Earth Sightseeing: Pittsburgh’s North Side

Like many Earthlings, in the past two years I have done much less traveling than usual.  Mostly I’ve been at home or near my home in the East End of Pittsburgh.  One advantage to this is that even a minor errand that takes me slightly outside my usual habitat feels like an exciting Adventure!

Today, I got to go to the North Side to buy my daughter’s Brownie vest and insignia at the Girl Scout shop, which is very close to a subway station, so I rode a bus into Downtown Pittsburgh and then took the subway to the North Side.

If you’ve been sticking close to some other place on Earth, maybe a little photo journey to the exotic North Side will be just the refreshment you need to feel less trapped!

This was my first subway ride since February 2020.  I’ve wondered before what it is that makes North Side Station feel so gloomy and oppressive, despite its high ceiling.  It is quite dimly lit (here you see it as my iPhone camera does, gathering the maximum available light), but I always felt something else was wrong but couldn’t quite put my finger on it.

Today I realized, the ceiling is convex!  It’s lower in the middle, which is really not reassuring when you’re underground!  It’s especially disturbing when the ceiling also has water damage and tiles missing, but even if it was clean and perfect, ugh, this is a terrible idea!

I would just like to point out that there are no guardrails to keep you from falling into the tracks.  Those yellow posts prevent you from boarding the train between cars (if the train aligns properly with them) but most of the platform edge is just bare and unguarded.  I was surprised to learn, in this Shanghai subway travelogue, that the stations there have either waist-height or full-height gates that automatically slide back when you can board the train.  I’ve seen those for airport trains, but I don’t recall them in any subway system I’ve ridden in the United States.  We’re just supposed to stand behind the line.  It seems to work well enough.  You can see that Pittsburgh’s subway is “light rail”, a/k/a trolley, with an overhead wire rather than an electrified third rail, so falling onto the tracks would not electrocute you; there’s just the risk of getting hit by a train.

Anyway, it was a relief to get out of there and back into the sunny day.

Here is a creature who arrived recently.  He seems quite daunted by the quarantine environment, although it looks very minimal for containing someone so big and solid.Here is some ivy colonizing a building.  I really like how it goes up the column and then spreads in every horizontal direction.

Rather than experience North Side Station again, I decided to walk back into Downtown.  It’s not far at all: just a few blocks to the Allegheny River, then cross a bridge.  I took the Andy Warhol Bridge.  Normally there are nice views from the bridge, but this was a hazy day (thick fog at sunrise, still dissipating at 11am) so the long-distance views weren’t photogenic.  Still, I enjoyed the sense of really going somewhere, being able to see up and down the river, lots of buildings both old and new, trees beginning to change color, Mount Washington in the background and just a glimpse of the very top of the big fountain in Point State Park.

I sat down to rest in Agnes R. Katz Plaza, where I found myself watching what obviously must have been a rehearsal for Mo Willems‘s first live-action film, Don’t Give the Pigeons Two Whole Bagels!

I see three pigeon strategies for times when the bagel is not under your beak:

  1. Step on top of other pigeons to look for the bagel.
  2. Burrow under other pigeons to look for the bagel.
  3. Peck at the place where the bagel was, in case it might come back.

Pigeon behavior is interesting enough that I don’t mind being unable to explore the savanna or the tropical rain forest today.  An expedition to the North Side was enough to give me the feeling of having gone somewhere and seen some new things.

Visit Hearth & Soul for more perspectives from different places on Earth!

2 thoughts on “Earth Sightseeing: Pittsburgh’s North Side

  1. Very cool! I really like the idea of posting pictures from one’s normal life- like I ride the subway in Shanghai every day so that feels normal and boring, but to people in other places, the differences can be interesting and surprising. 🙂 Thanks for posting photos from Pittsburgh. Also yeah, I have been in a few subways systems in the US, mostly NYC, and they’re all just so much worse than what we have in China.

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