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June 10, 2004

Welcome to the Strip

picture of the welcome to the strip mural On Penn Avenue, between 21st and 20th, there's a mural on the second floor of the side of a bar that says "Welcome to the Strip." The mural is right in the heart of the strip, a stone's throw from the best of the produce markets and restaurants in the area. From the picture, you might think that the buildings around the mural are about to fall down, but I can tell you they've looked about the same for years now.

The strip is a bazaar in the true old-world sense: merchants from a mishmash of cultures offering their wares in the simplest way possible. There's no yuppy light fixtures or froufrou furniture (well, ok, there's some at the froufrou furniture store) to create a "shopping experience." In other words, you see what you get, you get what you pay for, and if you don't like the price, you negotiate. Back in the day, 61C's office was in the strip, and we'd usually make time to grab lunch from one of the local places (the neighborhood had Vietnamese, Italian, Caribbean, and Japanese food, with Thai, Indian, and a brew pub close by). By the way, the strip has an ultra-hip and flashy web site which totally fails to convey the feel of the place (in fact, it seems to focus on only the yuppiest aspects).

And of course, click on the picture for a larger version of the mural.

June 04, 2004

Lawrenceville alive!

picture of lawrenceville alive mural On Butler St. in Pittsburgh's Lawrenceville neighborhood, there's a mural that states, definitively (note the double exclamation points), that Lawrenceville is alive. And strangely enough, the mural is correct. Lawrenceville, after years of depression after the steel mills left, has become the new happening spot in town (at least if you're a hipster). But where hipsters tread, normal people soon follow (if only for the ironic t-shirts and art galleries), and slowly but surely the shops along the piece of Butler St. near the Strip District are being renovated.

On the stretch of Butler where this mural is found, there's a car wash, a field of oil tanks, and a bunch of depressed-looking houses (it must be hard to keep the house looking good when you live across the street from a bunch of soul-sucking oil tanks). The hard part for me is figuring out whether the people who painted the mural were trying to inspire the crappy part of Lawrenceville to improve itself, or they were saying to people passing through "sure it's bad here, but another mile down the road the joint is hopping!"

(Click on the image for a larger version of the picture.)