Last week, Jim and I spent several days in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. There’s nothing like travel to remind you how varied the U.S. can be. We left Albuquerque during a series of dry days where temperatures topped 105 degrees, then arrived in Pittsburgh to rain and 72 degrees.
On Friday, our friends Scot and Jane Noel picked us up and took us to see some of the sights of downtown Pittsburgh. As you may recall, I worked with both Scot and Jane on the computer game Chronomaster. After the game was released, we stayed in touch. Since then, we have worked on a variety of projects, including an art contest for which I wrote the short story “Born from Memory” to go with the first place winning piece.
Last time we saw Scot and Jane was in New Mexico where we took them to see various things, including the petroglyphs near our house. This time, the sights were a lot greener and more brightly colored. We started at the Phipps Conservatory which amazed and delighted us with its marvelous variety of plants and sculptures. Again I was fascinated by what a difference a shift in climate can make when growing the same plants. I grow Swiss chard, but I’ve never had any success with the “Bright Lights” variety. At Phipps, not only were they successful, their chard had leaves big enough to wrap a baby in!
After we’d finished with the Conservatory, we moved on to sample the Carnegie Museum. We didn’t have time to see anything close to all of the exhibits, but we very much enjoyed the dinosaurs, gems and minerals, and a few other fascinating and beautiful things. We also enjoyed what we saw of Pittsburgh itself, especially the widely varied architecture and numerous bridges and tunnels.
On Saturday, my sister, Susan, and two of her kids took us to Meadowcroft rock shelter. In the world of archeology, Meadowcroft is famous for being one of the places where their discoveries broke the “Clovis first” theory of human habitation in the New World, pushing back the span of human habitation by several thousand years.
We were extremely lucky that James Adavasio, who directed the excavations at Meadowcroft, was in the area and giving a lecture. Adavasio is an excellent speaker, with a wide breadth of interests. One of the elements of his talk was showing how the theories put forth in early archeology – in which the work was done almost solely by men – were shaped by the male perspective to the point of ignoring the contributions of women and children. He managed to be humorous, as well as informative. I know that Jim and I enjoyed the subsequent tour all the more for having heard his talk.
Afterwards, we toured a model Indian village complete with a variety of dwellings. I found myself taking feverish mental notes (and asking Jim to take a few photos) of some of the different types of shelters. We also had a chance to throw atlatl darts at a deer-shaped target. We all missed… According to the docent, this meant we should all have only salad for dinner, as a reminder of how hard it can be to put meat on the table.
The weekend wasn’t all museums, conservatories, and academic lectures, of course. We went and watched my young nephew play baseball, hiked, talked about books, and even played Clue. This last led to us renting and watching the very silly movie based on the game…
I discovered that, after something like thirty years, I still remember how to play badminton. Jim’s whiffle ball pitching got a thumbs-up from our baseball loving nephew.
Now that we’re back in New Mexico, those rolling green hills and that strange atmospheric phenomenon called “rain” seem more like myths than reality. And I have a short story to review.
Funny thing. Much as I enjoyed my holiday, I’m looking forward to getting back to the writing. Life is pretty sweet.