The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for February 7th, 2023

Fort Pitt Bridge, part 1

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

A man has to have a code, I opine. One of the many points in my personal credo involves getting out every other day to point the camera at things and walk around. Back in NYC, when a spell of ugly weather was being described by the meteorological enthusiasts, I’d often say to Our Lady of the Pentacle that “I’m going to go ride the trains” and I’d take off for the 7 line, and spend a few hours hopping on and off of the train getting shots of NYC’s most photogenic subway. Not an option, now, of course.

Amongst the many other bits of wisdom my code offers is “it’s better to regret something you’ve done than something you didn’t do” and that “if you regret something you’ve done, you can’t take it back or apologize to the party you’ve wounded so don’t feel guilty, just don’t do that thing again.” Also – “stop fucking up.” I do realize how sociopathic that sounds, but it’s true.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

“Nothing matters and nobody cares” was added into the code during the COVID period. “Don’t skimp on shoes, hats, or eyeglasses” is another bit of sage wisdom I can offer. One of my big revelations from the last year involves a concept I call “the conservation of energy.”

Expending energy into fixing a closed system is a waste of effort. You could put all the effort into it you want, but if a closed system is designed to fail, expanding the system with an input of energy isn’t going to change that. Sometimes it’s just best to do or say nothing at all. One of my “things” these days is to listen to people arguing about some hot button political topic of the day and then announce “I’ve got an opinion about that,” whereupon I leave the room without sharing it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Fort Pitt bridge in Pittsburgh, on the other hand, is quite material and doesn’t require a personal code of conduct other than not vandalizing or jumping off of it. The bridge dates back to 1959, and connects downtown Pittsburgh to its southern surroundings via Interstate 376 which is carried on its two decks. The pedestrian walkway is attached to the lower deck, overlooking the confluence of the three rivers. Interstate 376 traffic moves to and from the Fort Pitt Tunnel (opened in 1960) which is punched through the base of Mount Washington. A notable destination on the other side of the tunnel for some of this traffic flow is the Pittsburgh International Airport. This is the third bridge to span the Monongahela River in this spot, and the first one was erected in 1877. According to 2018’s official numbers, the bridge handles about 150,000 vehicle trips a day.

Since I’ve been living here in Pittsburgh, walking over this one has been on my to-do list.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As you can see, zero effort was made to clear the walkway of snow and ice by its stewards, and the footing was quite treacherous. Couple that with waist high fencing along the drop to your death side of the path, and I made it a point of sticking close to the girders that support this double decked steel bowstring arch bridge should a handhold be required.

My plan for the day, which was mentioned in yesterday’s post, was to leave the car back at home and use the T light rail to get to and from HQ. After crossing the bridge, I’d head towards another stop on the T that’s less than a mile from where the pedestrian walkway would return me to Terra-Pennsylvania.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

While you’re walking along the path, just over your shoulder is an interstate carrying hurtling vehicles. As I’ve mentioned in the past, driving here is very, very different than it is back in NYC. I’ve got a practiced advantage when it comes to merging lanes, parallel parking, and a general obeisance to traffic law. Pennsylvania drivers seem to believe that the speed limit is a mere suggestion, or perhaps a starting point. I’ve driven this path before, and had people shoot past me at 70 while trying to handle a three lane merge within a few hundred feet. Brrrr.

Another one of my sage bits of wisdom is “you’ll get there when you get there, what’s the rush.” I should mention that I’m not at all naturally wise, instead there isn’t a mistake you can make that I haven’t already made. Remember rule number 4 – “stop fucking up.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This particular section of the walkway, leading down and away from the bridge towards the Duquesne Incline, was a positive skating rink. Hard packed ice with a layer of dry powder snow sitting loosely atop it. Luckily, I’m used to dealing with uneven, unmaintained, or challenging terrain.

More tomorrow at this – your Newtown Pentacle.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 7, 2023 at 11:00 am

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