Tuesday, December 05, 2006


Saturday the birds on Murray Avenue were all a-twitter, as I stood waiting at the five-way light on the corner of Forward. A whole flock of them were buzzing inside the naked branches of a small tree, a poplar or a young oak, in the courtyard of the three-story stucco box that calls itself the Squirrel Hill Professional Building. It made the tree look alive--it didn’t seem like the birds were landing, just flying into the contours of the tree and remaining in motion. There were other birds waiting on one edge of the building’s roof, and still others on a telephone wire just next to that--but there seemed to be a certain momentum. That is, some birds (the largest flock) choosing what was THE place to be, and then capriciously choosing again, and then a group of birds filling the space they’d just left, and then another flock following them, like the domino effect if dominoes were more like magnets. So, first it was the tree, the tree in this tiny courtyard of this ugly building that I always wonder if it’s still in business, first because I’ve never noticed any activity there, and second because it seems like a precarious spot to get to from the very beginning of the parkway, considering the especial graciousness of Pittsburgh drivers. (Everyone likes to say that Pittsburgh is very nice until it gets behind the wheel of a car, and then it is an angry driver. Maybe this is how the city negotiates being part East Coast and part Midwest.)

So, first the place to be was this courtyard tree and next it was the bush in front of the Verizon Building, across Pocusset Street, which is the only sane little residential side street in this five-street pedestrian-hell light. Although I don’t want to give the wrong impression that Pocusset Street would be the place to stand at this light, no only if you lived on that street and were heading towards the movie theatre up Forward or the Korean grocer, otherwise the BP gas station corner is a better vantage point, because you’ll want to stay far away from the mouth of the parkway, and from the Pittsburgh Left. The Pittsburgh Left here will be from Murray Avenue to the parkway; thePittsburgh Left in general, I was only recently told, is a phenomenon of the city’s streets being so old and narrow. The Pittsburgh Left is this: If you have a major street like Murray that runs two lanes two ways, then it has been the agreed upon thing, if you are at the head of the line and turning left, that you should gun your car and take the unprotected left turn before the opposing line of traffic can cross your path going straight, because otherwise you will be holding up an entire line of cars behind you waiting for your left opportunity.

After the Verizon bush, the pioneer birds went back to the telephone line, now made vacant by the birds that had taken the roof edge made vacant by the birds who took the courtyard tree. But the telephone line didn’t suffice for long, and next it was on to a tree on Pocusset, and then to a tree up the hill on Phillips Avenue.

Sunday it was the same drill, but this time in the parking lot of the Giant Eagle in Greenfield. There it was the edge of a pitched roof, then a telephone wire on the north side of the parking lot, then the horizontal structure atop the telephone pole, then on the telephone lines across Lilac Street.

The pigeons that hang out on the lines in front of (east side of) Giant Eagle, the ones who shit up the sidewalk below, were not to be outdone. Though not practicing for migrating, they showed off some impressive Blue Angel formations, over the parking lot as we headed north toward home carrying plastic bags heavy with eggs, apples, bananas, juice, and a new toothbrush.


Blogger Susan Constanse said...

Oh, that sounds like a disasterous intersection. But I love the bit about the birds.

5:26 PM  

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