10. it’s a beautiful day…

sunrise

This is the first of two posts inspired by a session at PodCamp Pittsburgh 3, a session with various Rustbelt Bloggers about ways to promote the secretly thriving cities in the region. The idea: give readers a glimpse into your neighborhood. Tell them what happens in your town or your area. Explain what makes it special to you and why it could be special for them. Because this idea was proposed just one day before The Wife and I closed on the house, I thought the only appropriate thing to do would be to write two posts, one about Butler, where I had lived since late 1994, and one about Brighton Heights, where I’ve lived for the last two weeks.

So we have this — Neighborhoodwalk, Part One: Butler.

I moved to Butler in 1994. I learned a couple things very quickly: 1) There is no easy way to get from Butler to Pittsburgh, and 2) That’s OK for many of the people who lived in Butler.

Here’s a story that was told to me by Mrs. Crappy, shortly after she moved back to Butler after a year in Kokomo, Indiana. The grandfather of her ex-boyfriend, a native of Butler, once asked her why they were always running off to Pittsburgh. He said he had been to Pittsburgh exactly twice — when he left to fight in World War II and when he came home.

“I don’t know why you kids have to go to Pittsburgh all the time,” he said. “We have everything we need right here in Butler.”

I don’t think I could agree with that statement completely, but I can see Grandpa’s point. There’s plenty going on in Butler to sustain you — and if you somehow find it lacking, its proximity to Pittsburgh helps as well.

I lived there for 14 years. It’s not a large town — maybe 15,000 or so in the city proper — but it still manages to feel urban. We lived just a couple blocks from Main Street, which put us within walking distance of restaurants, bars, a movie theater (for a while, anyway), the community theater, our YMCA, a grocery store and even work. To walk that short distance, you strolled along tree-lined streets and among some beautiful old homes.

With a couple of brief exceptions, we had great neighbors on Franklin Street. The apartment in the house next door to ours especially seemed to attract good people — the family with two young kids who helped us pick music for our wedding; the contractor who went through a series of girlfriends until he met the women who was an ER nurse at Butler Memorial (we knew she was the one before he did); the people who live there now were also great neighbors, and their dogs provided endless entertainment for both The Wife and Miles.

Butler weathered the economic storm fairly well — one of its two big mills never closed, although its a significantly smaller operation that it was just a few years ago, when I was covering business for the local paper. Main Street businesses came and went, but there were never that many vacant storefronts. And the latest revitalization effort — one of several that have started in the time I lived there — seems to be in good shape; there are smart, dedicated people involved this time around, and the politicians seem to be willing to actually let them run the show.

porch

Butler was comfortable to me. I always felt as though I fit in there, whether I was talking to sources for work, meeting The Wife at Natili’s North for lunch or just sitting on our apartment’s lovely little porch on a summer night, with a beer, a book and the radio playing a baseball game.

Butler was home, for a long time. While I’m thrilled to be in our new house, in a new city, the 14 years I spent in Butler will stay with me, even as we move on to bigger things.

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5. lost.

I can’t find anything in this place, and it’s making me crazy. If you can show me which box the new Sedaris book is in, I’ll give you fifty bucks.

2. strapped.

Things I’ve learned while moving this week:

1. We would have died this week — or at least we wouldn’t have finished moving — if it had not been for the Forearm Forklift, an As Seen On TV contraption that allows people with questionable stamina and strength to lift and control large, heavy objects.

Like, say, the Granite Dresser.

2. As helpful as the Forearm Forklift was, I can still say this with total certainty — the next time we move, we will be paying someone else to do the lifting.

1. home.

This marks my first entry in this year’s big National Blog Posting Month — NaBloPoMo, as you’ve heard before. At the start of 2008, the NaBloPoMo organizers announced they were taking their efforts monthly, instead of reserving them for November, as they had done in the past.

I’ve tried two other months this year, and was successful once. I haven’t even looked to see if there’s a theme for this month, but I guess it doesn’t matter. We’re going to give it a whirl again.

One caveat: I’m not yet certain when the Comcast folks will be visiting, so I can give them outrageous sums of money in exchange for Internet and television services. That’s my way of saying I could be without regular access for the first few days of November, which would limit me to posting from my iPhone. I’ll still post, but they’ll be kind of short. OK?

And as I hinted above, we’re someplace different, as of Friday evening.

We’re home.

That is, we’re in our new house. We still have probably a day’s worth of moving the last few things from the apartment in Butler down to the house in Brighton Heights — as well as a little cleaning to do before we hand over the keys to what’s been my home for the last 15 years.

But we’re here. It’s official.

There will be adjustments all around, but this will be most difficult for Miles, our cat. Besides a brief stay in the Indiana County Humane Society shelter, he has had no other home besides the Butler apartment. We got tired of that place, but to him, it meant absolute security. And now he’s someplace completely different, and for good. He was terrified when I first let him out of the carrier, hiding in the corner behind what was a favorite chair of his at his previous home.

But I eventually talked him into coming out, first just to sit on my lap and then to explore a bit. I even got him to walk upstairs for the first time, and his curiosity overwhelmed his apprehension. He’s now curled up under the bed in the guest room, happy with that degree of protection from whatever it is he’s worried about.

He’ll be fine. So will we. Our neighbors are fantastic — the wife of the cop across the street bought us a cake from the Lincoln Bakery in Bellevue, and when I arrived tonight, I found that the 94-year-old woman I met a couple weeks ago had dropped off what appears to be a very nice bottle of wine with a note welcoming us to the street.

I should also note that the neighbors — I’m not sure which one — are also generous with their wi-fi. I certainly appreciate it tonight, but I won’t need to take further advantage of their generosity once the nice people at Comcast get us set up.

I hope that won’t take too long.

haul.

Two hauls, actually — one on Tuesday, and a big one coming up on Thursday.

Tuesday’s haul? The Wife has been bugging me to come check out a couple things at a used furniture store we’ve had some good luck with, so we drove over after having lunch. She was looking at a couple tables that might work for our dining room; they were OK, but the other stuff we found was even better:

This will be sitting in our kitchen, starting this weekend. The Wife had seen this on previous visits, but wasn’t sure I would be interested. And she was incorrect. We bought it immediately, along with a nifty Danish Modern endtable and something that looks like it could have been a bench but will make a fine coffee table in the new place.

Haul No. 2. As in UHaul. As in bright and early Thursday morning. We may not be in the house full-time until Saturday, but moving day is coming up fast.

surprise!

And now, we reveal the worst-kept secret in the history of western Pennsylvania — The Wife and I bought a house Monday morning.

We were coy about the progress we were making towards this place — on a lovely street in Pittsburgh’s Brighton Heights neighborhood — because the last two times we were close, something bit us in the ass at the last minute. And after we had told some folks that those were possibilities, this time around we didn’t want to say anything until it was done.

OK. I know I’ve been referencing The Thing We Can’t Talk About for a while now. I know there were plenty of people I talked to at PodCamp over the weekend who suspected we were close, if for no other reason than the grin I cracked each time someone asked how the search was going. I can be very good at keeping secrets, but in this case it was killing me not to be able to tell someone — anyone — what was going on.

The next couple of weeks should be interesting. We’re moving a bunch of little stuff from our apartment down there when we have the opportunity, and we’ll get a truck to move the rest probably next week. We’re already thinking about painting, ripping up carpets and restoring floors (which are in pretty good shape already) and making a few pretty serious purchases. It’s overwhelming and exciting, all at the same time.

So. Busy. The blog should be fairly entertaining. And — yes. There will be a party. Soon.

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Got stuff to say about another spectacular PodCamp experience. That’ll be coming soon. Right after I buy a lawn mower and make my tall grass short.