Monday, June 23, 2008

Backblog: January 8th, 2008. Where do these stairs go?

I needed money to do my laundry today, so I went downtown to withdraw the tiny amount left of what the state gives me to eat a cheap lunch and to get a roll of quarters. I set out at about noon, knowing that it was the lunch rush downtown, but not really caring about that one way or another (time is all that one really has when one can't land a job). I grabbed my denim coat, my Xbox Live baseball cap and my best pair of headphones plugged into my iPod Shuffle and headed downtown.

As I walked the three five blocks to the connecting bridge I began to realize how nice a day it was. I should have been wearing shorts and a tee. It must have been about sixty-five degrees outside and though it was windy it was a warm summer-like wind. I had thought about putting lunch off at that point, except that once I stopped walking to take a picture on the bridge I noticed the hunger pangs in my stomach (I never eat breakfast if I can help it – I'm just not active enough to warrant three meals a day). I made my way to the bank first and wound up waiting in line for about fifteen minutes while the elderly couple finished paying all their bills for their few remaining years of life (that's what it seemed like), but that didn't faze me all that much.

I felt, for the first time in a long time anyway, happy. Maybe it was the music that I was listening to, coupled with the warm, sunny weather, or perhaps it was the fact that I had a whole day ahead of me to enjoy those conditions and not be trapped inside some dismal office, warehouse or store pining to be out in it, but really felt good.

After getting my quarters (and thusly saving laundry for the next few weeks), I took the meager amount that I had left and went to Subway, as it was their $4.79 for a foot-long sub day. I got my usual club sub with all the trimmings and splurged for a diet lemonade, then found a table and ate at it, regretting that the store had no air conditioning and that their sound system was overbearing enough that I had to take my headphones off. I felt my mood drop a little while sitting there and watching people come and go. Thinking that my enjoyment had passed as I ate the mediocre sandwich, I wondered what I would do next. I finally decided that no matter what that I wasn't going to even think about being unemployed for the rest of the day. I finished my meal and then headed out the door.

I instantly felt elated and refreshed once more. While I feel that the weather conditions were not ideal for January, I have to admit that they were in fact ideal weather conditions as a whole. I just couldn't go back to the house yet; I needed to explore. I wandered around the city for a little while and pondered the eerie winter sun in the blue sky surrounded by cotton clouds. It gave the sunlight and warmth a magical quality that I don't see too often. It energized me. I decided to walk to Station Square on the other side of the Monongahela River. I needed to backtrack a little to do so, but I was feeling really good I did it anyway.

Station Square isn't and ideal place to be so early in the afternoon. There are an impossible amount of cars there because of the cheap parking, but there are hardly any businesses open. My heart was shattered when I saw that Hooters was closed… no, wait – I forgot that I hate Hooters (but not hooters; hey, I'm just a man). So, from Station Square I decided to walk to the Southside.

Once one makes it across the river it really isn't that far of a walk, so I made my way down East Carson Street. In front of one of the businesses there were a bunch of CD jewel case boxes that someone had emptied out over the sidewalk. I received all sorts of funny looks as I picked them all up and put them in a trash pile that was sitting on the side of the road. I didn't care, it just felt right. As I made my way across 10th Street I began to think that I should stop to see if my friend Mallory was home. She lives in the heights of Southside, and though I knew that it would be a climb I settled on that proposition.

I knew that I had to turn at 12th Street, but after that it was anyone's guess; I'd had trouble finding her place before, but as luck would have it I had my trusty GPS with me, and a waypoint at her house. I was elated to discover that with my walking speed and bearing the little device said that I would make it to her place in under fifteen minutes. As I walked this number quickly dwindled away to seven minutes. I didn't know if she'd be home or not, but I decided to see (if not I could always wait for her and Seth to come back). Then I hit the stairs…

Those steps that Frodo, Sam and Gollum had to ascend in Return of the King? Yeah, like that. There were so many, they were pretty steep, and I am very out of shape. A few years back a climb like that wouldn't have phased me even with a full frame pack on my back, but now I was stopping at every flat interval just to catch my breath. I began to wonder if I would have a heart attack then and there because my diet isn't exactly intrinsic to health food. This was not helped by the fact that once I reached the top of one set of steps a little Pomeranian dog jumped out from the other side of a fence and barked shrilly, scaring me half to death. Shortly after that, I knew that if I was to have a heart attack any time during my trek it would have been right there, and that made me feel better.

The rest of my trek was on some pretty even streets giving me a nice overlook of Pittsburgh as a whole. I attempted to take a panoramic picture, but without a tripod it didn't go as well as planned. That's okay. I made it to Mallory's apartment and was greeted by the sight of her beat-up old Geo and at once knew that she was home. I called her up to make sure that she wasn't busy at that moment, and she said that she needed to be to work at six. As luck would have it she doesn't work too far from where I live, so I was able to bum a ride off of her and not have to make a grueling climb back down those ridiculous steps. Mallory, Seth and I played a few board/card games before heading back.

All in all, I'm glad that I took the time to hike almost completely across town. I'm certain that I will be sore tomorrow, and I'm also certain that the weather will be turning back to the usual tallow snow of Pittsburgh winter within the week. I will not forget this day anytime soon, however, and being unemployed is what made it all possible. This was the first time it felt good to not have responsibilities outside of the daily doldrums of work that I've had since the 9th grade, though the feeling will not last. Knowing the latter I must continue my fruitless quest to find a paycheck.

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