On a whim, and because driving through Indiana is boring, a couple of summers ago I stopped randomly in New Harmony. This was a highlight of a cross-country trip, and turned out to be a former Utopian community. A former Utopian community that now has an alien space-ship looking wall-less church designed by Phillip Johnson, a man on a crusade against walls.

Somehow, it never occurred to me that New Harmony pretty much directly implies that there is a ‘regular’ or old Harmony out in the world somewhere. And it turns out that somewhere is right next to Zelienople.

So, this group of people led by a German minister (?) settled first in Harmony, PA and began a life of idyll-ness. And then they moved to Indiana. Maybe it’s easier to be in touch with your spiritual life when there is absolutely nothing to look at, nature-wise. But then! They moved again! Back to PA! Specifically to Old Economy Village (Ambridge). Which is where I went.

They have an extraordinarily nice visitors center and give tours of the site. I didn’t want to pay, so I poked around from outside the fence in the eerily quiet town. The one startlingly similar thing between Old Economy and New Harmony is the complete quiet and near complete lack of people coupled with a feeling that you’re being watched. When I tried to describe this to a friend, the best I could come up with was Camazotz from a Wrinkle in Time, which isn’t even accurate (although, interestingly the fictional place may have been inspired by towns like Levittown, PA).

Eventually, a caretaker let me in to see the gardens, which are beautiful and chock-full of grapes. Overall, the place looks a bit like Harvard: all bricks and vines and well-kept lawns.

The best part of everything: speculation that part of the reason the community died out is that they believed in celibacy. So awesome. So committed. And such a good way to shoot yourself in the foot if you plan on perpetuating your beliefs.


Dreaming at Minister Creek

A whole week was spent talking myself into taking a weekend camping trip to Minister Creek in the Allegheny National Forest. A thing that I learned about National Forests (and that I am fascinated by) is that, unlike National Parks, commercial use is not only allowed but encouraged. You could timber the forest or graze your livestock (if you had livestock to graze.) This blows my mind. The land is held in trust for the American people for their use and not just for their enjoyment.

Anyway.

I (surprisingly) love camping. I could camp for a month. When I camp I eat healthily and moderately. I drink moderately. I wake up early feeling ready to start the day. And since I shower erratically as it is, the personal hygiene thing doesn’t really bother me either. Also, I don’t mind walking in the woods in the dark by myself, and I’ve had bear-safety training so the potential bear thing is not big deal.

Going camping should be a no brainer. I love it in New England, I love it in New Mexico and Colorado, I should love it in Pennsylvania. The problems are as follows:

  1. I am not great in large groups of people I don’t know very well.
  2. I’m not great in a large group of poeple I  don’t know very well especially when they have all known each other for 10+ years.
  3. Body/mind image: the idea of camping with a bunch of super fit or very thin girls and artistic dudes was giving me anxiety.

For the most part, I spent three days quietly and awkwardly trying to fit in. And having a weird dream where my ex-boyfriend bites my chest and leaves a tattoo behind. And waiting for the chance to swim. Camping should always include either limitless beautiful vistas or a swimming hole. And Minister Creek had neither. It was very pretty, but I couldn’t hang out in the water reading a book for hours. In fact, the creek itself had weird areas of oil slick, so even if it had been deep it still wouldn’t have been appealing.

On the plus side, we camped for free. I’m not sure why anyone would pay the $10 to camp at the nearby campground. And I got to sit by a fire, roast some hot dogs, and climb a mountain. This was all topped off by a returning home trip to Sheetz. Sheetz breakfast burritos are so weirdly smooth and full of squish and taste entirely of cheese. I love them.

So. Camping. It’s awesome.


Street Sweeper

Of the many things that could have happened this weekend, the best thing happened: I got an A/C. More accurately: I got a free A/C. And even more accurately: I got a free A/C that my dad brought up and installed for me. 

I had planned to weather the weather in true 1890s style (sans conditioned air, but with all the expected allergens and, if my windowsills are any indication, also with a fair amount of the soot one might have expected in the city’s heyday.) But when an A/C was offered, I graciously accepted and now I’m sitting nudely in my 73 degree room trying to convince the cat that inside the room is better than outside the room and she should make the right decision instead of wanting options.

During install I walked outside to ensure that no one got killed by a potentially lethal 2nd story A/C fall. My neighbor, who hates everyone in the neighborhood except her daughter (and me, for some reason), has lived on the alley for almost 30 years and for all of those 30 years she has swept the alley from end to end. Street sweepers don’t come through alleys apparently. So, she’s complaining about how no one cares and she’s getting to old to sweep the whole alley. Of course, I want to be in good graces even though she gives my roommate the evil eye and is probably suspicious of a man and woman living in the same house but not having anything but a platonic relationship. And that is how, while I was getting cool cool air in my room, I ended up standing outside with a dustpan, sweeping the street. 


Most nights I come home from work, make a dinner scavenged from whatever’s left of the CSA (god so many onions. SO MANY ONIONS!), drink a glass of wine (that’s a lie: it’s usually bourbon), and watch five hours of terrible TV on the internet before falling asleep.
But not tonight. No sir, Not. To. Night! Tonight there are two separate and big and interesting events. The Mattress Factory is hosting the final Butoh and Birdsound performance at 8pm FO’FREE. And and and the gallery crawl is happening, and it’s happening to be chock full of Icelandic artists (why? dunno.)
http://www.pittsburghcitypaper.ws/gyrobase/Content?oid=oid%3A97872
http://www.pgharts.org/education/gallerycrawl.aspx

Most nights I come home from work, make a dinner scavenged from whatever’s left of the CSA (god so many onions. SO MANY ONIONS!), drink a glass of wine (that’s a lie: it’s usually bourbon), and watch five hours of terrible TV on the internet before falling asleep.

But not tonight. No sir, Not. To. Night! Tonight there are two separate and big and interesting events. The Mattress Factory is hosting the final Butoh and Birdsound performance at 8pm FO’FREE. And and and the gallery crawl is happening, and it’s happening to be chock full of Icelandic artists (why? dunno.)


http://www.pittsburghcitypaper.ws/gyrobase/Content?oid=oid%3A97872

http://www.pgharts.org/education/gallerycrawl.aspx