combination that MBH insisted be photographed:

On our way back to Beautiful Brooklyn, Pittsburgh gave us one last wink -- a Calder mobile in the airport titled, appropriately enough, "Pittsburgh".

06 August 2007

Jumpin' Jiminy

This last weekend My Better Half and i joined friends Jess and Mike and Keren and Adam for a couple of nights at Jiminy Peak in the Berkshires. We rented a little condo in the ski-resort and visited a few of the small towns in the area.

Our main activities took place on Saturday. First thing after breakfast we hiked part of Mount Grayskull, which was a very nice time. I hadn't paid attention to the tabloid comings and goings of He-Man and Skeletor since... well, ever, so i was somewhat surprised to learn they've been married for more than a year now. (Go, Massachusetts!) Apparently the sturm and drang orchestrated by their publicists evolved into a real, caring relationship they finally had to acknowledge, rom-com style. They're running a cute little B&B out of what remains of the Castle, along with a lively weekend brunch scene; we'd already eaten so we just had some cappuccinos and shared a few scones, which were delicious.

At lunchtime, MBH held true to her sworn oath to eat only fish and chips for the rest of her natural life -- a promise she was later to break, with tragic consequences.

Mini Golf reared its ugly head and was defeated by six knights-errant, wielding putters forged in the fires of distant China, who obediently split into two groups of three when instructed by the Mistress of the Course.

The cornerstone of our weekend was a visit to Tanglewood, where we enjoyed a picnic on the lawn while Yo-Yo Ma played along with some Dvořák. The weather was perfect -- it was like being in an ad for the BSO.

Now, orchestral music isn't really my cup of tea, so i daydreamed a bit. I created an impressively elaborate railroad museum in my imagination, then visited it with Tom Waits and a drunken James Woods. Tom made up amusing, ridiculous stories about the origin and purpose of various railroady equipment; James was a nuisance.

That didn't exhaust the allotted time, so i tried to remember the word lagomorph, a task at which i eventually succeeded.

There still was music playing, so i pretended we were on the Isle of Wight, about which i know pretty much nothing, which gave me carte blanche. As it turns out, there are cotton-candy trees on the Isle, which delighted MBH; i myself was smitten by the gin fountains. The Isle of Wight has neither humid days nor Republicans, and there are no mosquitoes. MBH and i invested in a time share on the southern shore.

02 August 2007


My Better Half and i went to Oregon last month for more than a week.

One reason for our trip was to celebrate a wedding: MBH's college friend Hillary married a swell guy named Jim in Eugene. MBH left Brooklyn a few days before me to help with wedding prep and participate in some bachelorette fun. When i got to PDX, i was met by my mom, who had relocated from Brooklyn to Portland just days before. We hopped in her new car and motored down to Eugene...

The wedding was very nice -- outdoors (my favorite), next to the Willamette River, in Jasper state park. An osprey circled overhead while the celebrant married Hillary and Jim in front of a stately bamboo arch. (MBH and i had cut down the bamboo that morning, though we did not get a chance to flex our arch-making skillz.)

The reception was held in the back yard of Hillary's folks' house, which had been transformed by judicious application of the many-hands/light-work principle into an outdoor function space par excellence. There was much partying. For a while i sat listening to a young, weirdly exuberant right-winger spew horse droppings from his mouth; then i went back to partying.
MBH and i spent part of the next day with my mom, aunt Judy and uncle Fred (Mom's brother), cousin Greg and his wife Tris and daughter Semilla, and cousin Lisa and her husband Glen and son Aidan. Other than seeing Fred and Judy a few days before, i hadn't seen any of these people for, i think, two decades (or ever). Unfortunately, it was the day after the wedding reception, and neither MBH nor i were playing our A-game. We should have many opportunities in the future to correct (or confirm) that we are the zombie arm of the family, though.

From Eugene we two headed to Cannon Beach for a few days of sea-side vacation. The Oregon coastal destination towns (at least from what i've seen) are a lot like the towns along Cape Cod and the islands, only less irritating.

We took a little hike in Ecola State Park to Crescent Beach, but didn't make it all the way -- MBH wanted to get back to Haystack Rock at low tide to see all the squirmy sea creatures. For whatever reason, low tide didn't seem low enough that day. (Or, we were misinformed when low tide actually occurred...) Ecola is pretty nice considering it's only one letter away from both ebola and e. coli.

The remainder of our vacation was spent in Portland, hanging out again with my mom (why is she everwhere i'm going?) and with some of MBH's family: Portlanders Anne Marie (aunt), Todd (cousin), Amanda (cousin), Amanda (wife of cousin Todd); Kentuckians Leyda (aunt), Monica (cousin), Jesse (husband of cousin Monica), Cameron (son of cousin Monica), Liset (cousin); and Brian (cousin, formerly of Kentucky, currently of Portland). Todd and Amanda had everyone over for a backyard cookout the evening MBH and i were leaving town, so we got to eat well and even got in a few licks of Guitar Hero before heading to the airport to catch the red-eye back to hot, humid beautiful Brooklyn.

MBH spent her childhood in Portland and always has wanted to move back there, and this trip only added fuel to the fire. So it looks like a coast transplant is in store for us, some time in the next few years. At least i'll still be able to complain about hipsters. (And no, when the time comes i will not be poking out my eyes or killing my wife. I would consider burning down my home, but it's made of stone.)

I lost my camera at some point, so i don't have any pictures of Portland. But then i found it again.