Tag Archives: Butler

The view from the snowflake truck

This Sunday morning, at the alarmingly early hour of 6:30am, I and a group of other volunteers for Butler Downtown helped to set up the electric snowflake decorations on Main Street, Butler, PA.

We volunteers unloaded the decorations from the special rigs they’re stored and transported on. In the photo above, we’re riding along on the truck with some extra decorations, back to Butler County Ford where they’re stored.

Linemen from Armstrong did the rather trickier work of lifting the decorations into their brackets and wiring them to the electricity. (Actually, I believe they just plugged them in with standard-issue electrical plugs. But there were other wires to work around and certainly more details than I know about.)

Good heavens, they were quick. We needed several trips to get the decorations into place, as they were stored on four different rigs and we had just one truck and trailer to transport them. By the time we got the larger snowflakes out on the street, the Armstrong guys had nearly caught up. When we came back with our second batch of the smaller, star decoration for the gas lamps, they were standing waiting, tapping their feet in the cold.

The whole thing took under two hours. Afterward, we went for breakfast at Linda’s South Side Restaurant, a classic diner. I had a massive and delicious potato pancake with sausage and some good coffee. I’d love to show you a photo of it, but there was not a chance to take one as I pretty much inhaled the food the moment it hit the table. Decorating Main Street is hungry-making work.

Ready for the holidays.

Tonight I went back to see the results of our endeavors. The street looks lovely, festive and bright. My iPhone can’t capture the scene — too hard to balance the strengths of the various light sources. I’ll try again with a better camera. But the shot above gives at least a small taste.

Neighborhood Walk: Butler’s Institute Hill and Main Street

Wonderful neighborhoods

For background on the Neighborhood Walk, check out the Rust Belt Bloggers site. Find a list of others’ walks there too.

I took a walk through my neighborhood today. I timed it to coincide with the Veteran’s Day parade on Main Street, but I ended up taking photos of buildings and bridges instead of the parade. Still, that’s cool.

Looking at others’ walk photos, I realize that I took few pretty pictures and more photos of things that interest me for personal reasons. Again, not a bad thing.

See my pictures and accompanying descriptions in my Neighborhood Walk 2008 photo set on Flickr.

For another perspective on Butler, check out my brother Anthony’s walk (especially because his pictures are much better than mine at showing how pretty Butler can be). Uncle Crappy also took a nice photo of my street.

Thanks to everyone who participated in the Neighborhood Walk, and to those who spread the word about it on blogs, Twitters, Facebook, and other sites. Thanks to everyone at the Rust Belt Bloggers and PodCamp Pittsburgh 3 who came up with the concept and fleshed it out.

Let’s do it again next year, shall we? Let’s make it even bigger. And in the meantime, let’s keep reaching out to each other to understand what makes our communities unique, and what they share, so we can continue to make them grand.

(Photo credit: Wonderful neighborhoods, originally uploaded by cynthiacloskey.)



Butler has a terrific symphony (and I’m not saying that just because I built their website). Every performance I attend, I leave thoroughly pleased and impressed.

One thing they do exceptionally well is identify terrific soloists to join them. Tonight, their guests were the Capitol Quartet, a group of saxophonists from Washington, D.C., who cover everything from traditional classical music to swinging jazz to modern classical, and probably more.

The Butler Symphony performed with the Capitol Quartet on several numbers, including a memorable Philip Glass concerto. They also delivered a couple of "a capella" tunes (as they called them), with the quartet playing without orchestral backing.

The video above is from a Capitol Quartet performance from last year. The song is "Fugue Well-Tampered," the core elements of which you may recognize from grade school music class as coming from Bach’s "Well-Tempered Clavier." This arrangement takes them in a fugue for four saxophones, which is in itself lovely. Then they bring in a jazzier flavor, and the tampering becomes sublime.

The video doesn’t much capture the quartet’s charm and performance style. They’re terrific. Seek them out.

The Butler Symphony’s season is over, but next season should be extra special, since it’ll be their sixtieth season.

Lost and found in western Pennsylvania

This afternoon I was scheduled to meet up with friends at a coffee shop in the Shadyside neighborhood of Pittsburgh. I don’t go to Shadyside often, so I printed out some directions, hopped in the car, and headed south.

About halfway there I realized that I’d taken the wrong route: I was on Route 8 rather than my planned Route 28. But I didn’t fret; the two hook up around the Highland Park Bridge, and the travel distance was just about the same.

So I got to the bridge, crossed, and stayed on Route 8 South. I checked my directions and saw that Google Maps had suggested I take some back roads, so once again I was off track. But again I didn’t worry, because I knew once I reached the intersection with Penn Avenue there would be signs to Shadyside, and I could figure it out from there.

It wasn’t until I parked and was walking to the meetup that I realized that I hadn’t needed the directions at all. I knew my way around yet another area of Pittsburgh.

In my past whenever I’ve realized I know how to get from here to there in an area, I’ve almost immediately moved away. It wasn’t that I wanted to be always lost; rather, it takes me a couple of years to get to know the back roads and alternate routes and connecting avenues anywhere, and it also happens to take me a couple of years to grow bored with a job and want to move on.

But past performance may not be indicative of future results.

I moved back to my hometown of Butler, PA in 1999, thinking I’d spend a few years here regrouping and figuring out what to do next in life. Nearly nine years later, I’ve discovered something that I want to do, and doing it means staying right here, creating great things with people throughout this area.

Western Pennsylvania is lovely. I like the pace of life; I love the rolling hills and green countryside; I dig the arts scene; I appreciate the cost of living; I curse the PLCB; and I wish I could convince more of my faraway friends to come visit, so I could take them on drives through the area and show off how cool this region is.

And I especially want to take everyone on drives now that I’m confident I know where I’m going.

(Check out other stories of Pittsburgh and this region at the Primary Pittsburgh Project.)