The Party’s Over: Sad Balloons

deflated balloon on leaf-strewn sidewalk
“L” is for Lying face down in the gutter under a bridge on the South Side. A sad balloon in its natural habitat.

Is it lying or laying? I’ve read and re-read the grammar definition a dozen times—my dear, sainted mother was an English professor, for goodness sake—and I still can’t figure out whether there’s a direct object there or not.

Fooey. A large gold letter L, turned upside-down so it looks more like a lazy J, lies (lays?) in the thick sidewalk mud that has collected late autumn’s last fallen leaves upon its gooey surface. On this chilly Sunday morning one can’t help but feel the sadness as the air has quite literally gone out of what we hope was a joyous moment, now gone by.

pink number balloons left by grave marker
Pretty (sad) in pink. Allegheny Cemetery

Someone (Lori? Linda? Lenny?) was celebrated in the near past—a birthday, maybe? perhaps an engagement, job promotion, or baby shower—and her or his friends ordered up a golden capital L balloon to commemorate the occasion. The party may have been terrific—drinks all around, goofy stories from the past, novelty gifts from friends that embarrassed family members—but that’s all over now. The big helium-filled letter balloon floated out of a car window or the venue’s service entrance, had some dying adventures in the low atmosphere, and landed here, in the muck under a bridge on the South Side.

deflated red balloons caught in tree limbs
Lofty ambitions, caught in the treetop. Grandview Park, Mt. Washington

This day—of all days—New Year’s happens to fall on a Sunday and like Kris Kristofferson, we’re all comin’ down, one way or another. Maybe you reveled last night; maybe you stayed in with a book or a movie; maybe you were working or taking a care of a sick kid. Either way—any way—New Year’s Day resets the table, tells us that last year, whether it was a party or not, is definitively over and we’re on to new things.

Your author is not one for resolutions, but he did make a plan to learn Vladimir Cosma’s “Sentimental Walk” on the piano. It’s simple enough that these amateur-level hands should be able to grasp it and heartbreakingly beautiful in a way that will reward the time commitment.

Whatever your plans for the new year—inspired by a resolution or not—hopefully they’ll include new adventures, plans realized, and the wonderful happenstance that leads you up into the treetops and down in the muck. Life exists on both planes and we’re fools to fantasize that it can occur in only the more lofty of them.

Happy New Year, y’all!

"1" and "4"-shaped balloons outside of a small dumpster in a garage
14 or 41, what’s the difference at this point? Hill District
deflated balloon hanging from tree limb
Hang in there! Hill District
deflated balloons in dead leaves
Game over. Allegheny Cemetery
deflated balloon hanging from tree limb
World’s worst Warhol tribute. Allegheny Cemetery
celebratory balloons left in tall grass
Not so sad … yet. Hazelwood
deflated balloons hanging from an electrical line
Sad bundle. Lawrenceville
deflated balloons hanging from utility wires
Wire mess, Lawrenceville

New Year’s Resolution: The 90 Neighborhoods Project

stylized map of the city of Pittsburgh by neighborhood

Pittsburgh is famously a “city of neighborhoods”–ninety of them, to be precise. Going through the full list, it was both enlightening and exciting to think of how much of The ‘Burgh hasn’t yet been Orbit covered–let alone the parts of town we’ve never even been to or couldn’t place on the map. How could we have never even been to Esplen or New Homestead or Summer Hill?

For this speculative journal’s New Year’s resolution 2017, we’re beginning a brand new project to visit and cover each and every one of the city’s defined neighborhoods*, Orbit style.

Two sycamore trees trained and grafted together to form an archway over an entrance sidewalk

The twin sycamores of Sheraden

To qualify for the series, the story must be fully of and about that place. If we include a single photo from somewhere in one of our collections on a theme, that doesn’t count. Similarly, an interview with someone who happens to live in a neighborhood would only register if that person’s particular work specifically related to the place.

Many parts of town have already been visited–Oakland, Bloomfield, Lawrenceville, The Hill District, Woods Run, and Downtown each have a bunch of stories to their names. For these, we’re grandfathering them into the series retroactively.

We even started a little early. Our trips to the amazing former Broadhead Manor project in Fairywood and Loretto Cemetery in Arlington Heights late in 2016 were prompted simply because we’d just never been to those parts of town and they seemed interesting. [SPOILER ALERT: they are.] We’ll be doing a lot more of that in 2017.

fire hydrant in field of tall weeds, Pittsburgh, PA

Former Broadhead Manor public housing project, Fairywood

detail of marble headstone with embedded ceramic photograph of young man protected by purple plastic cover, Loretto Cemetery, Pittsburgh, PA

One of the late Victorian photo headstones of Loretto Cemetery, Arlington Heights

Here’s where we could use your help: If you know of anything particularly Orbit-worthy happening anywhere–but especially in these un-covered territories–please let us know (via the Contact page) and we’d love to check it out.

* We’re counting the neighborhoods in a slightly more practical way for reporting purposes, so the total target number isn’t quite a full 90. This is all explained on the 90 Neighborhoods project page.