"If it's not fun, why do it?"

Posts tagged ‘Streets’

Up the Steps!

Fit Friends on W 187 steps

Fit friends on the steps at West 187th St.

I’m from the city that has the most “stair streets” in the USA, Pittsburgh. I understand their utility. Too steep for a street but gotta go there? Put in steps.

“On some of the steepest hills, steps even double as legal streets. Known as ‘paper streets,’ these staircases appear on maps as valid thoroughfares – an often consternating surprise to unsuspecting visitors.”(1)

I don’t have to like them, though. <grumble, grumble>

Like those in my hometown, the steps at West 187th Street are not for the faint of heart. I chug up and down them reluctantly, when I really need to… because I’m too lazy to walk three blocks to take the elevator. Despite being the venue for an art project commemorating the Revolutionary War—for which I fail to connect to the historical past—these steps harbor a pedestrian functionality. At best they are a shortcut from Fort Washington to the valley (Broadway) below. At worst they are an insurmountable obstacle. For the thousands (my guess) of people who use them daily, they are just another way to get from low to high or high to low without detouring south to the A train station to use the elevator or walking up/down the long, bleak hill on Overlook Terrace between West 190th Street to West 187th St. So you see all sorts of people there: old, young, pregnant, and occasionally those with shopping carts or strollers.

Among these (primarily young) people are fitness buffs, determined souls who actually decided to run up and down the staircases! I’ve counted the steps (135) and the landings (8) and usually cannot walk up the entire staircase without stopping for a breath about two thirds of the way there. HOWEVER, I have a new world’s record to announce: I walked all the way up on Wednesday morning without a break! After coming all the way down I stopped to photograph these brilliantly glowing young people(2) with their own camera when they were trying to use a water bottle as a tripod. Then I asked to take my own shot and use their picture in my blog. New friends. How happy they made me!!

While my old knees won’t let me aspire to running up and down, and my lungs protest asthmatically, I can still aspire to climb and breathe freely! Care to join me?

 

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1. Albrecht Powell. Steps of Pittsburgh: Explore Pittsburgh’s Many Steps & Staircases. http://pittsburgh.about.com/od/about_pittsburgh/a/steps.htm, accessed June 6, 2015.
2. If you know these people, please shoot me an email so I can thank them again.

A Street’s Face Changes

Fire at Forward & Shady 5-14-15

Fire at Forward & Shady 5-14-15

Last night’s news shocked me: an iconic building in my Pittsburgh neighborhood of Squirrel Hill burnt and was demolished overnight. With this loss, the landscape of my childhood and adult world changed forever.

Now, changes to my new neighborhood threaten my mental map. Every time I walk in Washington Heights I take in the sights. Already in the 4 years I have been here the cityscape on the short blocks between 181st and 187th Streets on Broadway has changed: the Crystal Party Supplies store is gone, with its remarkable rainbow-colored awning; the Rammco gas station is now an Exxon; and Hobby Land next to that is closed. Two seemingly successful restaurants near the corner of 184th Street closed: Altus, and El Condé Steak House, although recently remodeled. The movie theater I never went to on 181st Street is long gone.

In my old neighborhood, I walk down the streets and remember what stores used to be there: a butcher, a bakery, a typewriter repair shop. When strolling the side streets, I recall landmarks by my childhood pals: Beverly’s family lived on such-and-such street; Frani’s old house’s trim is now painted blue; my friends have lived in Gail’s house longer than Gail’s family lived there. I note what landscaping has changed and which stores are new. Empty storefronts niggle me like loose teeth.

However, I lived in Pittsburgh most of 40 years and changes went more slowly than what I now perceive as a racing trend. So, too, do the empty storefronts and the changing landscapes in my new neighborhood tug at my sensibilities. If so much change has occurred over only four years, instead of the forty years in Squirrel Hill, what anchors will current residents have for their memories?

In Pittsburgh it’s common to give directions in terms of where something “use ta be.” “Ya know where that Gulf Station use ta be near where the Isaly’s was?” Or, “Go three red lights dahn past where the Foodland use ta be.”  But if you haven’t seen the Gulf Station, Isaly’s deli, or the Foodland supermarkets as landmarks, how do you mentally map your space? Already I can’t remind myself that Social Security’s in the block just past the Party Store… because it’s gone.

It’s hard to feel settled, even after 4 years, when there’s not much distinguishing to anchor my mental map. I want a mental map as robust as that I have of Squirrel Hill and am finding flimsy material instead. But still, I persevere.

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