Published in Roadside Magazine, 1998
When I was growing up in Springfield, Massachusetts, I remember facing the prospect of attending Classical High School in the midst of an on-going debate over its viability and future. Built in 1896, the structure's advanced age and lack of proper maintenance jeopardized the school's accreditation. To make matters more interesting, horror stories circulated about the building's failure to meet fire codes. The gymnasium could not accommodate regulation basketball games; the auditorium's broken seats and poor acoustics barely made it usable for anything but the occasional class assembly; it lacked a swimming pool and playing fields, and, well, let's face it -- the building looked like hell. I did not relish the prospect of advancing from a modern junior high school to a such a relic.
On my first day of my first year there in 1976, having yet to step inside the building, a reporter from the local paper polling the students asked me what I thought the city should do. The next day, my picture appeared at the top of page one with the caption, "...tear it down."
Read more: Preservation
Published in Roadside Magazine, 2001
Roadside Explores the Pittsburgh Pastiche
Several themes thread their way through any honest account of exploring Pittsburgh. First, anyone driving into the city for the first time will get lost. Pittsburgh presents one of the greatest urban navigational challenges of any city I know. Everyone complains about it, comments on it, and ultimately shrugs their shoulders over it. Build a city across three rivers, on hills and in hollows, and the resulting street pattern would baffle even the most skilled explorer.
Secondly, Pittsburgh lives on the fish sandwich. "You should be here at Lent," one native urged. Sure, you can get a fish sandwich everywhere, but in no other place will you find neon signs in the windows of scores of neighborhood pubs each claiming to have the "Best Fish Sandwich." Given Pittsburgh's strong Catholic community, the sandwich's ubiquity is rather easily explained, but what about the city's claim that it's the "inland seafood capital of the East Coast"? As a Massachusetts native, I take umbrage at the audacity. However, one visit to Wholey's Fish Market in the Strip District (no, not that kind of strip district), took me back to the Boston waterfront.
Read more: Around the World in 88 Neighborhoods