Dogs in the City

Dogs Chilling in Istanbul

Not being a dog person, I have been fascinated by different dog behaviors and treatment that I have seen in traveling.  In New York City, I was surprised to see people bring their pet dogs onto public transit, both on the metro and on the bus.  I wasn’t sure if this behavior was like eating on the buses in Pittsburgh–it’s not permitted, yet people do it anyway–or if pets are allowed on public transportation in NYC.  It also seemed unusual to me that most of the dogs I saw were small.  But then, thinking it through, I decided it made sense as if you live in a stereotypical tiny New York apartment, you wouldn’t have the space to keep a big dog.

In Pittsburgh, dogs seem to be more like what you would find in suburban areas.  They are often big and they tend to bark a lot and strain toward people they pass on the street.  After coming back from New York City, I realized that you don’t see dogs in downtown Pittsburgh.  However, as more people have moved downtown, dogs on the streets downtown have become much more common.  Including ones that are pushed around in what look like baby strollers, but given how some people feel about pets, they might have been strollers designed for dogs.

Istanbul dogs were quite different from the average dog in America.  I believe most of them were strays, but they appeared to be quite self-sufficient (such as the ones in the photo above).  They minded their own business and let everyone around go about their business.  It was quite refreshing to me to see numerous dogs that did not feel the need to bark their heads off just because someone was walking by.  I regret that I did not get a picture of the most notable dog I passed.  He had a human companion, but no leash, instead he was decked out in sunglasses and other bling like mardi gras beads.

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Mural of Weeds

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I love this mural.  It was put up two years ago along one of the worst stretches of the trail along the Allegheny River.  This is in downtown Pittsburgh, feet away from The Point, and yet it is a barren wasteland of concrete.  Next to one highway ramp and underneath another, the only good features are the river and the view to the north side where the trail has many features and improvements including the well-loved water steps.

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For me, this mural by Kim Beck is aptly named Adjutant, the non-military definition of which is “one who helps” according to Merriam-Webster.  While this stretch of trail is still a wasteland of concrete and weeds (which the mural accurately depicts), it is no longer a creepy section of trail to be hurried through as fast as possible.  Somehow by acknowledging the barrenness, the mural has taken away the edge.

The deadline has just passed on a call for ideas for a new installation at this location, but I am torn about this call.  While it would be nice to have this section of trail feel more connected with the rest of the trail, a part of me is going to miss the honesty of this mural of weeds.

Beth Abraham Cemetery

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Yesterday, while exploring Carrick and the surrounding neighborhoods looking for adaptively reused religious buildings, we took a detour through the Beth Abraham Jewish Cemetery.  According to the map we had there were multiple roads through the cemetery. We started on one that went through a section of the cemetery with newer graves and came to a T-intersection with a sign to the right that said Do Not Enter One Way, so we turned left. The road was wide at that point, but went around a sharp bend and quickly narrowed to just barely the width of the car.

This was the original section of the cemetery. The graves were clearly older and were placed head to toe with sides touching. It was the most densely plotted cemetery that I have seen.

Our awe at the density was soon interrupted by the termination of the road we were traveling. Despite my confidence that the map was telling us we could get back to the main road by going straight, that was clearly not an option. Fortunately, there was a side leg of the road right at the point we realized we could go no further.  The width of both paths was perhaps a foot wider than the car. My friend who was driving predicted that a 21-point turn would be required to get us out.  I think we managed it in 10-points.

Once turned around, we went back the way we came. As we reached the main roads and started down the public road that bisects the cemetery, I realized I had been so distracted by looking around and then directing the u-turn, that I missed my opportunity to take a picture of the old section of the cemetery.  Instead, I got some shots of the section to the east of Stewart Ave, which is newer, but almost as dense as the old section.

If you decide to take a trip to this cemetery, I recommend entering through the main gates off of Stewart Ave and pulling off at the wide section of road at the sharp bend. From there, the old section and one of the newer sections are easily accessible by foot, though there may be some steep and uneven portions.

Sacred Row

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This is a fascinating structure I discovered on the South Side Flats. A friend and I were going around the neighborhood looking at adaptively reused church buildings. While going from one building we knew of to another location, we stumbled upon this building. From what I’ve pulled together so far, this building was built sometime between 1876 and 1884 as four rowhouses. In 1926, the Second Greek Catholic St John the Baptist Church of the South Side purchased the property. The deed described the structure as four 4-room houses. When the Second Greek Catholic St John the Baptist Church sold the property in 1959, the deed described the property as four 2-story brick party wall houses.

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However, when you look at the side of the building facing 23rd St, it appears that at one time, this property was used as a church. The middle of the three boarded up openings on this side looks like it used to be a door for an entrance into a church that has been partially bricked up. From this I assume that while the Second Greek Catholic St John the Baptist Church owned the property, they renovated to use as their place of worship with a main front door and two windows.

I look forward to learning more about this structure and its history. I suspect there is an interesting story that connects this building to the 1st St John the Baptist Greek Church which is still in operation at the corner of E Carson St and 7th and the 2nd St John the Baptist Greek Church that set up just down the block at 615 E Carson St before moving to Jane St. From the pieces I’ve found so far there was a severe split in the South Side congregation that involved boycotts and arrests of arguing members and former members.  I’m not sure yet how this rowhouse/church may have fit into that struggle.

 

 

Safety while Traipsing

The Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation, a non-profit community development organization in Pittsburgh, is raising funds to buy back guns.  The goal is to get unwanted guns out of the community where they may be stolen and used in a crime or found by a child and played with, causing injury and death.

In the process of raising funds and talking with different people, it’s become clear that not all guns are bad.  Some guns are very useful such as soldering guns, caulking guns, staple guns, salad shooters, glue guns, nail guns, heat guns, cookie guns, water guns, and cameras (which shoot).  Check out the links for each of these guns to see how they can improve communities (more links will be added over the next few weeks).

As an urban traisper, it is important to feel safe as I walk around exploring the city.  I have chosen not to walk the bridges in certain neighborhoods of Pittsburgh, because of safety concerns.  I was excited when I joined the staff of the BGC to hear that they were working on planning a gun buyback to reduce the chances of gun violence in their neighborhoods.  Maybe our work will make a small difference and help lead to broader changes that will improve the safety of the currently troubled areas or those perceived as troubled.

For more about the Gun Buyback Initiative, check out our Razoo page.  While you’re there, please consider giving a donation.  We hope to reach at least $15,000 by August 31.  Thank you!

The Point…of Gathering

A renewed downtown Pittsburgh attraction is a great place on a hot day.  With last weekend’s temperatures reaching near 90, the revitalized Fountain on the point of Point State Park was a popular place to be.

The Fountain

The new “wading” portion of the fountain was enjoyed by families, friends, couples, and pets.

Bathers

Families and Pets

Pittsburghers and Icons

The fountain was also a gathering point for bikers enjoying the Three Rivers Heritage Trail System and Pittsburgh’s bike rental program and kayakers taking advantage of Venture Outdoors’ Kayak Pittsburgh rentals.

Kayakers and Bikers enjoy the Point

The Point is one of the key geographical features that influenced the creation and history of Pittsburgh.  With the rebirth of the fountain, it will continue to be an important attraction in the city.

The Point of...