Thursday, July 19, 2007

Pittsburgh with Tanner

Last month I had a wonderful weekend in the Steel City with my (then) soon to be thirteen year old son. We went for the Three Rivers Art Festival which I stumbled upon it a few years ago and have wanted to take the kids ever since. So when Stratford, Ontario proved too expensive a trip for Tanner's 13th birthday, I decided to try for Pittsburgh. That same weekend also had a Pirates game and the US Open on top of the festival. Let's just say we won't make that mistake again. The hotels were mostly booked and very over priced.

Originally I wanted to stay in the city so we could walk everywhere, but the only available hotel was the Sheraton at Station Square across the river. I was very pleased once we got there though. This was our view. You don't get this from a city hotel. I had told Tanner we couldn't get a river view to surprise him when we showed up. My plan was to wait til he opened the curtains to see the river, but the desk clerk gave it away when she reviewed the accommodations upon check in. Oh well, he was still excited.

So much so that he occupied himself with the camera while I was getting ready for lunch.

We had lunch at Station Square at Joe's Crabshack.

Then realizing it wasn't far on foot we decided to walk across one of the many bridges over to the city.

The first thing we went to was an incredibly cool performance art group called Swoon. Tanner was antsy to leave because there was a magician performing a block or so away (we are from magician stock after all.) But once Swoon started we were transfixed! They were so good we went to watch it the next day as well. There were free shows all weekend so that made up for some of the outrageously priced hotel.

This lovely young swoon fan has a possible future as a performer herself!

We went to the magician after it was over. He was HORRIBLE. Maybe he was good for really little kids. He had a rabbit. That was the extent of his ability I think.

Maybe he could get a job here! Or help free the tiny server trapped under all the corks- can you find him???

We walked around a little, then went to the free concert Friday night and discovered a new young blues artist named Jackie Greene.

He was phenomenal. I was reminded of the last time I went to see Ricki Lee Jones when a then unknown Lyle Lovvett was opening for her. I became as big a fan of Lyle's that night as I was of Ricki already. We'll see what becomes of this Jackie, but I truly think you'll be hearing more of him than from just little ole' me:)
He has many obvious influences from Bob Dylan to Billy Joel to Tom Petty. He did an amazing rendition of "Messin' With the Kid" which was very appropriate given he's about 20. My favorite song was "Tell Me Mama" which unfortunately I would need to buy to put on here. But I have the cd if anyone cares to borrow it! For now you can listen to a few other videos by clicking below.

We got lost walking back to Station Square from downtown, and were saved by a nice couple who were walking back that way themselves. They escorted us across the correct bridge. I must say the folks in Pittsburgh were very friendly, and we felt safe strolling the streets after dark.

We went back to Joe's for a late night chocolate milkshake.

Then we hung out at Station Square til about midnight before crashing for the night. It was a party/ family atmosphere. There were people hanging out on patio bars , and families hanging out right next to them in the courtyard.

The next morning we slept in

then swam.

We ate an early lunch at Bar Louis on the deck with a view of the river. There were some kayak races going on at the time.

Tanner thought he looked cool in my specs.

But he wasn't pleased with his well done (ie burnt) burger. I liked it though.

However, after hanging around me all these years he has learned to refuse to be unhappy when having such a lovely trip.

We had an ice cream cone while enjoying Swoon again.

Then strolled through the theatre district where I found these ballet socks for Anna. We were missing her big time by then. She LOVES them and wears them all the time.

Part of the festival included a bunch of buildings painted by a local artist with glow in the dark paint . They lit up at night. This was the only one we found though.

Finally came the event that was the whole reason I picked THAT weekend regardless of the US Open and Pirates game that had the hotel rates jacked up. Ricki Lee Jones was playing Saturday night at one of the Festivals free concerts and I am a lifelong fan. I first saw her in concert when I was only a year older than Tanner, so it seemed fitting he should include her in one of his first concerts.

I was a little concerned when she came out dressed like this for her sound check.

I'm sure artists are used to the audience not being there to watch them in their comfy clothes, no make-up and hair preserved in a net! But she wasn't at all self-conscious and played an old favorite ( I can't remember now- think it was "Weasel" from her first album.)

Then laughing she said,"Thanks, for coming to our sound check!" And walked off.

The opening band (Sohio) was mediocre. They had a sort of whiny pop sound, every song sounded the same and they seemed annoyed with the audience's lack of enthusiam.Note to Sohio-sarcastic remarks by the band about how bad an audience we are will not win us over.

I think they were also peeved that Ricki's sound check took a while and cut into their playing time. But...ummm... we were there to see HER. So once again, getting annoyed at us for politely watching them while waiting to see her didn't win us over either.

The guitarist looked like Ashton Kutcher. Well actually more like his character on "That 70's Show." Cute but awkward.

The lead singer looked kinda like someone I used to date. DG and my good friend Wilkie can attest to that. He was better dressed but was kind of whiny and rude so perhaps that's where the resemblence was!

Then Ricki was back. She was fabulous! Beautiful too.

Much better than the last time I saw her in 92 or so. She was gracious and spiritual and her jazz/funk/fusion/rock really reflected that.

She seemed to be in an amazing place in life. Plus we got there super early, it was general seating and you set up your own chairs. We were in the front row! I can't tell you how much more enjoyable free outdoor concerts are for artists who are no longer in the limelight. I am a bigger fan of Ricki's than ever.

On our stroll back to the room we came across this fountain. Tanner had a blast there. The kids were so much fun to watch as they played and ran through the water. Tanner played in it avoiding getting wet for awhile, then finally couldn't resist. Luckily it was our last stop before heading back across the bridge to the hotel.

Then it was back to Station Square til midnight. Really, one of my favorite things we did was just hang out at Station Square in that courtyard every night til midnight. I don't think it was there the last time I visited that end of town.

A man stopped and gave his balloon hat to Tanner. We watched kids play in the fountain.

A young mexican couple danced a salsa then a slow song.

We climbed up to the observation deck and took some pics

including this one of us.

It was lovely.

Pittsburgh has really built quite a nice family oriented atmosphere. You wouldn't think so because of all the places that serve alcohol and seat right on the courtyard (all chains like Joe's Crabshack, Bar Louies, and the Hard Rock Cafe) but though there were people drinking and hanging out on their patios, families were sitting, playing, walking around there too in front of the fountain. It was a safe, festive, charming atmosphere.

This was by far one of my favorite trips ever. But the best part? Spending two whole days alone with Tanner. That's not only a first, but at his age who knows how many more chances I 'll have. I did tell him maybe we could go to Stratford for the Shakespeare festival when he turns 18. He said smiled and said, "Oh I don't know mom...I might just be too cool to go by then." I said, "Too cool for Stratford, Shakespeare or me?" He just laughed and said, "Naw...I'll go ;) "


tiggysmum70 said...

Sounds like a great time was had by the both of you! The pictures are great!!!

Kingcover said...

WOAH!!!! I'm soooo glad I didn't miss this post! PITTSBURGHHHHHHHHH :-D

I remember being at the festival too. There were stalls with various photographs and handmade ornaments etc near The Three Rivers Point where the large fountain is. That area was really beautiful.
Did you go on the cable cars up to the top of Mount Washington. I used the 'cars on the Duquessne (sp?) Incline. Lovely views from up there!

Were you anywhere near the Allegheny area? That's where I stayed in one of the apartment blocks :-)
Did you take a ride on one of The Clipper boats. I don't remember the name of the one that I was on.
There was also a large tower near the centre of the downtown area with a revolving restaurant on the top floor.

Ok ok I could go on with this forever lol. And I totally agree - Pittsburgh people are so friendly :-)


state of grace said...

Hey Gareth!

I wondered where you were. I knew you loved Pittsburgh and figured you'd be first to comment.

Hey I can't get to your blog anymore.

Rick needs the computer so I'll answer your other questions later :)

Kingcover said...

Came back to look at the pictures again :-D

I sent you a request to view my new blog a couple of days ago. I used your IM address that you have on this because I don't have any other address for you.

Design Goddess said...

Great pics! I'll probably be in that area next week, but only for the day. There's an AutoCAD lunch and learn there, so me and another designer are going to go....that is if the mgmt deems it a legitimate use of our time!

Kingcover said...

I've added you to my list. Don't worry, it's a good list to be on. Definitely not a hitman list or a credit card list or a tax list :-P

Kingcover said...

Any more posts for your fans? :-)

state of grace said...

Alas my computer is not well. It takes forever to edit pics right now so I can't get my Myrtle Beach vacation post done :(

We are computer shopping at the moment.


Kingcover said...

Okie, no hurry :-)