I was in Pittsburgh for meetings today, and the grim, icy grip old Old Man Winter was everywhere in evidence. Pittsburgh was one of the cities in the path of the last (we hope) nor’easter in this endless winter, and it was getting pounded with blizzard-like conditions and what appeared to be about a foot of snow.
I set off to drive home with some trepidation, hoping I wouldn’t get stranded on the road back to Columbus. Fortunately, by the time I hit I-70 the snow really wasn’t bad, and when I crossed the Ohio state line there was no snow at all.
Pittsburgh, however, was another matter.
It’s very Christmas-like in Pittsburgh this morning, with snow-covered treetops and landscape, and still more snow falling. Too bad it’s March 21, and officially the start of spring, rather than December 25!
Every time we think we’ve finally turned the corner on this crummy winter, another storm and cold snap gives us a wallop. The Stark Clan with their annoying “Winter Is Coming” saying would love the American Midwest this year. Of course, if they showed up here in their fancy fur-trimmed duds and used that phrase, they’d probably get slugged in the jaw.
Enough, already! It’s time for Mother Earth to start tilting on her axis in earnest and give us some relief from this Winter That Just Won’t End.
As the windblown snow was pelting down this morning, I passed a gaggle of Canadian geese that had decided to camp on the fairway of number 4 North and just endure the storm. Normally they’d be on the nearby pond, but it’s been completely iced over for months and apparently was unsuitable as a landing zone.
The geese seemed comfortable enough when I walked by. They waddled around, primped their feathers, plumped down onto the ground, and squawked their lungs out. They must have gotten tired of getting bombarded by the pellets of snow, however, because by the time I made the turn and was heading for home I heard their full-throated call up in the air and saw their familiar airborne V formation headed east.
I’ve got news for them — conditions aren’t any better in Pittsburgh.
Actor Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead yesterday in his Greenwich Village apartment. According to reports, he was found in his bathroom, with a heroin-filled needle in his arm. It was an ugly, grisly death for someone so talented.
Unfortunately, Hoffman’s death is just a very visible sign of the significant drug problem in the United States. At the same time some states have moved to decriminalize recreational drugs like marijuana, cheap and powerful strains of heroin are producing new legions of addicts — and overdose deaths. In January, Vermont’s Governor Peter Shumlin devoted his State of the State speech to what he called the “full-blown heroin crisis” in that state, where deaths from heroin overdoses are soaring and addiction to heroin and opiates is skyrocketing. Heroin plagues cities like Cleveland, and this year in the Pittsburgh area a new blend of heroin has been blamed for 22 deaths.
Of course, overdoses are only the tip of the iceberg. Heroin use is directly associated with theft and violent crime. Addicts steal from their families and loved ones. If you know anyone who has dealt with a family member who is a heroin addict, who has seen their child or sibling turn into someone they no longer recognize, and who has exhausted their retirement savings trying to treat the addict, you’ve gotten a brief glimpse of the anguish and heartbreak heroin is causing. It is a terrible drug.
It’s tragic when a great talent like Hoffman dies so senselessly, but it’s also tragic that it takes the death of a celebrity for many of us to focus on the very serious problem of growing heroin use and opiate addiction.
Today Kish and I loaded up a panel van, and tomorrow we will be taking a bunch of Richard’s stuff to Pittsburgh to help him move in as he starts his internship at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. As we loaded, Kish wondered aloud: how many times have we moved things from one location to another?
It’s a good question, and not an easy one to answer. We routinely moved from apartment to apartment in college, after college, and in Washington, D.C., gradually accumulating more stuff with each step in the process. Here in Columbus, we moved into a house, filled it up, and have moved all of our stuff twice since then. We’ve moved the boys to college and to grad school and to other locations and we moved Mom from her condo to her current apartment. And each time we’ve packed and unpacked, loaded vans and cars, lugged boxes and bags and hauled mattresses and box springs and shelves. This time we’re grateful that we don’t have something weird to move, like a fish tank.
In the process, and over the years, we’ve learned about anchoring things and bracing things so they don’t slide around, about the value of more bankers’ boxes than you initially think you’ll use, and the need to keep the heavy stuff at the rear of the van or truck. But still, there are quandaries that will never be fully solved. Like — what do you do with lamps?
Kish and I had a beautiful afternoon in which to walk around downtown Pittsburgh yesterday. We crossed one bridge to get to the Point, where the Ohio River begins, and then strolled around downtown before crossing the colorful Sixth Street bridge to return to the other side.
You can’t draw too many deep conclusions from one short walk, but in one area, at least, Pittsburgh clearly has succeeded where other cities have failed. Here, the riverfront is fully integrated into the city. It’s easy to get to the waterfront on both sides of the river, and once you’re there you find beautiful and wide walking paths and biking areas. There are great walkways on the bridges, too.
In many cities, it’s almost impossible to get down to the water. That’s just bad planning. Many people are drawn to the water and consider it an asset. Pittsburgh has capitalized on that asset, and yesterday there were lots of bikers, joggers, dog walkers, and visitors like us that were happy about that.