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Things I learned this week and other stuff

If you're 5 and can read this sign...

If you’re 5 and can read this sign…

I went back to work full time this week after my prolonged involuntary sabbatical featuring periodic consulting work.  Here’s what I learned:

1.) Don’t park in Oakland.  Just don’t.  Fortunately, this is only temporary for the summer because I have to drop the kid off somewhere else and can’t take public transportation.  In the fall, I’m taking the bus that’s within walking distance from my house.  My brilliant plan to take public transportation will work perfectly.  Bwahahahahahahahahhhhh!**

2.) It’s easier to get up and get going at 6am than 9am.  Go figure.  I guess I really am a morning person. If I get up too late, I might as well bag the rest of the day.

3.) Don’t take the Parkway to work, especially if your route has to go through the Squirrel Hill tunnels.  Getting to work on time?  Nah-gah-happen.

4.) If you want to get to the South Side in the morning, do the counterintuitive route and go east and then north west.  Sounds bizarre but I cut a lot of time off my trip and the view of Pittsburgh in the morning as I’m flying over the bridges is spectacular. We were gobsmacked. It looks like some skyline poster from the early twentieth century and you can almost hear Rhapsody in Blue playing in the background. I need to get a dash mountable video camera.  Pittsburgh really is beautiful.  Buy real estate now because when the rest of the biotech industry decides to move here, the neighborhoods with the great views will be in high demand.  I almost feel like buying a fixer upper nearer to downtown to renovate.  (No, no, stop me before I buy again.  What am I thinking??)

5.) Another counterintuitive thing: There’s more variety and diversity in Pittsburgh than in suburban New Jersey.  What I mean to say is that the marketers haven’t really pinned down this city so there seems to be a lot of choice here where there’s virtually no choice in New Jersey.  I feel like I’ve been missing something for the past 20 years.

Last night, Brook, who is changing her look, bought something at Hot Topic and the kid running the cash register asked us where we were from.  We told her we were fugitives from New Jersey.IMG_1978

** What is with the conservatives’ hatred of public transportation and trains??  I don’t get it.  30 years ago, I got around Pittsburgh without a car because the bus system was excellent.  In the past few years, funding for the PAT bus system has been cut, as have many routes.  This is a real problem for the studdabuppas who never learned to drive and now find themselves stranded in their neighborhoods without the buses they used to rely on.  In my case, the bus will stop close to my house at 7:04am and I will have to transfer closer to town.  I used to be able to take the bus directly to my destination but someone decided that people in the east suburbs didn’t need as many buses so they cut back and changed the route.  That means more traffic gets dumped onto the Parkway and snarls local roads on the way downtown.  And this is the summer.  I can’t wait to see what it’s like in the fall when everyone is back from vacation.

One disturbing trend I’ve heard from a couple of my  40 something cousins is that they think it’s alarming when an employer has to pay benefits to new hires and I think that’s part of what’s behind the cutbacks in public transportation.  The PAT drivers are union and they get bennies.  So, if there are fewer buses and more complaints, maybe there will be more pressure on the unions to drop their demands for benefits. The public might be willing to chuck the bennies in exchange for more bus drivers who are new hires not covered by the old contracts.  Just speculation on my part as to what the politicians are thinking.  I think it’s going to be tough to convince a lot of the boomer generation though who grew up in a very union city where the buses ran great and who still think that there’s nothing wrong with benefits.

Pittsburgh could use more trains.  It’s depressing to walk through Oakmont, a lovely little town on the Allegheny not too far from me, and see the unused train tracks that run right through the center of town to downtown.  Now, that former commuter train area is a pretty landscaped park.  I’m not exactly sure why it can’t be prettily landscaped and functional but for some bizarre reason known only to the editorial columnists at the Wall Street Journal, the wealthy, powerful and Republican hate, Hate, HATE trains, even if it means that the minions can’t get to work on time with the least amount of trouble and expense.

I’m not sure I understand the reasoning behind this.  The wealthy and Republicans don’t need trains so no one can have them?  It’s perfectly ok to spend $150 million of public funds on a new sports facility because that’s what the wealthy want but not ok to spend the same amount of money on a better bus system because that’s what the not so wealthy want??  Who died and made them gods?  Where do they think they’re living? Rome?  Even Rome knew that it was a bad idea to skimp on the bread for the masses.  What’s really a bad idea is to party like there’s no tomorrow while the natives get restless and the barbarians are at the gate.

19 Responses

  1. Former Hamfast Ruddyneck here.

    I used that “create a sexting pervert name” generator on Slate, and I liked the result. 😛

    http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/low_concept/2013/07/carlos_danger_name_generator_use_our_widget_to_get_a_name_like_anthony_weiner.html

    As for the Malefactors Of Great Wealth forgetting the fate of the Roman Empire, a noted conservative intellectual, Santayana, said that “The only thing we learn from history is that we do not learn.”

    Of course, contemporary Cons don’t think that means them.

    Stay thirsty, my friends. 😉

    • Oh, and one of the reasons the affluent tend to dislike public transportation is that it allows “undesirables” to travel into the ritzier sections of a city.

      • Another reason behind Republican hatred of mass transit, particularly in the South, is racism. One of my co-workers in Florida was a college educated redneck from suburban Atlanta. He frequently referred scathingly to the bus system in Atlanta and his version of its acronym (MARTA). To him, MARTA meant “Moving Africans Rapidly through Atlanta.” He had no reason to talk about the subject since we were in the Tampa Bay area of Florida but nonetheless, he mentioned it fairly frequently.

        Private industry has basically killed unions among the workers (hovering between 6% and 7% of workers). One thing behind anti-government sentiment is the desire to kill off the only sector of the economy with unions (far more likely to be state and local employees than federal by the way). The new normal is then applied to national benefits programs (co-pays, limited types of services, poorer services than for the rich.

        As a reward, the suckers in the Deep South get to live shorter, harder lives that may race them through on the fast track to heaven.

        • When I lived in Pine Bluff, I was one of the few palefaces who regularly used the bus system.

          Benton, where I live now, has none. 😦

          However, I live with Mom, who bought a used car for me to use. 🙂

          Always keep on good terms with your Mom. :mrgreen:

  2. Here is a piece of information you might enjoy. I know Bob and every scrap of info in getting around Pittsburgh is helpful.
    http://bobsmaps.com/AboutBobsMaps.html

    I have 2 brothers who live there, SouthSide and Edgewood, so I visit there often. Love Pittsburgh!
    I always think the rich hate public transportation because they would never rub elbows with the “undesireables” and presume nobody else wood either. Therefore only “undesirables” use public transportation. They are such fools.But then, that is why we are in this mess. Total fools run things, for the most part.

    • would not wood (lol)!

    • Omg, those colorful signs are the greatest thing since sliced bread. It’s so easy to see where you are and where you’re going. I especially like knowing what lane I have to get into for a turn a quarter mile ahead. It makes a HUGE difference when drivers can plan ahead.
      I will definitely be ordering bobs maps. The man deserves an award. There have been a couple of times when my GPS was taking me in the wrong direction and his signs grounded me and told me exactly where I was.

  3. One more thing, conservatives are funded by the oil and gas industries. Anything that is against drilling up the planet hurts the bottom line of the Koch brothers. And they own the Republican Party in Kansas, Michigan, Wisconsin and, yes, Pennsylvania.

  4. The thing that bothers me about the buses here isn’t that the city has failed to make new routes. It’s that the routes we had and which worked perfectly well for years have been cut back.
    I live in an integrated suburb and I feel very safe here. But about 5 miles away, the area is pretty rough. But it’s been rough for as long as I can remember and the buses used to pass thru that area routinely. Now, I have to transfer in one of the scariest places in Pittsburgh. I’m sure I’ll get used to it but I’m thinking that this is not an issue of keeping the riff-raff out of the lovely eastern suburbs. It’s just fucked up urban planning by some hot shot Wharton grad.

  5. Congrats to you, on having things work. Glad for you.

  6. RD:
    I love your quote:
    “Even Rome knew that it was a bad idea to skimp on the bread for the masses. What’s really a bad idea is to party like there’s no tomorrow while the natives get restless and the barbarians are at the gate.”
    The GOP fat cats just bury their heads in the sand…but history shows that sooner or later butts kicked off…
    I’m glad you are smoothly adjusting to your new working life…

  7. Hi RD. Glad things are working out. Off topic swing over to a blog I read called Gin And Tacos. Outsider’s take on Big Pharma.

    Cash

  8. I went to Pittsburgh about twenty years ago to the opera. It was Carmen and it was in a gorgeous theater. The city looked wonderful, much more alive and interesting than my Midwestern capital city. I wondered how it had survived the closing of all the steel mills. Other cities that I had been to that depended on the steel industry, like Youngstown, looked like something out of a nuclear disaster movie. I think that you’ve made a great choice.

    As for buses, I bought a house within walking distance of a bus stop and it’s on one of the two main streets in town. I won’t be able to get to some of the places I go now but I’ll be able to get to what I need when I’m too blind to drive. Bus lines are being cut because most people don’t use them and those that do rarely have any political clout. They poor, black, old or students. Our bus system is funded by millage on our property taxes and not so many people who ride the buses I’ve been on look as though they’re home owners. Also, if people ride the bus, the many, many parking lots downtown will lose money.

  9. Just made me think of another great plus for Pittsburgh….The Pittsburgh Opera. I have had season tickets for a number of years. I usually get tickets for 3 or 4 of the operas. They are wonderful and they are in the Benedum Theater….BEAUTIFUL!!!! AND the price is very reasonable…I get the cheap seats and have a good seat, down very near the expensive orchestra seats. I am thinking a season ticket for 2 people for 3 operas is about $200. And parking is only $6. You can not beat the price or the performances.

  10. Off topic: ALL GLORY TO THE HYPNOCHET! :mrgreen:

  11. The gas usage is better for billions in profits to the oil barons.

  12. I believe the sports arena going up in Detroit is around 450 million while they dump Detroit with a bankruptcy. Go figure. I’m glad you have a job!

  13. Ernesto Evil here, no relation to Dr. Evil.

    An anecdote from when they started building light rail in metro L A. Everybody was for it because it meant and easier drive for them,

    • The Red Cars that my father took as a boy had provided public transit in the L.A. Basin in the late 19th and early 20th century. Of course, the ascendency of the automobile and the industries that thrived as a result of the auto (GM, Firestone, Standard Oil, Phillips et. al) dismantled that electric train system as they did many other streetcar and electric trains in the country.

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