|It is Tuesday, June 5 as I write this journal entry. We are just back from a lovely weekend in Philadelphia that I will cover in my next missive. Before departing on Saturday morning I completed my genealogy tasks – still no Grandmother Jones sighting – and we busied ourselves with places and events in Pittsburgh.
Leaving the Carnegie Library on Wednesday we drove to Pittsburgh’s North Side, crossing the Allegheny River, to visit the Andy Warhol Museum. As you may know Andy (born Andrew Warhola on August 8, 1928) was a native of the City and attended Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University) where he received a commercial art degree in 1949. The museum opened in 1994 as one of the largest single-artist museums in the world, seven years after his death from complications following gall bladder surgery.
Known as one of Pop Art’s founding fathers Andy pushed the limits of art in a wide range of media, ranging from the familiar to what some would call the bizarre. Starting on the third floor we worked our way through the various stages of his creative life. Whether his art resonates or not it was an interesting journey that richly filled our two hours plus. Because Andy was an important contributor to 20th Century American culture this museum is worthy of a visit.
Fortuitously, the museum is located only two or three blocks from PNC Park where we spent the evening watching the Pittsburgh Pirates defeat the division leading Cincinnati Reds. Seeing a Pirates game became a necessary component of revisiting my hometown. The last time I saw the Pirates in person was in 1955 while a student at Carnegie Tech. That game was at Forbes Field and Roberto Clemente was a rookie. Also as a young boy, mother would take me to games on occasion back in the 40s when the Bucs were regular cellar-dwellers.
Waiting in line for the gates to open Lynda noticed the ring worn by the man in front of us. Asking him about it he told us it was a World Series ring from the Pirates 1978 World Championship. He had worked for the Pirates that year and was awarded a ring. He went on to tell us he now lives in York, PA and works for the independent minor league team there; whereupon I asked him if he knew of Hogg Construction, one of my clients for about 16 years. I worked with the son who took over the business, but it was the father who he knew quite well.
Once inside we stopped in the team store where I bought a Pirates cap and then we walked around the perimeter of the stadium. Since it is called “the best park in baseball” we wanted to check it out and see the downtown skyline from various vantage points just across the river. The park is certainly quite nice, but I’m sure that others cities (e.g. S.F., Baltimore, Cleveland) will make similar claims. I also wanted to say hello to Manny Sanguillan, the Pirate catcher during the 70s, who now has a BBQ stand along the outfield river walk. We had a cordial chat and he autographed my new cap.
Arriving at our seats, Lynda started a conversation with the family behind us. We soon learned that they had returned to Pennsylvania after living in Chattanooga. Ironically, we all lived there during the same general time period and quite close by. They actually lived in the same neighborhood as our friends Ron and Sue with whom we stayed in April. Even more ironic Joyce and Lynda went to the same gynecologist. Since our section was not overly crowded eventually the two children moved to seats with a clearer view and we joined Joe and Joyce one row back. Joyce and Lynda found a lot to talk about so Lynda was not totally bored by the action on the field that she equates to “watching grass grow.”
Since Lynda is always looking for things to see and do she planned a visit for us to the Mattress Factory the next day. No, we are not in the market for a mattress to carry atop the car. The Mattress Factory is actually an art museum in an old building, again on the North Side, in which mattresses were once manufactured. If one thinks Andy Warhol is “far out,” stop by this two-building museum for a different contemporary art experience. It is spatial art as demonstrated by our photographs. Interesting, very interesting!
The North Side, once known as Allegheny City until incorporated into Pittsburgh, was the first home of my Moles relatives; my maternal grandmother’s family. Her grandparents emigrated from County Down, Ireland (now Northern Ireland near Belfast) about 1850. As a boy I remember visiting two elderly aunts in this neighborhood; a dinghy, dirty, and dark street of the Industrial Age. Now the North Side – near downtown at least – is being gentrified much like Capitol Hill in Washington, DC and Federal Hill in Baltimore.
Walking between the two Mattress Factory buildings we met some men upgrading one of the row houses. They were from North Carolina where they said “there is no work.” They told us there is plenty in Pittsburgh; apparently the renaissance continues. The next day I read that the unemployment rate in Allegheny County was 6.5%; something is working in this former mill town!
Leaving the North Side we crossed the river to get a bite to eat and see the 5:30PM showing of “Marley” at the Harris Theater in the heart of downtown, another of Pittsburgh Filmmakers’ venues. Neither of us knew much about Bob Marley other than his connection with Reggae Music, so we were interested to learn more about his life. In particular Lynda’s time working in Jamaica especially piqued her interest. We both thoroughly enjoyed this documentary that covered his life from his birth as a mixed-racial boy born into poverty in the Jamaican mountains, through his rise as a music icon and activist, until his early death from melanoma at age 36. Ironically, his last concert was here in Pittsburgh and his band The Wailers were performing at the Three Rivers Art Festival.
Finally, last Friday was the opening day of the 10-day “Three Rivers Art Festival” in and near Point State Park where the three rivers connect downtown. This would be our best day to get a taste of the Festival since we would be in Philadelphia for the weekend and then preparing to return to DC this Thursday. So back downtown we went despite some off and on rain showers. Live music events began Friday evening and continued through the entire festival but we were destined to miss those. Nevertheless, we were able to see the sights and peruse the many arts and craft booths in the area. We also visited the Fort Pitt Museum in the Park to learn more about the early history of the City and its important role as a trading post and a jumping off point for settlement in the West.
So that is about the end of our month-long stay in Pittsburgh. Staying longer than we had originally planned turned out to be fortuitous. It gave us a real break from being “on the road” and, more importantly, it provided time to savor the many positive things about my original hometown. Who knows, Pittsburgh may (I said MAY!) even become part of our next phase should our travel lust fade or need to be curtailed and/or living in a trailer becomes “old.”