Just got back from Pittsburgh with Jess. We did our Pre-Cana session there because Richmond didn't only require nearly $300 in fees, but they wanted us to do a church lock-in weekend kind of thing, including some we're-drinking-the-kool-aid-together-at-the-end activity that seemed frightening.
So we decided to suck it up, drive home for the weekend and see her parents and sister, and drive 45 minutes to a church in the middle of nowhere to get the thing done.
It was a bizarre experience that I feel I must speak of, with names of anything recognizable withdrawn.
There was no couple interaction or anything, but we had about two hours listening to a Father with an "Atlanta 1996 Olympics" shirt on discussing everything, some philosophical, some poetic, some OK-we-get-it, and some hard truth.
Most was alright enough to listen to, even though after about thirty minutes in a chair I get kid-jittery and start shifting and stretching.
Then he eventually started, somehow, talking about poetry and alluding to the fact that only gay men write it. 1) Do you feel the need to really mention poetry at a Pre-Cana session, father? 2) We already know most religions are all about "man and woman," and I've long since not wanted to deal with many of them for that reason, since I do believe in personal rights and happiness, and 3) I wanted to raise my hand and say, "Can we please go on? Though I've taken shit from cops pulling me over, family members, students, acquaintances, friends, etc., I don't need to hear in whatever facet you're ripping on it that what I'm doing is essentially worthless. And I'm getting my third degree, basically, in poetry starting in a few months, so please move on."
I wasn't surprised that many of the things he said were fairly emasculation, misogynistic, brain-worshipping, and plain weird, but I expect that from many priests these days, I'm sorry to say. But I have a feeling many were offended by some of the things he said, including me.
Let me say that yes, I'm Catholic (if you're a Facebook friend you can see a picture of my infant self getting baptized for proof), but I'm not practicing, and those are some of the reasons.
Then we ate a school lunch, essentially, which the $20 fee paid for, and which was fairly cheap, so we didn't complain.
Then we had to listen to this really bizarre couple talk about Natural Family Planning. It was a husband and wife team, and the whole thing was painful to listen to. They had some good points, and I won't go on a rant here about making love, but I really don't believe God has much to do with it at all. If that's your thing, fine, but I don't buy it.
Plus the husband was kind of a clean-cut and balding and short-haired Mickey Rourke from The Wrestler, the kind of guy that maybe didn't want the life he has, so he still goes to the gym as a dude in his 40s to try and relive the glory days before he couldn't have sex with his wife unless it was an infertile time. I'm pretty sure I'd have to jump off a bridge if I had to wait a certain time of the month, every month, for the rest of my short life, to get laid.
Then we listened to a CFO of some company talk about money and tell us mostly what we already know.
Luckily it wasn't a very long day. There were a lot of couples that seemed like they were made for each other though, and it was a motley crew. The short people were with short people. The fat people with fat people. The weird-looking people with weird-looking people. The older, haggard people with older, haggard people. There were probably some that thought Jess and me were a weird-looking couple, which is fine, so think of me as a realist and not so much a judgmental louse.
Finally that piece of the puzzle is out of the way.
Pittsburgh is such a gorgeous mess of rust and destruction. I'm pretty sure I'm falling in love with it. It was overcast the whole time we were there.
If anyone in Pittsburgh is offended that The Road was filmed there, they shouldn't be. It makes sense.
I got some good drive-by pictures, I hope, of some of that destruction. I'm not sure how Wim Wenders and David Gordon Green and Harmony Korine haven't been up there yet to shoot a movie. At one point we saw this amazing hotel that was burned to all fucking hell and just destroyed, and it was incredible. A set that a production would pay so much money to film on a sound stage.
Businesses are closing left and right. Apartment buildings are burned and left for dead. Boards over everything. Trees growing over everything.
I could get caffeinated and walk around the whole city and the surrounding areas and just snap pictures. It kind of fueled my deeper need to photograph. I feel like you don't need a degree to get some of these shots. William Eggleston or Joel Sternfeld could do wonders.
And it seems like no one ever cleans up anything or cares. They just leave it there and it beautifully rots to death.
Be reminded, however, that a lot of this is western Pennsylvania. I'm pretty sure we'll make our way back to the Pittsburgh area or surrounding areas after either Binghamton or Stillwater in the next four to five years.
I kept having these thoughts on the way back that we were completely fucked if a deer ran out in front of Jess's car. Ravines. Rusted guardrails. Horrible roads with potholes. A lot of people smoking, texting, reading newspapers.
And the deer somehow drawn toward headlights, seemingly and innocently hopping out to cross.
People hit deer all the time and survive it seems, but I kept getting chills. Then we saw some in a field. But nothing ran out.
At one point it felt like we were getting followed by this monster truck with big wheels. Jess said, "The doors are locked, so we're OK." The thing seemed like it was going to pass us as we were on this stretch of road in this weird town, where every quarter mile there was a gorgeous farmhouse surrounded by lakes with docks and nothing but hills and cows and fences.
And a ton of small-as-hell wineries.
When we finally got back to I-95, we saw someone who felt the Andretti bug get pulled over. Ironically, their license plate was TIPTOEZ.
I feel like, for some reason, I have so much information and insane ideas from poems and fragments and all kinds of insanity. It's the first time I've felt like this in a while. I think I'm starting to feel the "Get everything before you move and everything starts over again in a new city" pressure. I hope this keeps attacking me, because the buzz is heady and heart-fluttering.
I am marrying a good woman. I am very lucky.