The `Speare Bearer’s Ride: Pittsburgh, PA, 09/07-09/13
What and interesting, interesting town.
For some reason I had trouble securing hosts while I was here. Most places I go, I find one host, and I generally stick with them the entire time I’m in town, and have a pretty positive experience staying with them and getting to know them. My host in the previous town I stayed in, Youngstown, Ohio, Liberty, and her boyfriend Nic, who were both involved in the revitalizing of the town. Liberty worked with an organization that specifically looked at ways to revive the stagnant, but infinitely interesting rust belt town, which since the curbing of the steel industry in the 70’s had lost about 40% of its thriving population, and never recovered. I had a great time getting to know them, Liberty referred me to a Couchsurfing host she knew of in Pittlsburgh, Joel. But the thing was I planned to stay in town 3 or 4 nights and he was going out of town the morning after I arrived. So I arrived in town, a ride which wasn’t too difficult until I finally entered Pittsburgh city limits, and realized what a mercilessly hilly town it was. Rode over a bridge which they appear to close off so people can walk to the stadium for Pirates games, which I thought was pretty cool. When I finally got to Joel’s, he and his lady friends were preparing to hit the own for an art walk. I felt guilty for holding them up, and I sort of wanted to see what the art scene in the town was about, so I quickly showered and accompanied them. The art walk was cool, and though exhausted I ended up dancing real hard to local band, Delicious Pastries, we went to go see.
The next morning Joel had to go and (gently, and kindly) kicked me on out, so I pedaled out in the rain to a local, and waited to hear back from another Couchsurfing contact he found for me in town, Lori.
Once I heard from her, I pedaled the 8 or so mi to her place. While I was in town I performed as an opening at for the Pittsburgh Shakespeare Festival, before their production of Tempest, and another pre-show they had featuring a teenage ensemble doing an abridged version of Tempest with was super fun. They had a super fun show, used the space, a beautiful park they were in, to it’s fullest, and had a big, terrific audience. I was honored to be part of their show. I performed a scene from
I believe I was going to leave the next morning but as I was riding back to Lori’s, I heard and unmistakable hissing sound. I had a flat. And I had THICK tires and thorn proof tubes on my bike, so any flat I had was surely bad news. And I was still out of money. So I implored for donations, and by the next morning had raised enough to get a new tire and tube. Lori drove me part of the way to the bike shop in the morning, and I walked the rest of the way there, and the4 or 5 miles back to her house with my tire once I’d gotten it fixed. Then I prepared that day to leave.
Up until that point I wasn’t exactly having a great time in Pittsburgh. Joel was quite nice, but we didn’t quite hit it off… and I didn’t nearly it it off with Lori. She was kind, and helpful, but didn’t seem interested in getting to know me. It was as if housing me and feeding e were good enough deeds for her, but she was super busy and preoccupied with her own stuff, and didn’t have the time for a conversation. And yes, i’m the needy type of guest who does take an interest, and would like to have some sort of real exchange with my hosts, and find out where they are coming from. And Lori seemed real interesting. She told me some cool stuff about herself, but seemed not to care either way. I think I might’ve just been reading her wrong, or maybe she really did have better things to do. I mean, I’m on a bike, shit, I don’t got nothin’ to do but jaw with people. Lori was really into the Steelers though, which was pretty awesome in its own way. I like the loyalty zeal people have for their teams out here.
Anyway, that following day, I did finally ride out, and I figured before I left town I’d hit Point Park, a local university with a theater conservatory, and try to find maps for the bike routes to Philadelphia, as I understodd there were some routes that could help me about the mountains, which I am always eager to do. Well NO ONE had them, none of the bike shops I visited, none of the libraries, the Port Authority, and the local bicycle advocacy org, Bike Pittsburgh, was closed on this Tuesday, and there was no way to get in contact with anyone. It took so much poking around, which meant criss-crossing this hilly ass city, that I finally just decided to find a host within 10 miles or so, spend the rest of the evening figuring out my route, and leaving the following morning. Well, the hosts I ended up finding on warmshowers.org were Bob and Maggie.
Bob and Maggie are a wonderfully warm and kind couple, two teachers essentially from the area, who not only had also biked across the country together, but had a background in theater! Oh man, my time in Pittsburgh changed so much when I finally found them! They were so kind an accommodating, and told me about all the Pittsburgh I had missed and convinced me to stay another day. I had dinner with them, and Margie, Maggie’s mom, a sweet and wryly witty older lady, facing some health issues and chronic pain, but faces it with such a brave and warm countenance. I got to perform a bit for them.
Well, in that extra day, I visited:
Pittsburgh University where I met a professor named Tamara who ran an ensemble that brought Shakespeare into classrooms, a young girl I believe named Jennifer who showed me around, and the Performance Collaborative, an enterprising group of students who, with the support of the department, create their own productions in addition to the theater departments main stage projects. I got to sit in on their first meeting for the year, and perform for them. Wonderful, focused, and bright group of kids.
Carnagie-Mellon University theater department. I walked into their building, and saw a massive mob of theater students. I didn’t know how long they’d all be hanging out in one place, so I just seized the opportunity and asked them if they wanted to see some Shakespeare. They did so I had them count down, and I performed a scene for them. I asked them if they wanted to see another, they said yes, and I launched into another scene. While performing I see an older, officious looking lady down in front eyeing me intently. She politely watches the scene, though I sense the rest of the students becoming a little listless and tense. Sure enough, as soon as I finish the scene, before I can say anything else, she and another large gentleman pull me off to the side for a little “talk.” More on how I feel about this in the Carnegie Mellon video.
Duquesne University, After being virtually ejected from Carnegie-Mellon I bike down toward the culteral district, and realized I was biking right past Duquenes, of which Bob and Maggie are alumni, and where they have an interesting little Theater Arts program, and a pretty notable theater club called the Red Maskers. I walked in and tried to find some of those folks involved, but no one was around. I did however have a great, though brief conversation with Professor about theatrical Shakespeare versus the literary Shakespeare, and the value and virtues of both.
The August Wilson Center. Beautiful building. Didn’t get to see much, but it was great to know this was here.
Pittsburgh Public Theater. Was closed.
Market Square. I performed there for a group of kids.
Ken Bolden. A Teacher in the Pittsburgh University Theater program, and a fellow Duquesne alumni with Bob and Maggie, as well as a fellow biker. Such a sweet, and intelligent gentleman. Has made his rounds as a journeyman actor in NY, and London, and was now back working as an actor in Pittsburgh (which has quite a vibrant theater scene apparently) and teaching. I had such a great time talking to him. He seemed to have such patience and curiously, not at all jaded or arrogant, as you might expect someone of his experience to be. We had an early supper and talked about our experiences. I was very glad to meet him.
Then, the next morning Maggie rode me out to beginning of a 340mi trail which would lead me all the way to Washington D.C. And off I went.