Hi,

Tomorrow is the anniversary of hurricane Katrina struck the gulf coast (2005), the slave ship Amistad was seized (1839) by the slaves demanding to be returned to Africa, Shay’s Rebellion (1786) and the soviet communist party was abolished in Russia (1991).  Birth anniversaries include actress Ingrid Bergman (1915), musician Michael Jackson (1958) and jazz man Charlie Parker (1920).

I spoke a few posts ago about Ester’s Hobby Shop in Millvale and how they have a big emphasis on model trains.  For you model train enthusiasts, there’s also the Ohio Valley Lines Model Railroad Club on Merchant Street in Ambridge.  The 25 member club is not generally opened to the general public, except for their holiday display that is open from noon until 5 pm weekends from November 30 until January 5.  Last year they had about 1,000 people pass through looking at their displays.  A couple of years ago they added  a Downtown Pittsburgh section to the display on the first floor which has an HO scale railroad.  They are working on N scale model railroad in the basement that they figure will be an 8 to 10 year project.  If you go to see the displays this year, they will be easy to find, they are just completing a new facade that gives the building a train station terminal look with faux freight door and a bay window with a mannequin ticket taker.  The cool thing here is Bob Evans started a program several years ago where they accept donated trains from people’s attics and basements, use their expertise to make sure everything’s in working order and then donate them to kids.  More info on the club can be found on their website, do donate a train, call Bob at 412-761-7469.

The Pittsburgh Renaissance Festival runs from August 24 through September 29 Saturdays and Sundays from 10:30 until 5:30 (also Labor Day Monday, September 2) over in West Newton.  It’s not a dress-up fantasy where you sit around watching actors entertain you with the jousting and other medieval sports and contests, it’s more of an interactive event.  There’s also food and craft vendors, many of which have a medieval slant.  There’s also musical performers, comedians and of course jugglers and other period entertainers.  And there’s the returning act Cast in Bronze, a 4 ton musical instrument of 35 bronze bells that musician Frank Della Pena plays by pounding the bells with his fists and feet.  :)  The company that produces the festival, Rocky Mountain Festivals, Inc, does so all over the country.  So they have a lot of experience keeping the festival from becoming old and boring.  Last year they increased the size of the event, this year they are increasing the number of acts and vendors.  More info at their website or by calling 724-872-1670.

Next August we will be hosting the International Conference of the Garden Writer’s Association.  It well be pretty cool showing off the city to these gardening professionals.  In addition to the Western PA Conservancy and all the gardens they tend in and around the city, local neighborhoods have adopted all kinds of empty lots and created some pretty cool urban gardens.  Someone should throw down the gauntlet and start a city wide competition for the most unique neighborhood garden.  I bet that could become quite the competition.

For those of you watching elderly parents, relatives (yourselves) on Medicare, the hospitals are more and more pulling a slick one you need to pay attention to.  Since Medicare is scrutinizing their payments more and more and tightening the strings, hospitals more and more are “reclassifying” certain over night and multiple night stays as “observation” instead of “in-patient”.  This shifts the responsibility for payment to the individual.  Since it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, many seniors assume when a physician tells them they need to “stay in the hospital”, the seniors think it would be covered by Medicare.  To make matters even more confusing for the seniors, they frequently are hooked up to monitors, etc.  600,000 seniors last year were saddled with bills over this reclassifying hospitals are doing.  A $15K bill is not uncommon and a HUGE burden on these seniors.  Shouldn’t we be making the “Golden Years” less stressful for the people before us?  I’m not talking about a Cadillac in every garage and turkey in every oven.  Just don’t make their senior years anymore harsh the they already have to deal with.  Animals, children, handicapped and seniors all look to the rest of us for guidance and help.  (When I talk about seniors, I’m not talking about anyone over 60, I’m referring to actual old people that have limited abilities).  It’s soooo wrong to “reclassify” something so certain doctors and medical administrators can buy that summer condo to compliment the winter one they already have with the imported sports car in each garage at the expense of the vulnerable.  The hospitals have a responsibility to make it very clear to the Medicare recipients exactly who’s going to be responsible for what bills.

OK, we all know there’s a fourth river under the city, right?  And since The Rivers Casino opened, we all know there are 422 official bridges in Pittsburgh?  (That’s why one of their restaurants is named 422).  Did you know when you enter the Courthouse Downtown that you are actually entering through the basement?  I’ve heard several times over the years that the city lowered Grant Street, but it was just one of those things I never put together.  “Grant’s Hill” was the highest elevation in the city and that’s why they decided to build the Courthouse there to make it more imposing.  A few years after completing the Courthouse, they decided to lower Grant’s Hill fifteen feet to make the area more accessible.  Originally they build a plaza like platform so the original entrances could be used.  In the early 1920’s, they decided to widen Grant Street and the plaza had to go and hence we now enter through the basement.  I bet the next time you’re Downtown, you’ll look at the Courthouse a little differently.  :)  (By the way, over the years, they have “modified” most of the Courthouse by lowering ceilings, etc.  For the centennial, they restored one Courtroom to it’s original design, Judge McDaniel’s if you ever get a chance to see it).

Over on University Drive in Coraopolis Moon Flight (a play on the township they’re located and proximity to the airport) is doing something a little different.  It’s a self serve car wash, self serve dog (or cat) wash and coffee shop.  :)  With the coffee shop, they try and bring an upscale offering, not normally found around car washes (and I’ve never heard of a stand alone dog wash, so have nothing to compare that food offering to).  The coffee shop opens at 6 am weekdays and 8 am weekends and always closes at 5 pm.  The car and pet wash are well lit and open 24/7.  Kind of a creative slant.

Speaking of Flight (you know how I love themes), FlightCar and RelayRides are a newer service that aren’t in Pittsburgh yet, but is in several other cities.  Instead of paying to leave your car in the long term parking lot at an airport, drop it off with these folks and they rent it out.  Rental fees depend on the make and year of your vehicle.  They handle all the rental details, carry insurance and you get your car back freshly cleaned.  They are a pretty much unregulated start-up challenging the $11B airport car rental business.  They are kind of like what that Air BnB is to the lodging industry to the car rental industry.  Part of the fee you pay to rent a car at an airport from one of the traditional rental companies goes back to the airport, just as part of what you pay at a lodging establishment goes back to local tourism.  Both Air BnB and the new car rental places don’t do this.  I don’t have a problem with either, as long as they belly-up-to-the-bar and play be the rules.  :)

Have a great day,

ed

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