Sunday, November 11, 2007

Pittsburgh in November

It was getting dark on Sunday morning when we did the non-touristy thing, namely drive to the top of the Duquesne Incline and go down and then up. $1.75 each direction for a 3-4 minute ride. Exact change only!!! And that exactness is stuffed into a metal tube, not handed over to the attendant who is instructing you how to pay. He is inside a considerably thick glass and wood box where he pears at you through the green painted wiring surrounding the permanently closed glass windows. One begins to feel that there are gases from some ancient coal mine seeping into the Incline waiting area lulling you into a carbon monoxided sleep. When you get to the waiting station on top of ???, there are pictures and postcards sent to the Duquesne Incline (yes, that's how the postcards are addressed: Duquesne Incline, not to a person c/o Duquesne Incline. It's the Little Engine that Could come to life. The postcards all are pictures of funicular or other transverse railway. Listed as the #2 postcard is one from Zagreb, Croatia. Both the funicular railway and the two stations, one at the top of the hill and one at the bottom, are maintained in a manner to preserve a certain age, I'd say early 1900's. It's not cutesy; it's still grimy so no Disneyfication has taken place. Even the folks working there have a hard physicality about them; this mode of transportation is for daily use and not some amusement park ride. The dark wood of the inside of the funicular cars are polished and aged. Clean and battered. The ride is not smooth nor quiet; the car bangs a bit from side to side and yet is eerily quiet as it ascends or descends from one station house to the next. The views open up as the car climbs up, regardless of the weather conditions. If anything, I'd want the ride to slow down significantly. But that's missing the point. The funicular transports residents from the top of the hill to their jobs at the bottom and across the river. It's not some ride to nowhere.

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