Friday, February 25, 2011

Regardlessly awesome - PGH Day 2

Did I tell you already that I like my hotel? I guess, I did, but I really love it and so I say that again. I am just sitting in a cozy armchair in my warm and comfortable room. It's just perfect and highly appreciated because outside it is YUK. It is cold and wet and rains. I know ... I hear the Pittsburgh Twitter community shouting in a choir "We told you so!" (You will hear this a couple of more times today.) Right, you did and I am not at all suprised that the weather in Pittsburgh sucks, but ... it really does and I am happy after another great day to be now in a warm and comfortable place.

After having a (too) slow start in the morning, because I was for no special reason a headless chicken today, I went to the Warhol Museum, which is just around the corner from my hotel.
Some of you at home might not know this, but Andy Warhol wasn't a New Yorker from birth. He was born and grew up here in Pittsburgh and the museum dedicated to him is one of the most presticious and the biggest single artist collections in the US. On seven floors the museum allows a deep dive into Warhol's art and biography.
After the (logically) overcrowded museums in New York spending time at the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh was fantastic. On a rainy weekday morning the place was almost empty. After a nice little hockey chat with the girls at the cash desk and breakfast in the caféteria, I slowly walked in perfect silence (not in the media section of course) through the spacious exhibition. Sad enough it is not allowed to take pictures. I would have loved to use my camera (better: what is left of my camera - but today it mostly worked) to memorize the stuff I liked most. My favorites were not the big prints, but small collages with pictures and little things from his life like a bunch of really sweet postcards sent to Warhol by Keith Haring or a great photo of Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg and Josef Beuys.

My favorite items in the collection were the silver pillows. These are balloons made from a silver material, in the shape of big pillows and filled with helium. Pushed forward by a couple of fans, which are installed in different locations and levels the pillows drift around their exhibition room. The visitors are not only allowed but invited to enter the room, carefully touch the pillows and let the silver clouds gently bump. It is a totally dreamy experience because the pillows are really floating and kind of take you with them. It feels like we would imagine it is to be in the clouds while for real clouds are wet and cold like Pittsburgh weather. It so beautiful I went twice - on my way up and one more time on the way down.

What I liked a lot at the Warhol Museum is, that it is a work in progress and you can look a bit behind the scenes. There is an event room, where rehearsals were held for the concert tomorrow night, you can see where the offices are, there are work rooms for classes and you can see the team working on the archive for the time capsules. It is not so abstract and passive - people are living and working with Warhol's art.

After some time in the museum I took a small walk around the block and could force my camera to take some pictures of the Andy Warhol and the Roberto Clemente Bridge, PNC Park (the baseball stadium) and the statue of Roberto Clemente. You can also see Heinz Field (the football stadium) from there because the stadiums are practically next to each other, but I did not went closer now to get a picture, but I can tell you that it is HUGE (should be .. 60.000 people is a LOT).

The rest of the day I spent with something which is together with the weather part of the "regardless" in the headline. I was browsing neighborhoods for a special shop, places I wanted to see, people to meet. And I can tell you: Getting around in Pittsburgh without a car is NO FUN ("We told you so!" choir sets in again). If you want a taxi and you are not in front of the Fairmont Hotel - you call and wait. The more far away you are from downtown the longer you wait. Because the people I know here are the best, I did not have to do that. They were driving me back to downtown / my hotel, but without that ... it all takes forever.
And yes, there are busses, but when I asked for an overview like a map with all the lines so that you can see for example where they are crossing - no chance. It simply does not exist. Because I  had some places to go to out of downtown (there you do not need anything - you can easily walk), I went to the office of "Visit Pittsburgh" and the very nice lady there printed me schedules and plans for exactly the routes I wanted to travel and safed my day with doing it.
The busses worked fine for me although one was significantly late, but the traffic was very bad - so that was no suprise. But, dear Port Authority, are you aware that people who are not from Pittsburgh are lost in your bus system? There are no plans of the routes in the busses, no display announcing the next stop, no announcement of the driver. Nothing. When you have daylight and a rough idea where you are and where you want to go, it's fine. You count streets and when your place it at 47th then you ring the bell at 45th and jump off the next stop with being for sure near your place. But when it is dark you need assitance. Otherwise you would never know where you are and when you should get out. I asked my driver to tell me when we come to my stop and so he did. Because the people are very, very, very nice it all works but a guest or newbie friendly systems looks differently.

Other than that I had fun exploring the many different faces Pittsburgh has. You have the mostly modern downtown area, the Strip District with lots of old brick buildings, various food shops and lots of street life. Or you have Lawrenceville's Buttler Street were you find a couple of tattoo shops, small hippie style businesses, cute little bakeries and cafés. It is a quickly changing part of the city and you can read more about Lawrenceville, it's industrial past and recent revitalization in the related Wikipedia article.
And then on the other hand you have places like Shadyside which is beautiful with cute little houses, trees along the streets, a whole bunch of nice cafés and restaurants, a nice little shopping street with partly really fancy shops. A completely different world.

Before I came here I was really curious to find out more about the people. My PGH tweeps are all very proud of their city (what I can totally understand), but of course the internet is only one part of the universe and I wanted to know if there is really something like the spirit of the city and there is. I overheard so many talks - just today in the breakfast room of my hotel again - when people speak about people who moved away and came back because they were too homesick or they discuss with passion the latest news like bus service cuts (You are out of your mind, responsible folks, are you?) or Christopher Nolan filming very likely big parts of the next Batman movie in Pittsburgh and everybody is so happy and excited about it. The people here mostly really love their city and they make it part of their daily life to care about it.

The people of Pittsburgh are also famous for being the biggest sports fans ever and I was wondering if really so many people run around here with their Steelers, Pens, Pirates, Pitt gear in normal daily life and ... they do. You even see business folks nicely dressed with suits or the women with blouse / skirt  topping the whole outfit with a Steelers scarf for wearing their Pens Winter Classics fleece under their coat to keep warm. I mean ... no problem for me. I can easily pretend to be local with simply wearing my Steelers and Pens shirts and hoodies like all the others ;)
What I think is really funny, when you come as a guest and are not so used to it, are the bus displays. All of them have displays telling the line and the direction like this:

Lawrenceville - Bloomfield - Shadyside- Squirrel Hill - Greenfield - Waterfront - LET'S GO PENS! - Lawrenceville - Bloomfield - Shadyside- Squirrel Hill - Greenfield - Waterfront - LET'S GO PENS! - Lawrencewill ...

I have also seen the same for PITT (basketball), but at the moment not for the Steelers or the Pirates which is I am sure offseason related and will change as soon as the baseball season starts again in spring and the football season in fall.

The highlights of the day should be mentioned today at the very end. I could spend some time with @burghbaby (click on the name for THE PLACE to go when you like mommy blogging and awesome photos) and @SecretAgentL (click on the name and find out more about the amazing Secret Agent L kindness project and spread the word and do a mission)  and I had such a great time putting real people to the blogs and Twitter accounts. Thanks so much for your time, ladies!

Pictures of the day (not so many due to bad weather conditions):

The Warhol Museum

Roberto Clemente Bridge


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