A Sunday Drive Around Pittsburgh
and its Suburbs

     Last Sunday, an afternoon drive was prompted by the failure of our just-in-time global free market to satisfy my needs.  Several suburban shoe stores had imported goods piled to the ceiling, yet I could not find a size that fit.  It was then that I remembered that my father used to make occasional trips to Littles Shoe Store in Squirrel Hill.  With that recollection, I start the car, venture towards Ohio River Boulevard, and proceed to the city.  Music is essential to any Sunday drive, and I select “Blue Sky” by The Allman Brothers to match today’s weather.
     The first stop is a mass at St. Stanislaus in the Strip District.  My grandparents were married here on Valentine’s Day in 1905 as they wove a thread in the immigrant fabric of Pittsburgh and its river towns.  I am just in time, and I find a seat in the front pews, invariably the least occupied in a church.  Today’s mass is about the Trinity, and those in the back can ponder this mystery from a safer distance.
     After mass, I meander through construction detours and one-way streets towards Squirrel Hill.  This takes me through the Hill District, where residents are out enjoying the blue sky.  Sometimes I despair at the discord amongst the different peoples of the earth.  Here, I wonder if one reason for urban flight is because some prefer to avoid the sight of minorities socializing in public streets.  A more prosaic economic explanation is also at work:  Housing square footage is less costly away from the city.
     Upon arrival in Squirrel Hill, I find a suitable parking space and walk towards Littles.  A beggar appeals for money, and I am torn between the teachings of the Church on such matters, and wondering if I would be enabling alcoholism if I gave money.  Like electricity, I take an embarrassing path of least resistance and bolt past the outstretched hat while keeping my hands in my pocket.  (I did put $5 in the “Poor Box” at mass.)  I continue on my way to the store. 
     In the store I pick up and look at a pair of shoes, and the affable salesman informs me that this pair is $300.  A hot potato:  I can’t put the shoes back on the rack fast enough as I exclaim,  “Holy $#@!  These are great shoes, but the price!”  How many meals does $300 buy?  How many bottles of wine?
     Success comes as I find more reasonably priced shoes that fit, concluding this episode of searching for satisfaction in our globalized free market.  Next is a hoagie lunch while I ponder the next route.  I decide to take the T-tops off of my Camaro and cruise through a part of the world I’ve always been curious about:  Fox Chapel.  The name just sounds so rich as it rolls off the tongue.  You read about its ranking in published statistics about per capita income, and know that the Heinz family lives there.
     After some twists and turns on the Blue and Green belts, I am in the Borough, and even the trees seem a wealthier green here.  At road junctions there are large neatly painted road signs constructed of wood.    Side streets have plaques helpfully reminding me that I’m in Fox Chapel.  This facilitates navigation as I pass by the impeccable houses.  As fabulous as these are, I suspect I’m not seeing the largest and most expensive houses.  Occasionally, I can only see decorated stone and iron gates guarding driveways that disappear into the wooded canopy.
     By now it’s apparent that my Chevrolet is the least expensive vehicle within the confines of this Borough.  Because I am unfamiliar with the roads, I drive at the posted speed limit.  Cars flash into my rearview mirror, and their proximity to my bumper betrays impatience with the Sunday driver in front of them.  The foreign logos in the mirror loom large:  the four circles of Audi, the windswept “L” of Lexus, the blue-white BMW propeller, the British-accent Jag-you-are.
     But they’ll have to wait, this is my Sunday drive.  I wind my way out to O’Hara Township, where the forest thins and reveals upscale housing developments for the nouveau riche.  You see these plans about the region, the type of construction that tries but ultimately fails to match the effortless elegance of truly affluent housing stock.   On my way home I’ll have to stop and get gas.  Tomorrow I’ll put on my new shoes and begin another week of working for a wage.