Today’s Travels — Feb. 23

Welcome back, explorers!


Today, we’ll be traveling to Pittsburgh to explore the Duquesne Incline and Mt. Washington and, weather- and time-depending, two of Pittsburgh’s historic steps — The Canton Avenue Steps (the steepest — with a 37 percent grade) and the Ray Avenue Steps (the longest set of steps — 378 — in the city).

Then we will head over to the Carnegie Museum of Art to see, among other things, the exhibit by Yuji Agematsu you read about (see the article from The New Yorker posted here on our site). Along the way, we’ll be gathering found objects we’ll use later to replicate Agematsu’s sculptures.

What you need to know:

  • We’ll have the van, but if you choose to drive separately, there is paid parking at both The Incline and the Museum. Parking should be around $5.
  • The incline costs $2.50 each way ($5 total) and you’ll need cash and exact change. (Note: Anyone with a fear of heights can stay at the bottom of the Incline, no worries.)
  • Admission to the Carnegie museums is $11.95 with your student I.D.
  • We have a long day, so bring snacks and beverages if you’d like. The museum has a cafe, but it can be pricey.
  • The weather today looks spotty, so be sure to dress in layers and bring an umbrella.

Agematsu Projects:

I’ll give you each a baggie and some notecards. During our travels, keep watch for small, interesting objects. When you find something that interests you, you’ll put it in the baggie and make a note on your card (where you found the object, the time and date, and a line or two about why this object caught your attention, and a line or two about your day). At the end of the day, you’ll put your notecards in your baggies (be sure your name is on them) and give them to me. I’ll be working with Pittsburgh artist Meghan Tutolo to cast your objects in resin a la Agematsu. I’ll give your sculptures to you at the end of our semester.

Next up:

I’ll be scheduling individual conferences with each of you before Spring Break to go over your blogs, talk about our readings, work on your travel-writing craft, and answer any questions you may have as we move into our next few weeks. Please be sure to sign up for a conference.

Our next trip will be on March 23, when we’ll visit the Carrie Furnaces and Braddock. We’ll have the van, and we’ll be taking a group tour of the furnaces. Our tour will be led by Rivers of Steel experts. The cost for the tour is $17. We’ll drive from Braddock through Wilmerding, checking out the Westinghouse Bridge and the Westinghouse Castle along the way. We’ll stop for pizza (on me) at historic Vincent’s Pizza at 4 p.m., so our class will run a bit later than usual. This will also make up for the day we’ll be missing because of Spring Break.

Our next reading assignment:

Before March 9 Read: The Pittsburgh Stories, by Willa Cather; Read: The Trolleyman, by Bob Pajich

Answer on your blog: Regarding “Paul’s Case” — How are the story’s themes—a working-class parent unable to understand and support a son’s love of the arts; the class tension between Paul and the cultured, upper-class patrons where he ushers at the Carnegie; and his acceptance by actors in Downtown Pittsburgh—universal and yet the setting and nuance clearly Pittsburgh?

Regarding “The Trolleyman” — How does Pajich write working-class Pittsburgh? What kind of place makes up the landscape of these poems? What is familiar — and unfamiliar — about the place he recreates here?

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