Monday, August 11, 2014

Soil On The Strip

Instructions for my time in Pittsburgh:

"Gryphons tea - I sent you an invite to their FB page. Gryphon is a tea sommelier. I had no idea that was a thing before"

"... There's a local whiskey distillery called Wigle...." (That's all I absorbed. Wigle!)

"Make sure to got to the strip on a weekend morning for coffee at la prima and tacos on the street for lunch"

I carved out 2 hours yesterday morning to wander the area known as The Strip. In town for the Garden Writers Association, a pilgrimage for tea sounded appropriate.

 I boarded the local hotel shuttle. Without ceremony, it left me 21 blocks from my destination. TWENTY ONE. As in 2.21 miles. This wasn't going to work in my timetable. Here's mud in my eye.

This walk was beginning to look a lot like bullshit. Later that day, Sally Cunningham would describe the perception of Pittsburgh as that of a "dirty, dying, industrial" city. Spot on so far.

There had to be a mimosa back at the hotel with my name tag on it.I turn to the nearest building (in desperate need of a wall to bang my head against). I see this:

Grains of change have accepted the challenge of The Strip. Their projects, in one way or another, what Cristina da Silva points out as the four challenges to urban soil (compaction, alkalinity, low organic matter, contamination).

If they can take on The Strip, so can I. Challenge accepted.

 Half a mile in, 14 blocks to go. I happen upon The Pittsburgh Juice Company. Much needed green juice & breath catching (did I mention that my journey had begun an unforgiving incline?). The juice people & I talked about their hopes to compost their pulp. Here they are saying "something juicy."

There's more urban gardening in these here parts than I expected! I saw it as a sign. First, because billboards are signs. Secondly, that night we were going to a big, beautiful dinner at the zoo.

Holy wild carrots, batman! I'm a mile in, and feeling hopeful. If the zombie apocalypse comes, The Strip will be fine!

I look up. I'm not on the right street anymore. This is not good. My phone does some alchemy and it sends me left, and down a hill.

This is adorable.
Obviously put here to mock me, and The Strip.
This ain't gardening land.

My feet are ready to fall off.
I kinda want to cry.

Trekking on. Half a mile left.

A Little Shop Of Horrors-esq cabbage encroaching on the sidewalk. Or what was a cabbage until very recently...

 And then Eden.

Hidden between buildings, and looking like it once had the bones of a parking-lot. A secret gem of a community garden. Big, beautiful tomatoes the size of things from Indiana Jones movies.

A quater mile left. Grapes creeping over a rusting chain link fence. How did these plants happen?
The soil here is hard as pavement, the color of old, store brand cocoa mix. How can they live in this?

Before I realize it, I'm at the bottom of the hill. I'm at Gryphon's stoop. I go in.

Jasmine pearls, jasmine flowers, jasmine salt, I buy it all! Gryphon, the quiet and kind tea sommelier, and all of his jars, were certainly worth walking toward.

 I boarded a cab back to my hotel. The Strip woke up in the two hours I had been walking. Farm stands boasted meaty melons, street tacos were finally on the street.If theres an allegory in my self-guided urban garden tour of The Strip, I don't care about it.

I have shoe bites (bad), jasmine flowers (good). That unexpected decapitated cabbage plant is going to stick with me. The Strip was, thankfully, unexpectedly dirty.

Gimme some sugar, Pittsburgh.


1 comment:

  1. Author's note: I did buy new shoes yesterday.

    I left my heart, and ryka walking-ballet-flats, in Pittsburgh.

    Never underestimate the power of a basic literacy in a city's public transportation system.