Monday, October 19, 2009

Adventures in Western Pennsylvania

Last Friday - October 16, 2009 I took a trip that I hadn't taken in over 5 years. It was a trip of distance, memory and emotion. For the first time in more than 5 years I travelled back to my childhood home in Western Pennsylvania. The last time I travelled back there my life and my outlook on life were very different. In some ways this trip was about putting the last of the ghosts of my old life behind me. But, I also didn't realize to what extent that I would renew old friendships and pathways by taking this journey. I left Denver on Friday using a United Airlines frequent flyer ticket. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) the days of me being a 1K flyer on United are long past. So I ended up in the last row of an Airbus A320 in the middle seat. Given my size it really isn't a big deal to me as I still have a fair amount of room even in a middle seat. I just kind of think it is funny as about every flight I have taken in the last year I have ended up in the last row of the airplane. On the way to and from Paris, Zack and I there were in the last row. When we went to Las Vegas in the spring we were there in the last row. When I went to Scotland in February I was there in the last row. I kind of chuckle to myself now when I look at my boarding card and I realize - "Yep another back seat trip". As soon as I arrived in Pittsburgh on Friday evening I realized why I had left Western Pennsylvania. The skies were filled with clouds and rain. The kind of sky and weather I experienced in Western Pennsylvania we only experience maybe once or twice a year in Colorado. I suppose the rain, fog and clouds are part of the allure of Western Pennsylvania as it makes the sunny, cloudless days that much more appealing. Friday evening was spent catching up with my sister Lesley. We met at Primanti Bros in the Strip District and had dinner. I of course had to have one of the famous Primanti Bros ungodly large sandwiches. I had a steak and cheese sandwich. These aren't just sandwiches as they are entire meals on bread. Every Primanit Bros sandwich has both coleslaw and french fries on it along with lots of other stuff.

(Pittsburgh from Mt. Washington with the clouds hanging low during Friday's storm.)

After leaving Primanti Bros, I headed on down memory lane! First stop was Mt. Washington. The view wasn't that great because of the rain and clouds but it was really neat. On the way down off the bluff, I nearly hit two dear that were out strolling along the road on that very steep hillside. After Mt. Washington I did the entire South Side and Oakland. I was unhappy to see that the club that replaced the "Upstage" in Oakland is finally gone. Argh... one key piece of my wasted college years as a new wave 80's rocker is gone! I ended up driving around various areas of Pittsburgh for several hours more before I finally decided to head to my hotel which was in Greensburg. The town of Greensburg is about 45 miles to the southeast of Pittsburgh. The population of the town is roughly 16,000 people with a total of 60,000 or so living in the surrounding area. Greensburg was really the destination of my trip as I was in town for my high school 25th reunion. I had attended Greensburg Central Catholic for high school and graduated from there in 1984.

The Comfort Inn on Route 30 outside of Greensburg was where I was staying for my 2 days in town. I arrived there around 10:00PM or so on Friday night. Needless to say I was tired and besides reading for a while, I pretty much went right to bed.

Saturday morning dawned gray and cold - just like it had been when I went to bed on Friday night. The previous evening I had made arrangements to meet up with my sister Lesley again for breakfast. My original plans of taking a hike on the Laurel Ridge Trail near Somerset were out the window as I was just not in the mood to hike in the rain.

I met up with my sister at her home in Norvelt - she has purchased my parents old home. We decided to take a drive up to the top of Chestnut Ridge and have breakfast at Brady's right off of Route 31. Instead of heading straight up the Kecksburg hill, we took a route through Mount Pleasant and then drove route 31 up Chestnut Ridge. After a good and filling breakfast we were off. I didn't have any particular places in mind to see so I drove off meandering through the Laurel Highlands. We visited all kinds of places that had played a significant role in my earlier life. They are too numerous to name, but it was good to go back and see these places.

(Fall foliage at Laurel Hill State Park outside of Somerset.)

I dropped my sister off back at her house around 1:00PM as she had to catch a flight to Boston from at 5:00PM. She needed to pack and get down to the Pittsburgh airport in time for her flight.

After dropping her off I continued my meandering around. I stopped and visit my parents graves at St. Stanislaus Cemetary in Calumet. It had been on the order of 6 or 7 years since I had visited their graves. Not that it was something I had to do or anything - but with my interest in genealogy, I also find it good to visit the graveyards in which members of my family are buried.

I visited many other places that afternoon and I confronted much of my past that I had yet to confront. It was important for me to visit some of the places I had visited. Some of those places had played a significant role in Patty's and my lives before we moved to Colorado. As such, I think I have taken some additional significant steps to confront and purge myself of many of the ghosts from my past. I really do feel like I have the capability and capacity to move forward with my life.

I won't go into any detail about the reunion itself in this post. Needless to say it was fun, interesting and really great to catch up with a lot of people. I renewed many relationships that have long been dormant. I am greatly looking forward to once again building on those relationships.

Well - for now that is it for the night. I hope everyone's week is off to a great start. Yeah - for everyone in Denver I know that is the case as the Broncos beat the Chargers. (I am still not a 100% Broncos lover... It's better now that Shanahan is gone, but still it is hard for me to swallow routing for the Broncos!)

Thanks and peace to all. - J.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Jerry!
What?! The Upstage and our friend Harry are gone? True bummer. You hit the 'Burgh just as a noreaster was going through - bad timing, my friend. According to family reports, it was 70 and sunny in the last couple of days. I love the pix you took. Don't desert the Stillers (sic) in lieu of the Broncos, please. (I've lived smack in NE Patriots central for 15 some odd years and haven't wavered.) Plus, the Penguins are doing well early this season. We all leave home for various reasons - you to CO, me to CT. Somehow I still refer to Pittsburgh as "home." Talk to you soon, ME