Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Light And Warmth On An Otherwise Dreary Friday Evening

Last weekend, I discovered just how out of touch I am with local happenings.

It's no surprise, really; this has been an election year, and like any politically aware blogger, I have devoted most of my blogging effort to commenting on the big races. Sometimes it's easy to forget that that there is more to life than just who your elected officials are (or who you think they should be). There's a whole big world out there beyond the halls of government.

Case in point: On Friday afternoon, November 17, 2006, I could have gone home from work as early as 4 PM. I could have hopped on a bus that would take me one block from my office to one block from my house, and been sitting in my living room by 4:45. Instead, I decided to hang around the area and spend some time at the local library.

When it was time to go, I decided to take a bus to downtown Pittsburgh and transfer onto a trolley that would take me to my neighborhood. I didn't imagine that downtown would be very busy; it was one week before the "official" start of Christmas shopping season, and many downtown workers would likely want to kick off a few hours early, as many 9-to-5ers are wont to do on a Friday.

As I rode the bus into town, I recalled something that my father, who worked downtown for the better part of forty years, once told me. A visiting colleague from Philadelphia was astounded that Pittsburghers leave their offices and walk around downtown in the evenings, after dark. It wasn't like this where he worked. No one walked around Philadelphia at night, for fear of getting mugged, or worse.

Pittsburgh was a safe city. And in most places, it still is. I have no problem being downtown after dark.

As I reflected on this, my bus slowed down considerably as it entered the Golden Triangle. There should not have been this much traffic in this area on a Friday night. And, indeed, there was not. The bus was re-routed from its scheduled path because the part of Forbes Avenue that would take me right across the street from the trolley station was barricaded.

Was there crime? Did the police cordon off several blocks of the city due to some danger to public safety? Was Pittsburgh no longer a safe city?

I had my answer when I saw people walking into the blocked-off section of town. At the next stop, I got off of the bus and trotted back in the direction of Market Square. My fears were allayed when the drifting scent of funnel cake caught my nostrils. This, whatever it was, was a good thing.

After all, you can't spell "funnel cake" without "fun"!

There was more than just puffy powdered sugar pastry to attract the hundreds of people who had arrived in the city. Businesses were open, booths were set up across the square, and in the distance, bands were playing music before teeming throngs. Downtown Pittsburgh never looked so alive in the daylight.

Had I not been in a hurry to get home to my family, and possibly a nice hot meal, I might have hung around and joined the revelers. This sort of party only takes place once a year, otherwise I would be making plans to go back again very soon. I am resolved to pay more attention, in future, to fun stuff in the news. How was I supposed to know that it was Light Up Night?

The thing that most impressed me about Light Up Night is the number of families that I saw. Suburbanites like me do not normally think of downtown Pittsburgh as a place to take your kids. Yet, there they were -- parents and children, many riding around in nice comfy strollers. Small children! If only I had known, and been able to plan, I would have insisted on bringing along my brood! Next year, perhaps.

Just don't let me forget when Thanksgiving is. I might show up for work that day. I'll be the only one there. I would hate if that happened, but for the fact that it would be really cool. Just like visiting a haunted house -- no one here but me and some ghosts.


jipzeecab said...

I'm enjoying your new look.
Is "light up night" still the kickoff to the start of the secular "sparkle season" or are we allowed to say the dreaded "C" word again?
Fruit slices in our beer..Bus and Burt say not "manning up" enough..I confess to accepting lime slices with my bottled Coronas when offered...

Nicko McDave said...

Lime slices are for gin and tonics. (Or is it "gins and tonic"?)

Sparkle Season now resides in the dustbin of history. The powers that be (or the powers that were) realized how silly they sounded while touting the virtues of "SpArKlE SeAsOn!"

Citrus slice in beer helps ward off malaria. Even better in G&Ts!