Monday, February 9, 2009


I look up toward the onion domes of All Souls up on the hill, but they are missing. I peek down the street at the impressive wall of fog. It reveals, at most, 20 feet in front of us as the pup and I begin our walk. The town materializes slowly as we go. The dog doesn't seem to notice. I find it a little disconcerting.

This place is no Brigadoon, appearing out of the fog once every 100 years. It is stuck in the past, but more recent. It stopped marching forward when the mills started closing in the Mon Valley in the early 1980s.

The truth is that I haven't really bonded with this place. It's not the town's fault. I am sure it's doing its best. It is a way station, the place where I live while I am planning for the next part of my life.

We pass the senior citizen's apartment building, conveniently located across the street from one of four funeral homes in the town. Each window of the funeral home holds a single electric candle, They beckon like the old Motel 6 ads. We'll leave a light on for you!

Eloise picks up the scent of her arch-nemesis, Big White Cat. She pokes her head onto the porch of his house and he dives onto the railing and over the fence. She sniffs the vacant air for a moment before moving on to something else.

On the right is the tree house. I call it that because there is an artificial Christmas tree on the porch. It's been there since the week before Thanksgiving. I keep waiting for it to disappear into storage until next year, but instead it keeps evolving.

The original Christmas ornaments gave way some time around the third week of January to a flurry of black and gold football-themed ornaments honoring the Steelers Super Bowl bid. This morning it has erupted into a vision of romance with miniature paper cupids and a shiny heart garland. I am hoping shamrocks will be next. There is a certain consistency to it that I find comforting.

The columns in front of the public library appear through the mist. Originally the town's post office, this grand structure was erected by people who thought very highly of this place and its prospects for the future.

Further down, an elaborately carved stone porch curves around the corner. An aluminum siding covered addition sits on top at if it were dropped there by a big wind.

We continue down the street past several empty shop fronts. Some have Steeler posters and terrible towels in the windows. We may be down, but we still have the greatest football team on the planet, they announce.

We pass the men's coffee shop and the owner waves. I see him every morning, but we have never spoken. He waves. I wave. That's the whole transaction.

We round the corner past the art shop and head down Fifth Street street. As we pass under the eagle on the First National Bank building, bits of the fog break apart and turn to snow flakes and land on our faces.

The aroma of wedding soup from the old Italian restaurant swirls around us as we pass. Lovely. Nothing like wedding soup. I am famished.

We head for home and breakfast.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

It's La Dolce Vita, Santonio!

As I pull up, there are dozens people in the street in front of my house. I high-fived a few fellow fans on the way to my front door. The crowd is cheering, cars are honking and there is an occasional firecracker off in the distance.

Here in the Mon Valley, we don't have a lot. The economy is bad, jobs are scarce and frankly, the water tastes funny.

But one thing we do have is the Steelers. We have the Steelers and giant inflatable lawn ornaments.

Life is Sweet!