Life goes on. After finding out my friend Mike died on Thursday night, with a heavier heart we headed to Pittsburgh for a planned well in advance weekend.
It's a very easy drive from Columbus. A trip that is a bit quicker now that the speed limit on Ohio highways is up to 70 miles per hour. If I had not missed an exit in the strands of spaghetti roads that is downtown Pittsburgh, we would have made the hotel in about two and half hours.
The hotel was in an odd area, just north of downtown, with high rise public housing across the street. There were no problems though, other than one guy asking for change on the corner, like that's never happened in Columbus.
The room was small, but cozy. The shower was quite small, but there was plenty of hot water. The room itself was rather noisy as we found out at 1:30AM when the room upstairs from us was having sexy time. The iron framed bed was rather old and loose in construction and did a lot of bouncing and banging. I hope there were two people up there.
The level of service at this hotel was excellent. There was a free shuttle that would take you anywhere within the city. One of the drivers was quite knowledgeable and friendly as he took us to a restaurant before the baseball game.
There were a number of recommendations for Meat and Potatoes on the Columbus Underground messageboard, so I made reservations a couple of weeks in advance. There was a crowd of people waiting for the five o'clock opening. Our names were called right after opening and we were taken to our seats as the bar instantly filled up.
Extensive cocktail menu, the drinks were excellent. My wife had a slow gin fizz with authentic Plymouth Sloe Gin. The cheery with her drink she said was the best ever. It was an amaro cherry from Italy, we were told.
My mussels came, it was an entire dish filled with them. Not many tiny ones either, all rather substantial. The only minus was the fries, I thought they would be cut thicker but while there were plenty, they were rather tiny.
I had a few bites of my wife's pannacotta dessert, which was light and tasty. I ordered an Oban off their whiskey list. It was pricey, but what the heck. It came in a Glencairn glass which is always a touch of class. What shocked me was the amount of whiskey in the glass. I know what an ounce and a half in a Glencairn glass looks like, this was about double that. That impressed me, and I was not driving!
The stadium was a short walk from the restaurant. Very impressed the city closes off the Roberto Clemente Bridge to cars and lets pedestrians have the whole thing.
The experience outside the stadium is impressive. Fans tailgate, they play whiffle ball in the parking lots along with cooking out and drinking. I respect Pirate Fan.
In addition to the Clemente statue, there is one of Honus Wagner, Bill Mazeroski and Willie Stargell. Two tipsy Pirate fans offered to take a picture of my wife and I with it, but seemed to be so drunk they could not press the button on a digital camera. It was the thought that counted.
A friend of ours gave us his tickets. His seats are incredible.
PNC Park is stunning even without the amazing views of the Pittsburgh skyline. There does not seem to be a bad seat in the house.
We saw Jeremy Hefner pitch for the Mets. He made one bad pitch to Alcarez and the visitors were down 2-0. They fought back to tie it up and send the game into extra innings. We left after the tenth and got back in time to see the Pirates win in the bottom of the eleventh watching in the hotel bar. That's how close things are in Pittsburgh.
The hotel breakfast was ok, not great, but the courtyard is pretty. We asked the driver to take us to the Fred Rogers statue.
Mister Rogers Neighborhood was filmed in Pittsburgh.
The riverfront is quite scenic.
We walked back to the hotel to rest for a bit before meeting a friend of mine at a coffee shop and then hit a deli next door. Down the street is a theater that may or may not be renovated. It was once a porno house.
After saying goodbye we rested up, had some dinner at a mediocre pub then headed to Stage AE for the Belle and Sebastian show. We met an old live journal friend of ours who was also going to the show. Before he showed up, my wife and I rated the attendees on the amount of tweeness in their clothing. The winner was a girl in front of us, who had birds all over her dress.
The venue is very similar to the LC in Columbus, it may be a bit steeper. Yo La Tengo opened and did not impress me much. They even had spinal tap guitar moments as Kaplan flung his guitar around, causing the annoying feedback. He then put his guitar down while it was still sustaining and picked up another guitar to make his noise.
Belle and Sebastian were impressive. It was fun to see my wife finally see a whole show from a band she loves.
Their back catalogue is large and they were digging out some nuggets from the first record. Stuart Murdoch made reference to the baseball game happening next door by playing Take Me Out To the Ballgame.
Fireworks were happening after the baseball game while the band was playing.
The band did not hear it as they were playing, but could smell the gunpowder. After the fireworks were over, the band's string section did a few snippets from the 1812 Overture, which was quite sweet.
It was worth the trip. A weekend we needed as we prepare for the rest of the summer. I've started 42 days in which I will be in the hospital with my son as he is in intensive in-patient feeding therapy or at work.
But Pittsburgh though, I'm not sure if it's a grass is greener thing, but I like the vibe of the place and can't wait to go back.