Unique Streets: 4
Miles Walked: 3.58
Street Names (italicized have been walked on another day): Mannka Drive, McKinney Lane, Camden Street, Springfield Street, Salerma Street, Hestor Drive, Hamburg Street, Rhode Island Street, Greentree Road, Alcon Street, Mall Drive
I was born in 1982, the inaugural year of the Parkway Center Mall which used to sit near the Greentree exit of 376.
My family didn’t go to this mall very often, instead choosing to travel north to Ross Park Mall. The two main stores in Parkway Center, KMart and Giant Eagle, had locations that were much closer to where we lived so it didn’t make sense to travel down the Parkway and sit in tunnel traffic to visit.
Even so, I have some memories of this place. Two or three times my friends dragged me there to an under 21 dance club called Club Zoo. Nearly every 35-40 year-old Pittsburgher from this side of the tunnel has been to Club Zoo.
I have very hazy memories of my time spent there in 1996-97 but I do remember some things. I remember standing in line outside in a light snow flurry to get into a dance club when I didn’t even like to dance. I remember wondering how and why I ended up here instead of warm at home where I didn’t have to pretend I was having a good time. I remember the smell of Wrigley’s Winterfresh gum mixed with sweat and Gap Om. I remember watching one of my friends make out with a blonde boy she just met. I don’t remember which one of my friends it was but it’s safe to say it could have been anyone of them. Actually, I’m pretty sure I remember who it was but she will remain nameless. 😂
Once our curfews were approaching we piled into Sam’s car and drove down 376 (then it was called 279) towards the western suburbs. Sam was one year older and so he had his drivers license already. He marveled at the increasing snow fall, “My mom always said to be careful driving in the snow. I thought it was only because it was slippy, but watching it fly at you and then hit the windshield is mesmerizing. It could hypnotize you as you’re driving.”
To this day, when it snows and I’m driving I think of that car ride.
Now, that thought will lead to this empty lot instead of that packed and sweaty dance club.
I parked near the Giant Eagle that stands alone and quickly found a hidden trail to the nearest Pittsburgh Street (McKinney Lane). The streets over here had a subdued quality that made me feel like the residents are hiding something.
Maybe they are. In 1923, McKinney turned into Mannka like it does today. Before 376/279 was built, Mannka continued down the hill in a zig zag until it reached Banksville Avenue very near to where Pittsburgh Barbecue Company now sits.
I did not explore this area mainly because there was a construction crew nearby and I didn’t want to be asked questions I didn’t have the answers to. So, I headed towards an area I’d already walked but had enjoyed.
Before I could get to Ridgemont, I had to walk around a new apartment complex called City View Apartments. While I would never live somewhere that doesn’t allow a 12-foot-high skeleton, I could see the appeal. No grass to cut, pool, fitness center, laundry, banquet room. The amenities were fully stocked. They also had access to a nature trail of which I took advantage.
When I got all the way to the bottom of the trail, the thunder started rolling. It’s easy to forget the sheer power of mother nature when you don’t come face to face with it that often.
On this day, I felt the enormity of a thunderstorm in my bones. My teeth rattled with the booms. My hair stood on end with every lightning strike. I feared for my safety and wondered if I had my affairs in order. If I die, before I…make it off this trail…I slipped on some mud and would have been embarrassed if anyone else was crazy enough to be out here right now. Nope, just a singular lunatic here…
I made my way back towards Greentree and the storm sauntered east. I went on my way and found one of my most favorite views. The UPMC building is peeking over Mount Washington and Saw Mill Run Boulevard runs in the valley just in front of it.
I walked the streets of Ridgemont past houses that never go on sale. A man walking his pug threatened to steal my umbrella. I knew he was joking and that the threat of storms was gone. All is serene on these scant streets. I’d like to live here. If I could be so lucky. I got to Greentree Rd and felt smacked back into reality. Chicken wing bones littered its corner with Hamburg Street. I started up towards S. Bee Street which is a lot less cute than it sounds. It’s a glorified business park which in and of itself is an oxymoron.
My business here was parked at the end of the roadway: Alcon Street is Pittsburgh and must be walked. The businesses in this area range from monotonous AF to vaguely threatening: Automated Logic Corporation (yawn), Mediaquest (meh), Industry Weapon (damn.)
I walked Alcon and headed across the manicured lawns towards Greentree. A littered hill brought me back to Parkway Center Drive South.
In the parking lot of a tallish building I saw a hot pink colored van. My heart raced. Is that…Hello Kitty???
The van with merchandise and baked goods was in our area on a nationwide tour and it seemed like they were inside this media broadcast building promoting their visit. I kept walking and realized that I could end up on 376 if I went straight. I might do that some day but not this one. I rounded Mall Drive and found the void where the mall had been. Then, it started raining. I never gave my umbrella to the man with the pug so I opened it and kept going.
In silence I stood and looked out over the plot of land where so many memories were made. Not only mine, but thousands of people’s. At that moment, what seemed like hundreds of birds took flight over the parking lot.
I debated walking around a little more and then my phone rang. It was George, my five-year-old. “Mom! Where are yooooouuuuu?”
I’ll be home soon. I’d rather be warm there than standing out in the cold pretending that I’m having a good time.
Here’s George and my 12-foot-high skeleton named BOB.