Journey to the Highlands

I don’t know what you did for Thanksgiving, but our family visited cool places, not counting the hotel we stayed in.  We have just returned from an exploration of life outside Wisconsin.  Wisconsin is unanimously viewed as being cold, while a few of us think it is cool, but not cool like where we have just been.

Many moons ago, our daughter and her family left their spacious wildlife-infested parsonage in Pittsburgh suburghia and relocated to a teeny-tiny apartment in Louisville.  They are there to plant a church.  Through years of large black snakes sunning themselves on the outside door frames of their house and tinier serpents infiltrating their basement, Susan prayed for the day when she could be surrounded by concrete.  Her prayers have been heard. 

We must start out right.  For the sake of educating America, we did not visit Loo-iss-vil, nor did we visit Loo–ee-vil.  It is Loo-uh-vul.  Say that three times.  Loo-uh-vul.  Now you know where we stayed.  I knew how to pronounce it long before going there, thanks to reading Ann Landers and Mark Twain in my younger years, but I listened carefully to the locals just to make sure I was getting it right.

Susan and her family reside on Bardstown Road, in the Highlands of Louisville.  It is a gathering knot of the culturally colorful, a haven where old hippies never die and younger ones currently live the lifestyle to one degree or another.  It is a place that confirmed I am fashionably valid — something I never suspected, but will now milk for all it is worth.

We spent an afternoon exploring the shops up and down Bardstown — many of them filled with semi-pricey vintage clothing.  Upscale, fashionably savvy people come in droves from other parts of Louisville to buy garments identical to some I currently have hanging in my closet.  Apparently, I am not a clueless fuddy-duddy after all.  I am chic and never knew it.  Next time you see me sashaying around in my hunter green Nehru jacket with the tapestry-covered buttons and the football player-size shoulder pads, remember what I have just said.  I am not an oddball; I am trendy and cool.  Now those of you who know me in real life will all wish you had not snickered, and you will be calling me for advice on how to morph yourselves into being cool, too. 

I now know how to pronounce hookah (who-kah, not hook-uh).   I knew what one does with a hookah from bygone days of reading The Count of Monte Cristo, but I did not yet have the correct pronunciation (unlike Loo-uh-vul).  There are hookah lounges on Bardstown, along with the Hubbly Bubbly Smoke Shop, which specializes in whatever you need to get your hookah experience going.  Susan and her family sometimes do second-hand hookah via the air vents from their downstairs neighbors’ apartment.  It makes their dog sneeze.  Susan assures me that not all hookah lovers smoke the substances that Monte Cristo’s heroine indulged in.  I am not entirely convinced, though.  Nothing like living the culture.

We scrounged the Peddler’s Mall for antique chairs at cheap prices for Susan and Chris’s church building.  If I were to move to the Highlands (which I will not, but it is a safe form of entertainment to imagine it), I would sell all the furniture I currently have and start fresh with the stuff from the Peddler’s Mall.  It would need to be fumigated or otherwise sanitized somehow, but it would be a fun, economical experiment. 

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Keeping Fit in Pitt

LeeAnnRubsam.com

As I explained yesterday, we have been visiting in the rural outskirts of Pittsburgh. 

I have been doing quite a bit of walking, partly out of desire to see some scenery, partly to find temporary solitude.  There is a hiking path about one-half mile from Susan’s house.  Getting there is semi-dangerous, as there is only a narrow shoulder along a sharply curving highway to walk on, and traffic is clipping.  I take consolation in not seeing many wildlife corpses on the road, which probably means that if I keep my eyes open, I will not end up as roadkill either.  I instruct the family before leaving that if I am not back in two hours, it is time to mount up a posse and come looking for me.

The hiking trail is an old railroad line, with a long tunnel cut through a hillside for added interest.  Woods adorn both sides, and Susan’s house is up on a bluff overlooking a creek which cuts between the trail and the residential area.

It seems that Pittsburghians do not behave quite like Wisconsinites.  The folks out on the trail are mostly intense types.  They jog, they stride energetically with arms flailing wildly, they are pulled along by unruly pitbulls, but they do not acknowledge each other’s existence as they meet.  My mother taught me as a small child that when we pass someone on the street, we smile pleasantly and say “hi.”  Pittsburghians appear to be very serious about whatever they do, including conscientiously obeying their mothers’ instructions never to speak to strangers.  I perversely insist on accosting them with a “hi,”  although I quickly discovered this is not kosher. The typical response is a surprised stare, as if they have discovered an intriguing new species of insect and are not quite certain whether to squash it or let it entertain them.  I keep trying, in hopes of improving their standard of civilized behavior, and I sometimes even get a response, but it is difficult to change a culture in a mere week’s time.

The trail is not heavily traveled in November, so I feel a little nervous about encountering lone men when no one else is in sight, especially in the dimly lit tunnel.  I am alert to my surroundings at all times, and listen carefully to assess the danger factor.  If the guy is breathing heavily as he approaches, that is probably good.  Loud snorting, wheezing, asthmatic gasping, and pre-cardiac arrest noises are even better.  All of these mean I can run faster than them, and that predator tactics are the last thing on their mind.

One of Susan’s friends informed me that in the summertime, the men are not the main alarm factor on the trail.  When it is warm, the copperheads enjoy sunning themselves smack dab in the middle of the road.  When they get too warm, they cool off in the tunnel — and no doubt lie in wait for silly Wisconsin women who never once imagined that a ten-foot-wide gravelled road would be a snake resort. 

I passed a pleasant elderly couple along the trail one afternoon.  (They said “hi” back and smiled — probably natives of Wisconsin, not Pittsburgh.)  I suppose they were in their seventies.  She was round and he was very lean — like Jack Sprat and wife.

As I approached  the tunnel on my return leg of the hike, I encountered Mrs. Sprat peering intently around the edge of it.  Jack was on the other end, poking around in some weeds.  Shortly after I entered, what I thought was a teenager tore past me in the fastest sprint I’d ever seen outside of the Olympics.  But it wasn’t a teenager.  As he got nearer, I realized it was Jack.  Seventy … spry as a youngster … faster than a speeding bullet … no red cape  or other super hero props though.

“How’d I do?”  Jack asked, lightly puffing.

“Thirty-one seconds,”  Mrs. Sprat replied.

But the light puffing didn’t subside or even continue evenly.  “EEH-HUH! EEH-HUH! EEH-HUH! EEH-HUH!” Jack commenced gasping in high-pitched apparent distress.  I wished I had remembered to bring the cell phone.  Obviously Jack was going to need an ambulance, and no telling how long it would take one to get there and whether the driver would know that he could disregard the hiking trail rule, “no motorized vehicles allowed.”

I turned to gaze in horror.  Mrs Sprat giggled.  Jack didn’t giggle.  He just kept on with the “EEH-HUH! EEH-HUH! EEH-HUH! EEH-HUH!”  At that point I figured that either she was rather looking forward to an early widowhood, or else Jack and the Mrs. just hang out at the tunnel on a regular basis, waiting to show off their stuff for whatever unsuspecting Wisconsinite comes along, hoping to scare the daylights out of their victim.

I headed on down the trail, and I noticed when I got to the end that the Sprats, with no “EEH-HUH! EEH-HUH! EEH-HUH! EEH-HUHs” in earshot, were not far behind. 

Keeping Fit in Pitt (Part 2)

LeeAnnRubsam.com

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