September 18, 2009—Well, tonight I'm in Ohio, only a day away from Pittsburgh... or more accurately, from Tarentum, a hilltop town about twenty miles northeast of the city that has the only campground within a reasonable distance of where my father lives. Starting tomorrow afternoon, I'll use it as a home base for the five or six days I'll be in the area.
After I arrived in Dillon State Park this afternoon, I called up the Tarentum campground to make a reservation starting tomorrow... something I very rarely do, but I figured it was a good idea in this case. There was no problem about finding a spot, but the owner warned me that Pittsburgh was "sealed up tighter than a drum" due to the G20 meeting.
The Group of Twenty economic summit. I had to look it up. Here's what Wikipedia had to say:
The next G20 summit is due to take place at Pittsburgh's David L. Lawrence Convention Center on September 24–25, 2009.
During the week of the G20, many streets will be closed and traffic patterns will be adjusted. Many public schools and universities will be closed and cancelling classes.
Expected participants in protests include peace, environmental, labor and social justice organizations. Alternate events will include a Peoples' Summit (not a protest) at the beginning of the week leading up the summit, followed by tent cities, demonstrations and other summits. During the first day of the Summit the Pittsburgh G-20 Resistance Project will hold a march and a day of direct action. On the second day there will be a Peoples' March and rally in downtown Pittsburgh.
Thousands of protesters are expected during the week of the Summit, which has been classified as a National Special Security Event. Security will be coordinated by the United States Secret Service working in conjunction with the Pittsburgh Police. It is estimated that 4,000 police officers have been requested, and the city currently only has 900 police officers. The Pennsylvania State Police have committed more than 1,000 officers for the downtown event, including SWAT, helicopter, mounted, undercover, bicycle and motorcycle officers. Allegheny County has had 75 officers specifically trained by and embedded into the Pittsburgh Police Bureau for the event since June. New York City and Baltimore have committed some officers, as well as Pittsburgh suburbs. All officers regardless of department will be under the command of the Secret Service for the event days.
Oh, great. Starts next Thursday... streets closed... massive protests... and my father lives downtown. I was planning to leave for Buffalo on Friday morning (the 25th), and of course I'd be leaving from Tarentum, not Pittsburgh, so I can probably avoid the worst of it... but getting back from Donald's place to Tarentum on Thursday night is likely to be a nightmare.
Between the bigwigs, the protesters, and the police, these economic summits are always insane messes... yet they always hold them in major cities. Why don't they wise up and hold them in the middle of the frigging Mojave Desert? That way the insanity wouldn't cause problems for anybody. And if a few finance ministers happened to be bitten by rattlesnakes, the world would probably be a better place for it.
I don't want to think about this coming week, so let's talk about my drive here. There wasn't much to see, except that I passed the World's Largest Basket: the headquarters building of the Longaberger Company. Now that was cool!
I have no particular use for baskets—especially $70 "collectible" ones sold via imitation Tupperware parties—but I love this building. It's such a perfect replica of a basket, so unexpected... it dominates the landscape, it surprises and delights you. It's a brilliant piece of marketing and a lovely piece of whimsy. Claes Oldenburg would have loved it too. (For you youngsters reading this, that link is to a giant sculpture of a typewriter eraser, a once commonplace object that's now as scarce as hens' teeth.)
Finally, here's the obligatory campsite photo. This $23 electric site is out in the open, for a change, instead of being deep in the woods. Dillon State Park is a big park with small sites. The folks at the campground office told me that mine was "extra-large," but I was barely able to fit my medium-sized motorhome and subcompact car into it. I hate to think what somebody with a 40' diesel pusher towing a pickup truck—a fairly common oufit for fulltimers—would have done.
Dillon does have a good-sized campground store, and even a laundromat—the first I've seen in a state park outside of Colorado. I wonder why more state parks don't install a few coin-op washers and dryers. It seems like a good way to bring in a little extra money, and it certainly is a welcome service for RVers like me, because it saves us from having to drive into town to do laundry.
I've often thought the same thing about public libraries: they should install laundromats, and then people could read while waiting for the wash to be finished. I used to do that in Princeton back in the eighties, when there was a laundromat just up Witherspoon Street from the public library. It's a perfect combination, don't you think?