Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Back Home Again...

in Indiana. It was a quick trip that included Washington, D.C., the Eastern Shore of Maryland, and the great city of Pittsburgh, which I had never visited before. I chose Pittsburgh because it would allow me to do the Eastern Shore-Bedford, Indiana drive in two days with something interesting in between.

Our first impression of Pittsburgh was an exciting one, until a driving rain obscured everything but the road in front of us. We checked into the Lady Palm suite at the Parador Inn (, a fabulously restored 1870's mansion-turned-B&B on Pittsburgh's North Side, and since the rain had stopped we proceeded to explore the neighborhood. Seconds after stepping across the street we got caught in a downpour and sought refuge in one of the arches of the Calvary United Methodist Church. Learning that the church was open, we jumped at the chance to not only get out of the rain but see those famous Tiffany stained glass windows from the inside of the dark sanctuary with the fading afternoon light behind them. We couldn't make out anything of the interior (I hear the oak ceilings are also impressive), but the windows took my breath away.

I just had to see the Emmanuel Episcopal Church, which was designed by H.H. Richardson, pioneer of the Romanesque Revival style that inspired the architecture of our jail. It was only a block away, so I ran through the rain to get a better look. It was impossible to take a decent picture with water dripping all over my face, needless to say. We had dinner at a nearby Thai restaurant, and it was all delicious. Our waitress at the Thai place, a pretty young woman with an abundance of glitter highlighting her eyes, brightened when we told her where we were staying; she hopes to have her wedding at the Parador.

A few years ago I had negotiated (unsuccessfully, as it turned out) with the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh to have a Warhol exhibition in the overseas country I was serving in at the time. I had wanted to visit this museum ever since, so after an excellent breakfast at the Parador we took a walk down Millionaires' Row, imagining Pittsburgh at the turn of the last century, and spent a couple of hours in the museum learning about the life of Pop artist Andy Warhol, a Pittsburgh native. I was pretty young in the late 1960's and early 1970's when Warhol and his friends were considered the coolest people in New York City, so it was fun to relive that era, with its striped bell bottoms and long play albums in Warhol covers, Mick and Bianca Jagger and a very young, fresh-faced Michael Jackson. The seventies were one big party for Warhol and his friends, evidently. By the time we got to the end of Warhol's life, however, to his collaboration with Jean-Michel Basquiat on a long line of Jesus punching bags, it was obvious that the party was over and it all just seemed sad somehow. That final impression stayed with us as we checked out the offerings in the gift shop, where we spent a half an hour and didn't buy anything.

It was almost two o'clock when we emerged from the Warhol Museum, and we had a long drive back to Bedford ahead of us, so we scrapped plans to visit the Aviary and the Mattress Factory and hit the road. Pittsburgh is definitely worth another visit, and its proximity to the road to Washington pretty much ensures I'll be seeing it again in the near future.

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