Thursday, June 9, 2011

Glass Slippers Made Into Towers

Pittsburgh should really have a different name. Like Paragon. Or Oval City. The Glass Cage. Not as if that makes any sense, but Pittsburgh sounds like a small farm city. Like a place where you go to buy fertilizer. I guess it is pretty small, space wise. It's all compact and squeezed between the hills. Cities in hills always have that magical feeling when you approach them on a highway. Like, you come around a curve, having driven for hours at approximately the same speed, coffee and ice melted together in a warm sticky cup at your side and this being the third time you have listened to this same mix CD in a row, and then oh There It Is. I can see it. I may actually be able to stop driving at some point and I wonder if I'll remember how to brake. What if my brakes suddenly don't work? I'm almost finally there.

If I ever get a speeding ticket, it will be on the approach to a city I'm visiting.

The reason I went up Tuesday was to see a show, but then I mostly missed it thanks to drinking sangria with lawyers, which is a particularly odd thing to do when you just got out of the car, and you're sweaty and hardly put together but they are all dressed up coming from work for happy hour. I think I've covered this before, the slow drag that driving a long ways has on my face. I'm one of those people who is overly nice to toll booth people because I feel so weird driving alone that I think I must be acting weird, trying to talk to someone in a normal way after not saying a word out loud all day. Point is, making chit chat with nicely dressed young men and women is more of an effort. I try really hard to not seem odd. A guy in a suit talked to me about visiting Maine, and biking the coast, and man, maybe I should move to the coast. Maybe?

The point is we missed the show. So we went to the bar instead and as a matter of course. These developments were accepted as a danger long ago. A dancer named Jade sold me a cherry bomb and talked to me about local dance companies. Nobody believed me when I came back and said how nice she was, and smart, because she was a bar girl named Jade selling cherry bombs from a tray.

I saw a bit more of Pittsburgh in daylight this trip. We walked a little ways downtown, and then drove through it again after breakfast the next morning. Everything was very clean and proper and active on a Wednesday morning. I don't know, maybe someday I'll understand the roads in that city. I will never understand the highways though. They twist in and out like some giant was trying to teach its kid how to tie knots. I don't get terrified getting lost though. I mean, I don't really. I'm getting to know the main idea of it, Pittsburgh. It's starting to make sense a little. I need a map of every major urban center tattooed in my brain. How useful would that be? I don't think I would ever stay in one place again.

I thought briefly on the road home about getting a tattoo that says "Brave." In that typeface, with a period. That's what Bridget is supposed to mean anyways, sort of. Strength. I've been into the idea of a tattoo lately. Well, I want one that is very difficult and pretty, I have one in mind, but it's expensive enough that I will probably never get it. One word, that's not so bad.

It was the longest road home though, and 99 degrees. I wanted to hang my head out of the window like a dog, but you're not supposed to drive like that, so I had to make do with my hand out the window. I do that with my feet under blankets too in the summer, hang one foot outside and off the bed. That's more lizard than dog-like, using a small exposed body part to stay cool. We are all such lizards some of us. Maybe I'm just also feeling a bit more reptilian than usually these days. Cold blooded and addicted to sun. Feeling hardened and baked, with glaze dripping off me and turning the air around me thick with chemical burn. It's not surprising we imagine lizards as the most dangerous of the radioactive mutants. They seem like the only creatures who would willingly eat toxic waste.


  1. Pittsburgh is one of my favorite towns. Fought in and around there several times and the people were all good eggs. I wished that I could remember the name of the pizza place that brought me a pie when I stayed at the Westin... that was the best pizza ever!

    Take it easy on those lonely roads..!

  2. I love visiting Pittsburgh! There it is, 150 miles from my front door -- and it always feels (to me, anyway) like I'm suddenly so very far away from Cleveland... like REALLY east, east , east. On the other hand, as much as I enjoy visiting, I always get lost. I used to keep a cardboard sign in my glove compartment that had INTO PGH (full directions) on one side -- and OUT OF PGH (full directions) on the other. It also contained the admonition in block letters, DO NOT CROSS THE RIVER! OR YOU'LL REGRET IT! Have you ever stopped and asked for directions from the locals? They're lost, too! My ex used to say it was because just never became a "driving town". He would travel there, from Cleveland, with his parents during the 1930s -- and even though they were visiting family quite often, they never failed to get lost at some point.
    There used to be a giant Clark Candy Bar sign near Three Rivers Stadium that I would use as my marker to get in and out... but I heard that it's been removed. I don't even have GPS... I'm really not sure what I'd do these days. I guess I'd just have to grope my way around...


  4. Oh, man, when I first moved here the highway infrastructure confused the crap out of me. And yeah, streets downtown? MAKE NO SENSE. That's the problem, see, of living at a point.

    And I thought that east side/west side bullshit of Cleveland was messed up... Pittsburghers seriously have a "thing" about not leaving their neighborhoods. Do they realize that they HAVE to cross a bridge at some point to get from one place to the next (there's, what... 460 bridges in this city?).

    I love this post for obvious reasons. I love your storytelling of your visit too. Wish I could have seen you while you were in town. And I'm also curious as to what bars you visited.

  5. Forgot to mention: GPS will NOT help you in Pittsburgh because of the manner of the bridges and highways all over-lapping and twisting around one another.

    Read directions before you drive, then pay attention to the signage, visitors!

  6. Mel - we went to Elements and 1311? Cause we mix it up.

    I love the bridges. I freak out when I end up in a tunnel though. The tunnel part is cool and exciting and fun, but the vast wasteland of PA on the other side scares the crap out of me.


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