Thursday, June 29, 2006

turtle turtle turtle!

So yesterday on my thrice-weekly walk around the reservoir, in addition to the baby ducks, which aren't so "baby" anymore, and the little old lady who sits on the park bench and feeds the feral cat who lives in that part of the park (shhhhh, don't tell, the cat looks like a huge, cuddly Maine Coon, a lot like my sister's late cat Fritz, who was so snuggly it was a crime) I saw something I'd never seen in the park before. I've seen chipmunks, bunnies, once a tiny blind mole that was so CUTE, and of course assorted people like me who are trying to grab some nature or get rid of some pounds, and not to mention the baby carriages and couples strolling. Yesterday I saw a TURTLE! Okay, maybe not earth-shattering, but there it was. On first approach I thought it was a duck, but on closer inspection, I discovered it was definitely a turtle. Sitting half-in and half-out of the water, looking at the sky we all were yesterday because the sky threatened rain every minute. It had a red dot right behind its ear, and like a yellow stripe under its chin. Can anyone tell me what kind of turtle this is? I kept wondering how it got in and out of the reservoir. And how long it must take. And what it eats. Cat food maybe? I know the blue jays love "Fritz Jr.'s" leftovers...

p.s. You can always tell what time of year it is by how big the baby ducks are. Yesterday, I mistook one for a moma duck. But it was definitely a baby, exploring around on its own. They grow so fast! Okay, this amateur naturalist of Highland Park is done for the day. Maybe it's because I just finished Barbara Kingsolver's Prodigal Summer, but I feel a lot more keenly aware of the nature going on around here :)

Thursday, June 22, 2006

A rite of spring lost: Anthony's Italian Ice

You always knew when spring had come--his red cart and umbrella would be by the tennis courts on Bunkerhill. Last year, after the Park was landscaped, he moved up there. I always ordered watermelon, if he had it. He always would warn me of pits. Which is how you knew it was the real deal.

Every day, on the way to and from work, I drive by where his truck used to be every sunny day from May to September. There is a small memorial there.

He died in March. On May 6, 2006 Brian O'Neill wrote a column in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about him.

If the citizens of Dormont can get their pool back, can't the citizens of Highland Park put up a more lasting memorial to this man?

Where his cart would be. The trash can where you'd put your cup and spoon when done.
The stairs where people would sit, eating. I remember one Sunday whilst in library school hanging out on the stairs with a few friends.

Anthony would be on the phone.

The tallest building in Highland Park. I've heard that from the 22nd floor you can see the elephants.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

The Rent Party--Woo hoo!

The Union Project celebrated five years in style--Harlem Renaissance style, that is. During the HR, folks would throw a party, have a live band, and charge admission. They used the cash to pay their rent, hence the name "rent party." The UP used proceeds from their fifth anniverary party to pay their mortgage on their building, the former Union Baptist Church.

The Great Hall, full of party-ing folks.
The cake, which was very good.
A picture of the historic postcards I bid on at the Silent Auction, which seems to be playing peek a boo with Blogger at the moment. Apparently at one time, the zoo was all indoors. Stay tuned for when I show up close pictures of the postcards. Not today, though. Other items in the Silent Auction: a pair of Pirates tickets, a bowl (beautiful pottery), a rug. Other stuff. Me, with the postcards. Note behind me, the stained glass doors, which feature the Union Project's logo.

Highland Park Yard Sale June 5 2006 - a success!

Well, okay, it DID rain buckets (um, it IS Arts Festival time...). But there were people out all over the neighborhood at nine o'clock, and the sellers seeemd to be getting rid of stuff - which is the point, yes?

You need to buy the absolute necessities first.

This was my first actual yard sale purchase - for my five-year-old.

My friend G who had come from Regent Square to check out our goods debated the basketball hoop: At ten bucks, it was a steal, but the post was too heavy and she ultimately decided against it. I hope someone bought it and their kids are now enjoying games of H-O-R-S-E and half-court.

Random photos of participating streets:
I wonder if Paula managed to sell the canoe?

Thomas videos for a quarter? They're mine! Well, four of them. I left some for other kids. It only seemed fair.

I hope someone bought the claw foot tub. I have always wanted one but I swore to my husband that I wouldn't buy anything BIG.

A shot of Highland Ave.:

I don't have any official figures but it seemed like there were plenty of people walking our neighborhood, appreciating the lovely streets and useful stuff - and not-so-useful stuff : )

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

I <3 Highland Park Too!

My husband and I have lived here four years, and we discovered the neighborhood totally on accident. We'd been renting an apartment from T.H. in Friendship (the guy who owns Kelly's Bar, right across from Red Room) and paying way too much. A friend suggested Aspinwall, and on the way there, we stopped at Tazza D'Oro for a coffee. I was sold. Not only did it remind me of The Corner Cafe in Richmond where I used to spend early mornings, 6am, helping to bake bagels and make lattes, but the art on the walls, the fact that she was bringing back memories of Tuscany and the pretty little village the place is named after, I was totally hooked.

I told the hubby, "We must live within walking distance of this place." And now we do :) And I love it. Amy makes the BEST damn scones on earth! Especially fresh from the oven. I know when I eat one of these early in the morning, nothing bad can happen that whole day.

I love walking the streets and the way the people tend their gardens, all the flowers, all the nooks and crannies that exist in this neighborhood. I love the way the light dances on the water in the reservoir in the afternoons, and the feeling of the breeze on your face. I love petting all the dogs I meet on my walks, I love the Farmer's Market, wherever it may end up ;), and I love swinging in the hammock on my front porch. Highland Park Rules!

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Helping out in the park

I volunteer with the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy to deal with invasive, non-native plant species that are crowding out native species in the parks. It was the PPC who restored the beautiful fountain and garden area at the Highland Avenue entrance to the park.

Today I removed 2 large bags of garlic mustard from two places in the park: one came from the foot bridge at the Connecting Trail and the other came from the western part of the walkway around Reservoir #1. Volunteers like me are called Urban Eco-Stewards--and you can be one too if you're interested in helping out.

The PPC is also responsible for creating new trails in the parks. With the help of other organizations such as the Student Conservation Association they have created or restored:

  • The Babbling Brook and trail from the Microfiltration Plant down the hill to the rear of the swimming pool
  • The Elm Grove trail which leads from Elm Grove on Lake Drive (near the Stanton Avenue entrance to the park) down to the Velodrove on Washington Boulevard.
  • The Connecting Trail which starts at Connecting Road below the Farmhouse and leads to the "seven bumps" area between Jackson Road and Lake Drive
  • Bigelow Trail from the outer loop of Reservoir Drive just over the top of the hill from Reservoir #1 down to the area near the volleyball court; and there's an extension to this trail that connects to Bigelow Grove

Saturday, June 03, 2006

The Union Project: if it were a building, I'd marry it.

Now that you've had an intro, let's take a look in the basement of Highland Park's newest refurbished jewel: The Union Project. While at First Friday at the Union Station Cafe last night, I heard descriptions of this sink. It sounded nice. Interesting. Never in a million years did I imagine it was this exquisite.

I love the tiny roses.
It's a brush holder, built into the mosaic!
A closer look at the side of the brush holder: a face. I'm told there's another one on the other side.

Tonight I go to the 5+U Rent Party at the Union Project. I just heard a clap of thunder...I hope it doesn't rain...

Ta for now, more later!

Highland Park: A little intro

Many people LOVE Highland Park, and some of us thought perhaps we'd do a little cheering here on the Internet. Enjoy getting to know the neighborhood and its inhabitants, and if you feel like cheering along, please drop one of us an email. (See profiles on the sidebar.)

In Highland Park, we are within easy walking distance of a beautiful 500-acre city park, with several playgrounds, a public swimming pool, tennis courts, sand volleyball courts, trails, and a reservoir at the top of it all. The uncovered upper reservoir is just about a mile around so if I run up to the park, around the res, and back down, I can get in a healthy workout.

The entrance to the park was refurbed recently; it sports an elegant fountain surrounded by benches, and lovely flower beds full of tulips, daffodils, lilies, irises, those Dr Seuss-y puffball-on-a-stem flowers, and other glorious flora spring and summer.The park backs onto the Pittsburgh Zoo - you can sometimes hear the lions roaring and I would guess, the monkeys chattering.

Tazza d’Oro, one of the neighborhood coffee shops (or Taz, as my children lovingly call it), is one of my favorite places. And not *just* because the friendly and knowledgeable staff supply me readily with my caffeine fix.

Amy Enrico, the owner, is active in the community; among other events, the shop hosts debate-watching parties, forums with elected officials, and Q-and-A sessions with political candidates. Tazza d’Oro maintains a rotating art show featuring mostly local artists; I purchased a delicate and wonderful watercolor gelee print there last year as my husband’s anniversary gift. Right now there's a very cool photography exhibit up.

I always run into other moms, friends from school and church, neighbors, regulars; it’s also easy to strike up conversation with random strangers there – it’s a very friendly place - I even managed to hook my husband up with some other bridge players I made contact with at the coffee shop (and boy, am I relieved. Cribbage I can handle; bridge, not so much).

And the coffee and food are good. For a cozy drink in the winter, try the Dirty Snowman (dark chocolate peppermint mocha), or a refreshing cherry Italian soda when it’s hot outside. And you can’t go wrong with their cheese or chocolate croissants.

In the true spirit of neighborliness, and exhibiting a great amount of class, Amy has been instrumental in helping the Union Project establish its new coffee-kid-on-the-block, the Union Café.
I haven’t been there yet, but I have my membership card complete with ten free coffees in hand and plan an exploratory trip someday soon. You'll be among the first to know, I promise!

The Union Project is the restoration of an old church building smack in the middle of the neighborhood, run by a group of young Mennonites. They offer stained glass restoration classes - a clever way to raise money and get the dozens of original windows rebuilt fairly cheaply, pottery classes and facilities, yoga classes, Christmas tree sales at the holidays, hosting several church groups and community organizations. It serves as an anchor in the neighborhood and many believe the activity will also serve as a check on some of the less savory activities occurring on that corner right now.

Our business district on Bryant St. comprises, among others, a convenience store, an auto shop, a bakery/cooking store, an Indian restaurant, a pizza place, a cheesesteak shop, a high-end French restaurant, and a community-center type place where you can take yoga classes.

There’s a neighborhood listserv, for event announcement, want ads, community awareness, and public safety issues.

There’s a house tour every fall, a harvest festival, weekly guided walks on the trails in the park.

This Sunday, June 4, 2006, the neighborhood holds its annual community yard sale. So go check out your neighbor’s stuff. You know what they say – one man’s junk is another man’s treasure.

The people are what make a neighborhood. I’ve met other moms I see out walking with their children; I say hello almost daily to a friendly daycare caravan of kids whose caretaker always jokes about the number of charges I am herding, I have had friendly encounters with lots of dogs, out with their owners.

People here are socially aware and active, they watch out for their neighbors and keep an eye on the street activity. They run the political gamut. They vote. There are students, families with kids, lots of professors, musicians and artists, people who have lived here for fifty years and people who just moved in.

We all are excited by the vibrancy and potential of our neighborhood.
Keep an eye here for glimpses of the daily life, news, events, and people of this wonderful place to live.