Cross Country Day 22 – Pittsburgh, PA

I was very relaxed knowing I had a full day off to just hang out in Pittsburgh and absorb the local flavor. I slept until 10am and finally crawled out of bed. I checked in on some work emails and prepared myself to return to reality in two days. My ear still had a clogged feeling in it, but I figured it would clear in time. My entire world is muffled and lacking high frequency content. I bought a bunch of over the counter remedies and tried them all to no avail.

Alyson and I took her car (Sandy the Chrysler 300) into town. She was showing me all of the famous spots and today’s was Primanti Bros., known for their sandwiches. It was delicious and perfectly made. I guess the problem was that it was a little too perfect. It wasn’t gooey or greasy enough for my dive bar tastes. This was great restaurant food, but I’ve learned to live so much grimier now and I can only seem to appreciate the seedy underbelly of the food business. Yes, I am sick. Very sick. Maybe I’m just tired of food? Either way we had a few beers with the sandwiches at Primanti’s and then headed over to the Carnegie Science Center.

The museum had an exhibit called “Guitar: The Instrument that Rocked the World.” I must admit this title bothered me more than a little. Rocked? As in the past tense? As if the guitar were an artifact of some ancient civilization that some archeologist just exhumed from a dig. I was already rubbed the wrong way. The first piece I came across was a corny lion-themed axe that looked like something out of the film Avatar. I doubted I would be enjoying this installation if this were par for the course. But my pessimism subsided once we rolled into the displays and happened upon the world’s largest Gibson Flying V. Now we are getting somewhere! Alyson took a few goofy pictures of me with the enormous six stringer and we continued on into the museum.

The display was actually a very well put together historic and informative collection. Filled with Gibson’s, Voxes, Fenders, Martins, and other assorted oddities that I’ve never seen before. A few pieces grabbed my attention. One was a Vox Phantom, as the first electric guitar I ever owned was of the same brand. My father traded a set of custom van chrome side pipes from his muffler shop to score me the guitar – a 1968/9 Vox V260 Thunderjet.  I still have it and it is at my parent’s house in St. Augustine. It is a great instrument, and even has a built in distortion effect and a tuner in the body of the guitar. Another cool feature is the Bigsby vibrato arm used for dropping the pitch of the strings. I played that Vox for many years until I was able to save up enough money to purchase a Fender Telecaster some 5 years later. That Vox was rite of passage into the world of electric guitar and like your first lover, you never forget her.

Another guitar on display that always grabbed my eye was a beautiful Gibson J200. I have wanted this guitar for so long and never have been able to scrape together the money to purchase one. With a list price of over $5000 I sort of have given up. Granted the actual selling price is around $3800 and there are many used ones to be had for less, so perhaps I may figure out how to purchase one someday. Until then I just stare longingly any time I see the fabled wood. The love affair for this instrument grew from listening to the concert album The Secret Policeman’s Ball that featured Pete Townshend from my favorite all-time band The Who. I didn’t have a steady band in high school, so I related to Pete in the way he could make the acoustic guitar rock. I played a few talent shows in school and performed two of his famous pieces from the Policemen’s Ball recordings, “Won’t Get Fooled Again” and “Pinball Wizard” on two separate occasions. My admiration for Pete was and is still enormous. He is eclectic and strange. He writes more than just straight ahead rock songs and has a sense of style I relate to. He wrote Tommy, the greatest rock opera ever penned. He can write sensitive ballads, or full on destructive maniacal rock anthems. As a budding musician I appreciated this diversity and it is represented perfectly in the Gibson J200. “Someday,” I muttered as I passed by the sunburst beauty.

Alyson and I ambled around more of the museum. There was a robot section that featured famous movie robots. I have also always had a love of robots. I even wrote a rock musical based on a robot called MAXWELL that was produced by Jobsite Theater in 2001 and 2002 in both Tampa and in New York. I of course had to pose with every movie robot like a tourist goofball. I am sure I get my participatory tourist gene from my mother. Whenever she travels she has to go to every nutty tourist trap the town has to offer. She once made a pilgrimage to see the grave of the famous Siamese twins! I love my mom. As a mother of 5 kids she was decidedly strong. She would load us into the car and take us to all kinds of crazy places in New Jersey when we were young. She was always up for adventure even if our coffers could only afford small local day trips. She had emotions like any other parent, but she wore a smile more often than not, and can still make me laugh like nobody else. When I visit, we end up having long talks long into the night about everything and anything. She never let not having a lot of money stand in the way of us having a great time. I keep that idea close to my heart. Besides the day trips, she would help us make things and shuttle us around to any lesson, cub scout meeting, baton instruction, etc. that one of her children always seemed to be attending. I recently started babysitting for some of my friend’s children and I have a newfound respect for the amount of energy this woman must have had with 5 kids very close in age. Cheers to you mom!

We wandered around the rest of the museum. I lost to a robot foosball machine. I blamed sticky rods, not my ability for the loss. Alyson and I both rode a fixed unicycle high above the lower level. We also tried a roller coaster simulator ride. On a few of the turns one of my ears actually started working! I was excited by this fact because I knew that whatever was clogging my hearing would eventually clear. All in all we had a great day just acting like kids. I think I will always have that quality no matter how old I get. We left the museum and walked around. We poked our heads into The Rivers casino. The sad feeling I had in Vegas returned and we quickly left. I don’t want to enter another casino – at least not with any dreams I want fulfilled within their walls.

We drove home as rain began to tumble down. Tonight was a perfect night to cook at home. I appreciated the idea because I have been eating every meal out and home cooked food would be a welcomed gift. I peeled shrimp as Alyson prepared the jambalaya ingredients. As we cooked together Alyson joked we were like a married couple except for the sex. I retorted that my marriage didn’t have any sex. We both howled with laughter at that statement. As we ate we talked more about our broken relationships, slowly figuring out that everything was going to be okay. Time is the great healer and we both just needed more. I headed to the basement to bed. As I slowly fell into the clutches of the Sandman, I realized that at the age of 47 years old; hours, minutes, and seconds are a precious dwindling commodity.

Click Images for larger versions:

Primanti Bros. Famous Sandwich Peroxide wash
The river Carnegie Center Brain Maze
Performances Lion Axe Rock out!
The biggest… …ever B.C. Rich
Armstrong Oddball Gold Oddball
EVH! Phantom Silvertone
Firebird Amp Anatomy Tube Amp
Someday Clear 412 Cabinet Transformer
Build-a-strat! Burned image Yup, it’s big
Model Railroad Model Railroad Model Railroad
Model Railroad Model Railroad Model Railroad
Model Railroad Model Railroad Model Railroad
Maria Gort Robby
B-9 ECR HAL9000 Duey
C3PO R2D2 Robot Control
On the track Robot Foosball The Enemy
Unicycle The Rivers Heinz Field
Yellow Bridge Bronze Batter The best chair
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