Tag Archives: Pennsylvania

flight 93/ Shanksville in the news..


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Sobering visit to Shanksville, Pa. – flight 93 National Memorial

About 1.5 hours south of Pittsburgh, we stopped at the site of the flight that crashed into farm land on 9/11/01, averting even more devastation in Washington D.C. (The terrorists were likely targeting the U.S. Capitol, or maybe the White House.)

The weather was fittingly gloomy, cold and rainy. The hardest part of the visit was listening to telephone messages that three passengers made to their families from the plane when they knew they would likely die. The plane had been hijacked by suicide terrorists, other planes had already crashed into the world trade Center Towers and the crew and passengers of flight 93 decided to thwart the hijackers plan to crash into the U.S. Capitol …which is a stone’s throw from where we are sleeping tonight, in an Airbnb carriage house in the Capitol East neighborhood, around the block from our son’s apartment. Flight 93 crashed in the tiny rural hamlet of Shanksville, killing all 40 passengers and crew aboard.

The memorial overlooking the flight 93 crash site.

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Vanka Murals, original Oyster House, Mattress Factory – artsy Pittsburgh

Very full and fun day seeing a variety of provoking art on a cool sunny Thursday. We began at a Croatian Catholic Church (St. Nicholas) in Millvale for a docent-led tour of the amazing murals inside painted between the world wars (1938, 1941) by Maxo Vanka, an Austrian painter with ties to Croatia. We were early so we drove up an impossibly steep one-lane road to a handful of houses clinging to the hillside, with spectacular views of the old brick mill, modest homes and river tucked in the valley.

The Vanka Murals are strikingly contemporary, with scenes of modern war, proud socialism and uncharacteristically (for churches we are told) strong females. The murals cover all the walls and high-domed ceiling and are in the process of being restored. Tours are offered on Saturday. We lucked into a Thursday tour, thanks to a bigger group that had booked and came 1/2 hour late.

Our Airbnb street in Lawrenceville
Vanka murals
Vanka murals

Next stop, a fresh fried fish sandwich at the Original Oyster House downtown on Market Square which gave us a chance to admire the interesting architecture, old and new, downtown. The fish tasted very fresh and fun to eat inside (yes, inside…post-vaccines) an old tavern with vintage photos of Miss America pageants and Pirates baseball.

The Mattress Factory is in the lovely Mexican War Streets neighborhood, with gorgeous restored homes lining the streets. Fancier than Lawrenceville, not as fancy as Squirrel Hill. The museum specializes in “immersive” art and that it was, which was a bit challenging to navigate at times with my broken foot because we were sometimes plunged into complete darkness and had to navigate tricky steps and dark narrow passageways. Some artists we recognized – James Turrell and Yayoi Kusama.

Kusama polka dot and mirrors = infinity room

Beyond the four floors of the factory building are two neighborhood houses nearby, also with immersive installations. One installation takes up the entire three floors of the house, with holes cut in the floors so you can look up or down at the adjacent floor. Another had a Small piano hoisted awkwardly in the air on ropes and a song composed for the piece you could play on your phone.

Covid is also inspiring some strange art, this museum suggests.

Covid art
Vanka murals
Mattress factory

We did a little browsing at sweet independent shops along Butler street. (Pastries at la gourmandine, buttercream) Quite a few have limited hours, perhaps due to the pandemic. People are good about wearing masks and/or reminding you to put yours on if you forget. (Mine hangs on a chord around my neck for easy in and off.)

We met old (younger) friends Dan and Elizabeth for dinner in a tented space outside Spirit, a performance space in Lawrenceville located in a former Moose Lodge.

Toasting baby Charlotte, niece of Dan &Elizabeth

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Duquesne Incline, Strip District, church Brew works, Lawrenceville – Pittsburgh

With steep narrow streets lined with narrow row houses and so many iron bridges, hills and valleys, Pittsburgh struck me at first as a giant Easton, as in the river town on the other side of Pennsylvania, where my mother grew up.

We went first to ride the atmospheric funicular that climbs Mount Washington at a steep incline (hence the name, the Duquesne Incline), traveling inside an old wooden cable car. As promised, the view of the city fanning out across the valley below and up the opposite hillsides, at the convergence of three rivers, is spectacular. We returned at night to Grandview Avenue, which is lined with viewing platforms to see the city adorned with lights. Dazzling.

Grand view from the overlook along Grandview Avenue

We finally found the concentration of old warehouses and ethnic food purveyors along Penn Avenue in the Strip District and I hobbled along (my foot is broken) to window shop. (We stopped at a huge candy store, grandpa Joes to pick up some hard-to-find Royal Crown Sours.) Next stop, Squirrel hill, the fancy and yes, hilly, area with non-attached big brick houses and past the various Carnegie Museums.

Beer en masse

Our Airbnb is one of those narrow row houses in Lawrenceville with long caramel-colored wood plank floors and an old red brick fireplace. The street reminds me of my grandmother’s street in Easton (except it has hipster shops and restaurants a block a way on Butler Street). We entered through a little gate on the side of the white wooden row house and walked down a narrow alleyway to the back door. Dinner was good takeout pizza (pandemic style) from Driftwood Oven and then off to church for a beer. No joke. There’s a place called The Church Brew Works in a lovely old high ceilinged Romanesque church in Lawrenceville. Dirck’s brother figured it counts as mass attendance.


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