Pittsburgh, the last hurrah …

I concluded last week’s travel with a trip to Pittsburgh to see my parents. They’re about to move to Florida, thus ending the Pittsburgh Years. The family homestead already has been sold. Now Mom and Pops are Florida bound. It seemed strange. In a lot of ways, I miss the ‘Burgh and felt a tinge of regret knowing that I’d have one less reason to drop by there once in a while. My brothers are still there, and I’m sure Pittsburgh hasn’t seen the last of me, but it still seemed like the end of an era. We ended my trip with a gathering of the Benz clan. Mom made stuffed pork chops. The niece and nephews where there. A good time was had by all.

Also swung by the Carnegie Library over in Homestead and and the Riverfront at Homestead. It was incredible. The site where the giant, hulking Homestead Works used to belch smoke and flame is now a strip mall that caters to yuppies. Barnes & Noble. Victoria’s Secret. P.F. Chang’s. All this where soot covered mill workers used to toil. I’ve been kicking around an idea for a novel that involves Homestead (and the Homestead Steel Strike of 1892) and I wanted to get over there to start doing a little research. I couldn’t believe how it’s changed since the days when I used to sit on a hill on the opposite side of the Monogahela, watching the entire river valley pulse reddish orange and listening to the giant reverberating crashes of metal crashing to the grown. Lot of fodder here for that novel. Also found a few books at B&N that’s I’d been looking for, including a copy of The Steelworkers, which chronicles the lives of Pittsburgh mill workers in the early 20th Century.

McSorley’s, East Village

Business took me to New York City for the first time in a long time. It was great to be back. Always love going there, but the first day can be really disorienting. Car horns. Crowds. The smell of urine. Ah, New York. It all overwhelms. But after a day, I always find my stride and become one with the great bawling masses. Highlight of this trip was McSorley’s, where I had drinks with two former interns who are now New York City success stories. The pub serves only two beers: McSorley’s Light and Dark, and I think we were there during happy hour since we were getting two for every one we ordered.

We managed to secure a corner of a table that was dominated by six or seven Poles and one Ukrainian who emphatically noted that he is from the Ukraine, “not Russia!” The Poles bought us drinks. I reciprocated. Things grew louder and the sawdust covered floor was soaking up plenty of McSorley’s Light and Dark. We were having a great time, and the Poles started singing something loud and Polish, but the bartender warned them, “No singing.” To which they sheepishly hushed their voices and sang quietly. But the beer and their enthusiasm always bubbled back into a din and another impatient warning from the bar keep.

I could feel us getting sucked into this strange, drunken vortex and suggested we strike out for dinner before we, too, were singing hushed hymns to Poland. The Poles were crushed to see us go. We shook hands and said farewell. By the time we made it to the door, we could hear their voices rising again in boisterous song …