A very Pittsburgh Spring.

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It is amazing how fast ten years can go by. This time that long ago, the weather was just as gorgeous and on that day, dad broke down in the red Jetta near Breezewood and Seth drove all the way out to pick him up. I walked down Carson Street and dropped a fateful letter in the mailbox. The day before, me and dad drove back from Bloomington, Indiana after a wonderful weekend with great people. The weather that night on the drive home to Pittsburgh was incredible. I remember staring out at the setting sun over central Ohio as the sky got deeper and darker blue and as we raced past 18-wheelers. Later that week, the weather got cranky and by Thursday, it was snowing as Ben Hardt and I walked to Michael’s on Sarah to get pizza and Yuengling.

I got a cheap little nine-dollar radio at the Rite Aid down the block to listen to the Pirates games on. I took the radio with me to my little drywall jobs and listened to the Pirates mount loss after loss. One raw rainy morning I uncovered a bunch of newspapers from the 1960 World Series and took them home with me. I haven’t seen them in six years. I was trying to make haste on that job and dad came out to help me finish it up. The weather’s crankiness continued into May and after visiting friends in Iowa for a week, I came home to the greyest city turned green. It was gorgeous. Ben was playing a show at Starbucks (I think?) and I was amazed at the change in weather. Pittsburgh’s winter is awful, but its spring/summer/fall makes up for it.

I love that grand city. Hopefully we’ll make it back someday soon.

95 South 22nd Street

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Ten years ago today, me and Je’m squeezed into the GTI and headed west on the PA Turnpike. It was a warmish February day and sun splashed the Southside when we arrived in Pittsburgh. We sat in the beehive and drank Americanos out of Mason Jars. I’d spent about a month apartment hunting and finally settled on a little one bedroom right off Carson Street that was $450 a month. The same landlord had a similar place on the Slopes for $325, but there is no parking on the slopes. Some of the roads there are still dirt. Some of them are only stairs.

That night we slid the GTI sideways on the slush into a parking space.

It barely seems real that ten years has passed since then. The past decade is so vivid in my mind. Everything seems as if it just happened a few minutes ago. The loneliness of living there the first few months was excruciating. It was relieved only by a regular exchange of emails and only when I could pick up wireless from the neighbors across the street! I couldn’t even afford internet! If I got really desperate, I’d go to the beehive and pay $1 for 15 minutes on the shared use computers.

Moving to Pittsburgh was a metaphor for growing up. I did it at 26 and I should have done it at 18, or at least 22. When I moved there, I finally had to be responsible and make decisions. After all of my moving expenses and utilities were paid, I had $100 left. I knew I had a few photography checks coming in the next month, but that was not going to be enough. I got on craigslist and found a few drywall jobs. I emailed the guy and he called me the next week. I called Dad and asked him to UPS me my tools. They came the next day and I had to pick them up on the North Side evening facility because they wouldn’t leave them on the steps of my building. My first day for Shawn Taylor was a repair job in Houston. I over slept that snowy day, woke up in a panic and still got there in time. He paid me $15 an hour, I put in a strong 9 hour day and he wrote me a check for $135 at the end of the day. I more than doubled my bank account! Zoey from Philly mag called me that day and gave me a shoot in KOP which I drove back for a week or so later. But drywall… It paid a lot of my bills in Pittsburgh. When I got my 1099 the next year, I was stunned to see that it was over $12,000.

 

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Gleaner’s hasn’t changed one bit. The same pleasant barista works there as in 2009 and she is still just as pleasant. There is still no wifi. And everyone still knows everyone. In an enormous city full of constant change, the mundane consistency here is a magnificent reprieve. I think this is my favorite coffee shop ever.


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I did some painting yesterday in an apartment I drywalled with my dad in the summer of 2010. The stocking of the drywall was an impressive feat. Because of union regulations, the delivery guys were not allowed to go up any stairs. So, he craned that drywall up three stories and thru the window with just a little remote control. I took those photos on my iPhone 3! I got a bunch of paint at C&R Building Supply for way less than you’d get it anywhere else. $54 for Aura Bath & Spa? Insane.

Philadelphia has changed so much since I moved away in 2012. I barely recognize the place. My old neighborhood on the edge of the Italian Market is crammed with cars (I almost never parked anywhere but on my block back then) and new things keep being built. If you can’t go sideways, go up.


I am only writing these things today because I am home sick. This is the second sickness I have had in the last 6 weeks. I hate missing the Divine Liturgy. Because of being sick and taking Callie to the hospital on a Sunday, I have missed 3 this year. That is more than I’ve probably missed in the last 2 years total. It is painful to be away from those glories that show themselves on earth.

Lent begins in two weeks. It is always so difficult transitioning from non-fasting to fasting. But it is worth the great struggle without which we cannot be purified and in the end, saved. Glory to God for his Church.

 

10 years post-pittsburgh

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South 18th Street; It winds up to the Slopes. The weather is gritty and grainy and black and white, just like this 3200 speed film. Tromp, tromp, tromp. Up the hill. There was an apartment up there for cheap. A one bedroom was $325. The same landlord had another on the Flats for $450. That’s a lot more, but there’s a place to park the GTI. There is no parking on the Slopes. The city was not made for cars and neither was man.

This was January 2007. Ten years pass like a blink, but not those first few weeks in the cold, grey city. The days eeked by and the cold wind passed through the window sills. If you looked just right, you could see straight to the grey outside. There is nothing but grey here. Where is the color? The bridges are yellow, but they too look grey. There is ice and dirt all over. Small little piles on Carey way make it hard to park. So we slide the car sideways. It is now flush with the curb. Coffee is hot and cheap down the street at the Beehive. It’s even warm inside and the incandescent light squeezes out some yellow warmth into the grey air. Everyone has tattoos and wears black. It is a deep black, deeper than zone 3. There are no details in the shadows. The film hasn’t been developed enough.