Topography & the T

Midday, random Thursday: I got on the T at Gateway station, just off of Stanwix street Downtown. I sat and started reading my library book club’s, book of the month, “Between The World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates. I’ve had to read it in small doses because the things he writes about tend to hit me pretty deep. He makes me think about my body and the ways I and others with brown skin move through this world, through this city, and its many unique neighborhoods. The ways I’m perceived, or not thought of at all. And all I must overcome before I even open my mouth.

I stopped reading long enough to notice a black man wearing sunglasses wheeling his mountain bike onto the train at the Wood St. Station. He wore blue jeans with an interesting limegreen embroidery pattern decorating the hem of the pants. More flashy than the clothing I see on many brothas in Pittsburgh. I couldn’t help but notice that the shades were kept on his face, despite the fact that we were in an underground station.

I went back to reading my book until we got to the 1st street station. It’s the first station that runs above ground as you’re heading out of downtown. Diagonal streaks of water started to form along the train windows indicating that it was windy and raining heavily. It was a classic Pittsburgh summer shower. Torrents of water came down as we rode from 1st Street, across the river to the Station Square T station. The sky and the river looked like one gray-blurry mass as we crossed.

It was raining even more heavily on the south side of the river. Water gushed from downspouts.

The man with the bike said aloud “Man, as soon as you cross a river the weather changes!”

Still wearing his sunglasses, he held up a sheathed umbrella and said to me, “I’m gonna have to bike with this open.”

“Just wait and see, the weather will probably be totally clear on the other side of the mountain.” I said, gesturing to the tunnel that connects the south side and downtown to the hilltop neighborhoods at South Hills Junction and beyond.

Sure enough, the sun was beginning to shine as we emerged from the tunnel. The ground was wet, it had clearly rained here too. But the droplets were fading. As the man wheeled his bike off the train, he stopped by my window, smiled and gestured to the clouds. I couldn’t make out what he said then because the train was pulling away. But as I got off at my stop and walked up the block to my house I started to feel for him on his bike. The drenching rain had been replaced by a searing hot sun, and as my mom used to say “air you could cut through with a knife.” Which means more rain is to come, and more unpredictable spots of precipitation divided by the mountains or the rivers.

It’s like Mother Nature sees Pittsburgh’s socially, economically, racially, and topographically divided neighborhoods, then contributes to the insularity with welcoming or foreboding weather.

But I’m in it, not of it. Right? Like the man on the mountain bike, all geared up with his sunglasses and his umbrella, I’m moving through the neighborhoods and the terrain, ready for whatever. Right?


The Essential Premier

twitterThe new show I’m working on is called Essential Pittsburgh. It’s a locally produced program from 90.5 WESA, dedicated to the exploration of issues impacting Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania.  It premiers February 10th and will air each Friday at noon for the next 3 weeks. Then on Monday the 27th, Essential Pittsburgh will be a daily program.

For those outside the Pittsburgh listening area, you should be able to stream the broadcast live at 12pm eastern time.

The first show is about Marcellus Shale; an exploration of the benefits and concerns for the people of Pennsylvania and the environment, along with a discussion that opens questions from our listeners via the phone, Facebook and Twitter.

I’m very excited and of course a bit nervous. I hope you can tune in. If not, the episode should be up on the website soon after. Enjoy the show!

Pittsburgh: A New Home A New Career–Grow Where U R Transplanted

This blog started with posts that focused on my gardening hobby and somehow transitioned into my passion for public radio and sustainability. Now after weeks without posting, I have good news along with a sweet little story that combines my love of flowers and public radio.

I left the Philadelphia area a month and a half ago and moved to Pittsburgh with the thought that I needed to build a career in a city. And I decided Pittsburgh was the place because I not only know Pittsburgh better than I know Philly, but I also really love the people. One of my friends from Pitt often refers to Pittsburgh as “a big hug.” And despite the frigid temperatures this week, that’s exactly what I feel like I’ve gotten in the last few days.  Continue reading

Sustainable Branding

I’ve recently developed a series of feature radio shows for WPAZ radio in Pottstown. The interviews are focused on sustainable businesses in Pottstown and the Tri-County area. In the first episode, I talked to Cynthia Barber-Gale and Michael Gale of BarberGale Design Group.  They develop branding and graphic design for businesses that are focused on sustainability. In the tri-county area, tune to channel 1370 am on Fridays at 12:30pm or stream broadcasts online at

A Cool View

I fell in love with the idea of green roofs before I fully understood the concept.  The thought of decreasing rainwater run-off by attaching plants to a roof just blew my mind.  And as I’ve learned how rooftop plants lower energy costs and help cool buildings in the summer, I’ve been itching to tour the green roof at the PECO building in Philadelphia.

The weather felt at least 5 degrees cooler up there

Continue reading


This has been, and will probably continue to be, a very buggy growing season. With all of the recent rain relief in the Philadelphia area, I’m happy that I can stop being a slave to the garden hose for a few days.  But with all this new moisture, heat, and my naive decision to plant so many things in a small area, I still have to check for pests constantly. Continue reading


I just left a friend’s house in Phoenixville with a clementine box full of  mint plants (Mentha spicata, I think) which I dug up from his yard.  It’s amazing how veracious some mint grows, yet it’s so useful and lovely to smell that many people don’t give it the same disrespect as other such weedy plants.

Freshly dig mint

The first mint I dug up seriously seemed to be one 2-inch seedling but turned out to be an off-shoot of a 2-foot plant. I pulled up 3 of those bad boys and I know I’ll probably be in over my head in no time.  Normally I wouldn’t transplant like this because I could also be introducing foreign pests into the bed but I’m planning to plant it in a corner of my garden bed that’s full of big nasty dandelions and only a few bushes nearby that the landscape could do without if they do die.

I have a bit of jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) growing near there now, which I dug up at my local park and I’m hoping it, combined with the mint, will weed out the dandelions.

Jewelweed has medicinal uses and this mint is the best kind for teas, so if I’m going to have a weedy patch, it might as well be a useful one!