Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Sophia’s graduation night: oh what a night

This past Friday night was my niece Sophia’s graduation from West Greene High School, the class of ‘23.  It was a long but special affair held in the school’s gymnasium, and I was impressed just seeing Sophia and her classmate London (the top two students of their class) sitting apart from their classmates, on the raised platform with the school’s principal and superintendent, among other esteemed faculty.

But when Sophia went to the podium to give her salutatory…. I was blown away.  She was kind, eloquent, decisive… she sounded like a real leader.

Here’s a couple photos of Sophia delivering said speech, and with her mom and dad, my sister Shawn and her husband Jim.

As impressed and proud I was to see her on that stage, I wasn’t surprised.  I’ve never known someone her age (in her era or mine) work and volunteer and study like Sophia did.  She earned that spot at the top, and then some.

Can I share one more thing here before I wrap this up?  Way back in August 2011, Shawn & Jim had taken 6 year old Sophia out for a day in the park, the day before her first day of school in the first grade. 

I called Sophia to ask if she was excited to start school the next day; she said she was but lamented that summer was over, there were still things she wanted to do. 

It tickled me so much I wrote a blog about it, and her mother & mine’s own first days of school, which you can see here:   My love-hate relationship with the first day of school 

I wrote that I hoped she enjoyed those school days because they’d be over before she knew it, even if she did have 12 years worth to look forward to.  How did they fly by so fast?  Maybe not for Soph or her mom, but I remember writing that like it was only a couple years ago.

Congratulations Sophia,  I can’t wait to see what you do next!

Thursday, May 25, 2023

A day at the Heinz Museum (and my first senior outing)

Well, it’s official.  This past Wednesday I returned to the local senior center, used my newly activated card to sign in and had a nice lunch of meatloaf, buttered yams, cauliflower and diced peaches.  Then I boarded an ACCESS bus with 5-6 others for the trip to the Heinz History Center.

I don’t know why, I suppose I’m still in denial, but I thought for sure the Access driver would take one look at me and tell me I wasn’t old enough to ride with the others.  But nope—he said “Doug Morris?”  I said yes.  He said “If you’re having trouble, I’ll help buckle you in.”

When we got to the center, the sign above the entrance read Adults $18.00, Senior Citizens (62 and up) $15.00.  The young man at the front said “Fifteen dollars, sir.”   But—but—fine!

Anyway, it was one of the coolest museums I’ve ever seen—6 floors of everything from the history of Heinz Foods (which began in Pittsburgh) to the sets from Mr.Rogers Neighborhood to the Lewis & Clark Expedition (which traveled thru Pittsburgh) to lifesize reproductions of city neighborhoods from the 1930s to Pittsburgh’s contributions to science in the 20th century.  And a lot of historical doodads everywhere you turned. 

Enough with my boring ramble, I’ll just share some of the photos I took.

Remember when Heinz Ketchup came in glass bottles?  This ‘sculpture’ stands around 20 feet tall and is made up of hundreds of them
A 1950s living room (notice those old roller skates in the upper left); it looked a lot cozier in person, without my camera’s glare.  The TV was airing Pittsburgh local news from the era, complete with 50s local commercials
A 1936 Ford Deluxe built with stainless steel in nearby Brackenridge and one of a kind, until those DeLoreans came along!
I almost flipped my lid when I saw this—Westinghouse’s ELEKTRO robot and his dog Sparky; built in the 1930s, it achieved worldwide fame.  It could smoke, play records on the turntable in it’s stomach and even vacuum your carpets!
Speaking of Sparky… here’s Westinghouse’s first electric chair with Tesla’s alternating current.
Your guess is as good as mine; with no plaque, I’m guessing a local heiress from the 1920s and the dress she was painted in. 
A reproduction of a 1930s Northside neighborhood; this was more amazing in person, with various sounds of kids, dogs & music, and clotheslines with wash hanging in the rear.  My older friend Pearl almost hopped that gate to get in.
A lifesize reproduction of Neil Armstrong in his astronaut suit to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing
There’s me again, standing in front of a pair of Mohawk Indians and their lonnng canoe they’re carrying over their heads
And lastly, a fully restored trolley from a bygone era (with the brick road and metal rail it glided on, many of these embedded rails still exist in our city today). 
We were encouraged to climb on, and I was surprised at the roominess within; these electric cars were massive.  My friend Pearl opted for the driver’s seat.

Saturday, May 13, 2023

How time flies when you’re having fun (and getting on in years)

My neighborhood’s main street, 1963.  The yellow fruit stand is gone but the hardware store still stands and is busier than ever

Early last week, someone hung a flier in my apartment building’s lobby for an Open House at the local senior center (a converted Lutheran church about a block up the street from the trolley in this old photo).  It was for Thursday May 11 from 12-2pm, and said if the weather was permitting it’d be held outside, with representatives from different aging & healthcare agencies, craft booths, a cookout & one hour “dancercise” in the parking lot.

If you know me by now, this sort of thing isn’t exactly my bag—but I DO spend too much time alone and it DID say it was open to people aged 60 and older, so on Thursday I shrugged my shoulders and off I went.

I almost turned around when I got there--there was a LOT of people, 75-100 total (and in years too, I’m guessing).  I haven’t seen this many older people since the early 1990s, when I worked as a software developer for the Allegheny County Dept of Aging; they used to hold annual Senior Festivals downtown where we all volunteered. 

And now 35 years later…  I still didn’t feel old enough to be there.   Fortunately, I had an ‘inside connection’.  My friend Elisa (who I worked with at Aging 35 years ago) and now works as an administrator at this same center.  She gave me a brief tour of the place, and a couple sheets of paper showing their Activity Calendar for May and their monthly lunch menu.

Lunch is served Monday-Friday at noon and there’s no charge, but you’re asked to donate $3.00 if you can. 

After the tour, we went back outside and feasted on grilled hot dogs and chips, and the softest cupcakes I’ve ever eaten in my life.  (It turns out they came from ‘Scoops’, a special bakery and ice cream shop in Pittsburgh.)

Various people introduced themselves, and several members and people who ran the place seemed very encouraging about me joining. 

(It seems they only have a handful of male members, compared to the women.)

I hung out with April (a 70 year old art instructor from the local community college) and swapped life stories as we watched 50 seniors sweating to the oldies.  I later told my friend Elisa “there’s something very appealing about that April woman” and Elisa said “She’s a widow, you know!”

Before I knew it, 2:00 was here and it was time to go.  They asked me to come inside and register as a member, I said I needed some time to think about it.  But when I woke up Friday morning I knew I shouldn’t procastinate and went back to the center and signed up.  Then I had some coffee and another one of those wonderful cupcakes, and hung out and chatted with some of the other members for awhile. 

Here’s what gives me pause.  I’m not quite ready (and I don’t know if I ever will be) to go to this center on a daily basis and sit in the big meeting room and talk and read the paper.  They have an exercise room, but I have one here too.  They do have weekly art and exercise classes, and occasional lectures and bingo twice a week, but none of that strikes my fancy, exactly. 

What they DO have which I’d like is weekly outings.  You have to sign up to ride Access (free for people 65 and older, $1.25 if you’re 60-64) and it’s for all sorts of things.  This Wednesday it’s for dinner at Pizza Roma, an Italian restaurant in the North Hills.  Next week it’s for a visit to the Heinz History Museum.  There’s no discounts for these outings (the museum is $15.00 per person) but I’d love to do both, have ready transportation and wouldn’t have to go alone.

If I use the center for these outings only, I feel a little like I’d be taking advantage of them and my sixtysomething age to go on these excursions, but they kept insisting “you do as much or as little as you feel comfortable doing” so… we’ll see.

Saturday, May 6, 2023

You don’t have to be a nerd (like me) to be a little money savvy—just saying

Isn’t this a neat piece of artwork?  It’s the Starship Enterprise on canvas in sepia tones, in the style of Leonardo Da Vinci’s Renaissance art. 

I got it to hang on the wall opposite my bed, and before you call me a nerd like someone else did today, this is only 18” x 25”.  I had originally intended on buying it double in size to hang on the large accent wall in my living room. 

Now THAT would’ve been nerdy!

Anyway, earlier today I got an alert on my phone from icanvas.com that my artwork was being delivered and was two stops away.  When I went downstairs to wait for it’s arrival, one of my neighbors (who shall remain nameless) was down there, waiting for her food order from Aldi.

I asked how she was doing, and she said fine, then added “But I’d be a lot MORE fine if I had a second powder room and a patio.”  She told me she was kidding, her place was big enough already.  (She’s right about that, she lives in one of our building’s twelve 2 bedroom units and they are surprisingly roomy—and expensive.)  But she couldn’t believe she’d been here ten years already, it wasn’t part of the plan.

When I asked what was the plan, she said she’d only intended to live here for a year after her divorce and sale of her home of 35 years.  But 10 years later and she was still here, with the sale from her home still sitting in a savings account.

(Then my artwork arrived, I opened the box to show her—she said it was cool but I was the oldest nerd she knew.)

Anyway, I said “Well, at least that money is earning some nice monthly interest.”  She said “What are you talking about?  It’s in PNC Bank and doesn’t earn enough interest to report it on my taxes.” 

What? I pulled out my smartphone and looked up PNC’s interest rate on their standard savings account.  0.03%.  I said “Listen, this is none of my business but you REALLY need to move that into CDs, or an online savings bank like Ally.  I keep 2 years worth of living expenses in a Money Market fund that pays me $280.00 monthly.  You could make more than double that.”

She said “Don’t you watch the news?  Those online banks are failing left & right.”  I told her those were a couple banks in Silicon Valley.  Online banks are FDIC insured and just as safe as her brick and mortar PNC.  Her money should be earning $600.00 a month in interest, easy.

She said “Well, I’d have to call my financial advisor, she’s the one who has my money parked in that account.”  I said “Financial advisor!  Who is she, your 14 year old granddaughter??”

She laughed and said at least her advisor wasn’t a nerd like me.  Gee whiz, she should be!

Just then, our mutual neighbor Sara walked into the lobby and said hi to both of us, and the other one said “Take a look at Doug’s new artwork.  If you went out with a man and learned he had this hanging in his apartment, what would you think?” 

Sara said “I would think hmm, I met a man who has an interest in art.”  

I’m obviously talking to the wrong woman here.  Nerd smile

Monday, May 1, 2023

The (Young) Lady in Red: 2023 Senior Prom Edition

This past Saturday was my 18 year old niece Sophia’s Senior Prom, and when my sister Shawn sent me photos and I saw this one, I couldn’t resist sharing. 

That’s Soph’s date/boyfriend Colby, and you couldn’t meet a nicer young man. 

I can’t believe they’ll be graduating in a few short weeks.  (And I’d like to add Sophia is second in her class; from the time she was a grade schooler she was always a straight A student.)  She & Colby will both be attending college in the fall.

That’s pretty much all I had to share, and aren’t these two a good looking couple!