Saturday, June 03, 2006

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.

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