21 June 2011

on the road again - First stop: Pittsburgh

The semester is over, summer class finished, moved out of my home of the last 5 1/2 months and in with my brother, got the fuel injector pump replaced on "little blue" along with 2 new tires and then hit the road.

First stop: Pittsburgh (aka childhood home).
10 1/2 hours in the car by myself across 4 states with a John Grisham novel on disc, the time passed pretty quickly. Still not sure what's going to happen to the young corporate lawyer trying to run from his sordid college past, but no worries - there will be plenty more time for brainless entertainment later in the trip. I pulled in to greet my dear friend Caroline and her family. Beef hot off the grill, asparagus and corn on the cob fresh from the farmers market - delectable! Meeting her firstborn Luke and seeing son #2 still occupying the comfort of his mother's expanding belly - priceless. Chatting about the last several years of life and hopes and dreams for the future felt just as natural as it has since we became friends at Penn 14 years ago!!!

The next day began with a "check engine" light investigation - "just google this code" she said...we aren't in Africa anymore, Toto. Then a drive through Garfield. The Babyland is surprisingly still on the corner of Penn and Negley - my young mom friends tell me it's full of high end baby things that people from the suburbs drive in to buy! Babyland? in Garfield? Times they are a changin'! The race car bed that occupied the window display for the duration of my childhood, that Jeff and I drooled over for years - no where in sight. The neighborhood - well, it's hard to tell. It seemed even more overgrown and dilapidated than it was almost 20 years ago when we moved away - but that's to eyes that have seen a lot more of the world in those 20 years.

You know it's interesting...I'm sitting here trying to describe Garfield, the neighborhood I called home for the majority of my childhood...but I'm having a hard time. "Inner-city" I guess they call it. I don't know much about Garfield from a sociological perspective, from a perspective that would sound professional and informed. I only know Garfield from a child's eyes. I only know the sights and sounds, the faces and stories of my friends and neighbors, the houses whose doors I knocked on to ask my friends to come out and play, and the houses whose doors I never knocked on for fear of disrupting the crabby old woman who lived inside, the sounds of the cars beginning their ascent of the very narrow street which would send us running from the middle of the street- where we were riding our bikes or playing "off the wall"- to the sidewalks for safety after someone would yell "Car!!" Now, the street is one-way and the cars park half-way on the sidewalk - making the street much safer but
there were no children playing outside. The yards and porches are overgrown with weeds similar to the rest of the neighborhood. The Mac's house is no longer - something about mining slopes or something - the hill is shifting and many of the houses aren't safe and the land isn't good for anything except planting things - so a local church plant has started an "urban farm" up by the water tower...It was a sad drive down Kincaid street. The one saving grace - our old storefront church building occupied now by a CMA church - carrying on the preaching of the gospel in a place that needs desperately to know the redemption story of the gospel.

There are signs of change in Garfield, at least around the edges. God, I pray it is for the better...the abandoned storefronts along Penn Avenue - trendy new cafes and coffee shops moving in. Two white guys about my age standing in their plaid button downs and hipster dark framed glasses standing with their arms folded staring inquisitively at a completely abandoned storefront that was probably abandoned long before they were born...an art gallery? modern office space? a vegan restaurant? he he he...vegan food in Garfield...who woulda thunk it...Anyways, a trip down memory lane, and an interesting life perspective.

Visiting with family friends who lived in Garfield with us as kids, or whose kids I used to babysit and are now studying to become doctors who I have conversations with about public health and the implications of cultural practices on health in various places...stories about a Holly Hobby dress my mom made for me after reading the pattern upside down - I didn't mind that all the Holly Hobby's on my dress were upside down - "they look just right to me!" I said when holding the skirt of the dress up while wearing it to inspect them :)

The day ended with an evening of laughter and catching up over Thai food at the Smiling Banana Leaf with Allison and Katie, two friends from elementary school. In some ways not much had changed, in other ways - we live in different worlds. We talked about college, careers, love, marriage, children, our childhood educational experience and it's shaping of us, and of course Africa. So much fun - but much to our dismay no pictures taken.
The next day was Becker day. Caroline and Luke and I went to "the blue slide park"! It was a new park for Luke and Caroline, but a favorite of mine from the old days. The highlight - a concrete slide carved out of the hillside and painted with glossy weatherproofed paint. In the old days we used to slide down it sitting on huge pieces of wax paper to make it super fast! Probably not the safest thing in the world, but oh my gosh was it fun! I went down with Luke a couple times, but somehow couldn't get up to the speeds I used to manage 20 years ago...oh well. There was a Dunkin' Donuts treat for lunch and a trip to the water front for a shopping run. What happens when you find yourself in Pennsylvania, on your way to a wedding in Virginia and realize that you've left your dresses for the wedding in St. Louis?! (I know - classic Heidi!) You do a TJ Max and Marshalls run. Luke was beginning to fall apart around nap time, so I hurried it up a bit and found myself with a few things that would do. There was salad, there was chatting and there was Rita's Water Ice! A wonderful day!

Next stop? Northern Virginia!