The one thing I really enjoyed was how every house looked a little different. Granted, the neighborhood of a few hundred houses has about a dozen of styles that are repeated up and down the streets, but coming from the land of uniform apartment blocks and identical streets, the different colors and unique landscaping were a treat.
Much of the area was farmland before the neighborhood was built in the 1970s, though today only a few acres remain.
There are cows, a pig, and a horse.
The neighbor has a model railroad in his backyard:
And on the other side of the neighborhood is a nine-hole golf course.
Not everything is charming, though. There's a foreclosed house on the corner of my street.
My parents say the woman still lives there, though, I assume illegally, and they see her at night walking her dogs and even cutting the grass. I walked by at night and saw a light in the family room, but it looked like a flashlight or a lantern, and I'm guessing there's no more electricity there. Two of my dad's cousins have also lost their homes, and a few relatives and neighbors have lost their jobs in the past year.
Anyway, another trip out took me to Border's, a bookstore in Northway Mall. A surprisingly large selection of actual Japanese manga, along with some other Japanese treats.
Northway Mall is considered a deadmall, at least by that user and by me. When it opened it was the premier mall in Pittsburgh, anchored by several large department stores and filled with all kind of shops. Even when I was a kid it was formidable, and the website has plenty of old pictures to testify to its former glory.
Today there's the bookstore, a Dick's Sporting Goods, a pizza place, a piano store, a generic dollar store, a cellphone shop, and a shoe store. Here's what used to be the food court, as well as a couple other pictures:
That's all you'll see from the mall, because when I came out of shopping at Dick's, the security guard came up to me and said she had gotten word that I was taking pictures in the mall. She asked why and I told her. She said that wasn't permitted, "because of 9/11." She continued: "I'm not saying you're a terrorist, but that's something they do." When I got home, the more I thought about it the more angry I got. I had forgotten that living in fear is simply a part of life for Americans, who often don't seem to note the connection between forcing its will on other countries and anger directed at it.
Another day my dad and I took a trip to PNC Park to see the Pittsburgh Pirates play the Chicago Cubs. The tickets were a gift from my uncle who in turn got them from a friend, which I mention here because I'm not sure I'd feel good about myself paying money to watch this team. Seeing as the Pirates are historically bad, wrapping up their 17th consecutive losing season, whether to spend money to see the club is a tough choice to make. Though they do have some great young players---who will likely be traded in two years for pitchers in Double-A and minor league catchers and---the team has largely shown no commitment to winning. On the other hand, PNC Park is considered among the finest in the land. Here are a few photos from that day; the first is a statue of Roberto Clemente at one end of the Roberto Clemente Bridge:
A busy day on one of the city's three
A couple years ago PNC Park put in All-You-Can-Eat Seats. They cost $40 at the gate, and $35 in advance. I guess when you consider the price of food and drinks at a game, and when you factor in the price of a regular ticket, you could eat enough to make it worthwhile. Then again, who wants to eat their money's worth of stadium food? Anyway, here's one local blogger's review of a particularly bad trip last year:
So the $40 question: was it worth it? Well, it's kind of like getting .50 off per gallon of gas at GetGo and thinking you're getting a deal by paying $3.50 a gallon. You're so used to getting ripped off, you've talked yourself into believing you're getting a good deal.
I think the tickets in this area are about $17, which would mean you're paying $23 for the privilege of missing half the game while waiting for mini-orders of nachos in 85-degree heat.
Carlos Zambrano warming up before the game:
The view from our seats.
I don't know what the attendance was, but the place was pretty empty. Not only because the Pirates suck, but because it was at 12:30 on a weekday.
Finally, a few pictures from North Park, a few miles from our house. Being over here makes me appreciate just how green and blue the outdoors routinely are at home. But first, I'm twelve years old:
One road goes in a circle around an artificial lake. It works out to about five miles. On one end is an old boathouse where you can rent canoes and kayaks for an hour or two.
There's a lot of debris in the lake, so one of my dad's high school classmates had been campaigning to get the government to drain and restore it. It worked, and was underway in one spot when I walked by.
A few more pictures while there is still water, and lily pads:
The local news was filled with lots of nasty stuff---when I was in Japan the health club shooting in the suburbs made the news over there---enough to make a person too scared or disgusted to set foot near the city again. My favorite of the bad news was this story out of rural western PA:
Police in Fayette County said a Georges Township man is facing charges after allegedly firing a cannon through the wall of his neighbor's house.
Police say the 54-year-old man fired a metal cannon in the yard of his home on Tent Church Road.
A projectile from the cannon traveled into a neighbor's house, breaking through the side, breaking a window and traveling through a wall before stopping, police said.
No injuries were reported.
The man told Channel 4 Action News that he's a Civil War buff who often fires his cannon into a hillside -- but this time, it must have ricocheted off a rock and hit the neighbor's house, he said.
In case you're wondering, you guessed right: when the TV news showed up to the neighbor's house, he was not wearing a shirt.