Reading outside


Flowers, 90 Fahrenheit and a lovely audience.  City of Asylum Pittsburgh's Writers in the Gardens series.  Photo: Renee Rosensteel.

It was an honour to be invited to read for City of Asylum Pittsburgh's Writers in the Gardens. Here's an excerpt from the piece I read that day:

Near the top of the skyline in Pittsburgh there’s a large stepped-pyramid of pale granite in the Art Deco style. It forms the apex of Gulf Tower and at night the lantern at its tip shines out red or blue light. Some nights when I didn’t sleep, I’d drive from Highland Park along Bigelow Boulevard toward downtown just to see what the light was doing. It was a weather barometer. Red meant fair weather on the way, blue, rain. When the temperature was steady or rising, the beam was constant. If temperatures were falling, the beam flashed. Before I knew about this code, I enjoyed the light for its caprice. I liked the feeling of the skyline rising in my windshield, the puzzle of the light. Most nights it glowed red, often from under the low cloud that lodges over the city, so that the light was diffuse and the cloud radiant. Occasionally, though, the light shone blue. The blue of speedwell and forget-me-not, I thought of it. I could have said it was the brief blue at the edges of gas jets. Or welder’s blue, this being Pittsburgh—blue of the fabricator. Later, when I’d learned the story of the lights, I felt a connection to the building. I imagined that someone back in the 1930s had decided to make a thing more beautiful and playful than was necessary. A skyscraper with a party hat, it seemed to me ...

            —from 'Slowly, westward, a story of weather'