Monday, August 25, 2008

The Pittsburgh Left

No, it's not a political constituency. It's a way to drive. Found on the excellent user-maintained travel site

Visitors may want to be careful of the "Pittsburgh Left." At red light intersections, a driver wishing to turn left will do so as soon as the light turns green, regardless of whether another vehicle would normally continue straight through the intersection. While not done much by the younger generation, the Pittsburgh Left still has its adherents.

I think Mr. Incredible could add a few more irritating Pittsburgh driving habits and traffic patterns to this entry, but here's another one that is oh-so-true:

Another traffic irregularity that often confuses outside drivers is the "left only" lane. You can be driving straight down the road and suddenly the lane you are in becomes a "Left Turn Only" lane, although you did not change lanes. This is common in other cities in the right lane but not the left. However, there is no rule for when this will happen in Pittsburgh, and it can happen in right lanes also, so drivers tend to drift back and forth from left lane to right without signaling. If you are new to the city keep an eye on the signs leading up to each intersection.

I know things like this really irk many people -- and I'll admit they get me sometimes, too -- but for the most part I guess I accept them as some of the last vestiges of local flavor. It's getting so you can go just about anywhere and find a KFC but there's no local café in sight. And everybody in the country wears pretty much the same clothes and buys their housewares at Target.

So, as annoying as it is, I salute the Pittsburgh Left for its uncompromising disregard for homogeneity.

Thursday, August 21, 2008


I walk out the back door at 7:44 a.m. and wind around the house, my bag swinging from my shoulder, heavy with the same items as yesterday: lunch, water bottle, cell phone, wallet. A weed that for some reason I’ve never bothered to pull or spray with Roundup hangs in an arc over the sidewalk next to the house, swaying slightly in the breeze but not in any danger of dying, despite its lack of soil. I step on it, like I do every day, hoping that this will cripple the plant and lead to its eventual decline. I should bend down and pull it up, but I don’t have the time I have to catch the 8:53 bus.

Down the steps, then, and up the street I go. A neighbor is bending over, fussing about her flower beds, like she was yesterday, with her butt in the air and no regard for what passersby might think. Another neighbor, dressed in blue scrubs and bearing a stainless steel coffee mug, heads for his car. Right on time.

I turn into the alley. Two blocks ahead, a 77F bus heads up Stanton Avenue.

Clunk. Someone drops trash in the dumpster from the third floor of some notoriously run-down apartments.

“71A Downtown” says the recorded message as a bus opens its doors on Negley Avenue one block over. The disembodied voice echoes through the alley just as it does every ten minutes.

I’ve reached Stanton Avenue. A man in a grey business suit and light pink shirt stands at the corner, pacing slowly in his whiter-than-white sneakers and dragging heavily on his cigarette as he waits for the bus. His square face reminds me of a pale, pissed off Lawrence Fishburne every morning.

The bus arrives. A woman with the most curiously sprayed and sculpted hairstyle gets off the bus, her pointed features sending the same message as always: leave me alone. I flash my blue bus pass and the driver, a cheery, middle-aged woman with a youthful haircut, smiles and pushes a fare button. In the first row, a man rises to give me the window seat next to him.

“Good morning!” he says. “And how are we doing today?”

“Pretty well. How about you?” I respond, settling my bag on my lap and pulling out my book.

“Nice weather we’re having,” he remarks.

“Yes, yes it is,” I reply, diving headfirst into my novel to avoid further conversation. I’ve already heard everything he has to say: Babyland is being renovated, the city should really do something about this or that building, that program on Randy Pausch last night was really “touching” and the Mayor is an imbecile. I wish it weren’t true, but there’s nothing new under his sun.

The regulars get on and off at their respective stops. A tall woman with foamy black hair boards in Friendship, wearing her button-front denim skirt, plastic-rimmed glasses from the 80s and toting a small workout bag. She sits down, her legs a little too far apart for other riders’ comfort (especially considering the short, button-front skirt) and takes out her Hebrew scriptures, a thick rubber-banded packet of tattered, unbound pages. She meditates on each page for several minutes as the bus draws nearer to our destination, flipping each sheet over and placing it at the back of the stack before continuing on.

“Liberty and 10th,” the disembodied voice of the bus calls out, announcing my stop. It’s 8:16.

I rise, thank the driver, and head out into the sea of familiar faces going the same directions with the same expressions as yesterday hoping that today will bring something fresh, something new their way.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Raw beauty

These photos were snapped in a distinct window of time -- an hour after the afternoon showers stopped, minutes after these beauties were plucked from their vines, and seconds before they were thrown on the grill and into the pot to become next winter's pasta sauce.

Photos: Mr. & Mrs. Incredible

More photographic proof {22 weeks}

I suppose it's still possible, at this point, to think that maybe I've just been making too many visits to Dozen Cupcakes. But the truth is becoming more obvious every day.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Becoming reality

For several months, I've wondered how long it would take for the reality of this new person to truly set in. Considering that I've been sporting quite the beer belly for two or three months now, you'd think I would have absorbed this truth by now. But this surreal feeling has lasted for a surprising amount of time -- until recently.

It was thrilling, of course, to hear the baby's heartbeat -- a sound that's now becoming familiar enough to me that I take comfort in its tiny, rapid rhythm.

But somehow, that wasn't enough to make it completely real to me. It wasn't enough because I couldn't share it on an everyday basis with anyone else; I could only heartbeat once a month at my appointments with the help of the midwife and a little doppler machine.

All that changed a few weeks ago. Tiny flutters that felt like goldfish doing light acrobatics gave way to palpable nudges and kicks that said in the only way the baby could, "Hi Mom, here I am."

Soon after, I had my ultrasound, providing visual proof that this little alien does, in fact, have a busy exercise regimen.

But best of all -- completely shattering any residual surreal feelings I might have had -- was sharing those little kicks with Mr. Incredible. It was only a shadow of how we'll feel when we can hold this baby in our arms, but it was amazing to share with the person who's going to join me in loving and guiding it toward adulthood.

And it makes me really, really grateful that I'm not doing this alone.