The Search for Pittsburgh

Things continue nicely here at the Fundación Ixtatán.  Sometimes the weather’s nice.  Sometimes it’s nasty.  Sometimes tensions run high.  Sometimes people are Buddhist.  Sometimes the potatoes are done.  Sometimes they’re not.  Sometimes the students are good.  Sometimes they’re the spawn of Satan.  And amidst all of the life that passes us by in a much more noticed fashion than when I was in the U.S., things happen:

http://uva.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2075941&l=02e08&id=1522023 — Parties, Barillas
http://uva.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2077170&l=701e3&id=1522023 — Makeover, Basketball
http://uva.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2077439&l=51466&id=1522023 — The Search for Pittsburgh

Browse and enjoy. 

But now, focus your attention now on the third and final of the above album links.

Desirous of pierogies, clouds, steel, and strange liquor laws, I set out this morning with Angela, Jessica, and Katherine on an epic journey.  A journey whose purpose was none other than to locate the most mystical of all Rust Belt cities: the river-merging, Steeler-loving, cheesesteak-hating metropolis known as…PITTSBURGH.

The journey began at 8:15 a.m. when we woke up and started drinking coffee.  90 minutes later, we were exactly zero feet closer to our goal; however, we had successfully imbibed approximately 12 pots of heinously thin Barillas coffee.  “Made with effort and quality” my ass…more like “Made with lazitude and sand.”

Upon departing at 9:45 a.m., we discovered that our desire for the illusive pierogies had blinded us to the fact that we needed to eat something.  Stopping by a tienda below the ruins, we resorted to knocking, howling, whistling, and otherwise wreaking havoc until a nice girl came out of the otherwise deserted establishment to help our poor gringo selves.  After much rational thought, we settled on a massive purchase of 8 pieces of 7-milennium-old bread.  That’ll hold us to Pittsburgh and back, right?  Ha.  That’s about as true as the time when the lady at the market told us the bread was filled with cream cheese.  What the hell were we thinking–they don’t even have COWS around here!

But I digress.  After purchasing our eight-course meal at the ruinous tienda, we proceeded downward, feeling that the only way to locate Pittsburgh would be to find some body of water flowing in some direction.  Because then, hopefully, it would merge with some other body of water flowing in more or less the same direction.  And then we could float down Old Man River to New Orleans (after a few midwestern lay-overs, of course).  It all made perfect sense: climb down the hill, follow the river to Pittsburgh, watch the Pirates win, throw back a few pricey Iron City’s, meet up with Huck Finn, and float down to the land of gumbo that tastes like yesterday’s softshell crab.

But alas…it wasn’t to be.  After about 10 minutes we reached sea level.  That’s 8000 vertical ft / 10 min = 800 ft/min = 9.1 mph vertical drop, averaging a grade of approximately 20º.  Sin(20º) = 9.1 mph / ground speed; ground speed = 26.6 mph — not a bad clip for hiking, I’d say.  Unfortunately, upon arriving at the beach, we whipped out our Motorola Razr’s and did a quick Google search, only to discover that PITTSBURGH ISN’T ON THE OCEAN.  WHAT THE HECK?

After draining a few coconuts, we ascended most of the way back to the top (in a third of the time).  Once we were within about a mile of San Mateo, we found a river that looked promising.  And a path to go with it.  Convenient…

Thus began the second attempt: dodging flying hoes and avoiding dangerous, rotting corn stalks.  After approximately 13.6 minutes of hiking along the trail, Angela had a vision: 

“Are you sure that isn’t Pittsburgh over there?” she said. 
“Don’t be ridiculous,” I retorted, “don’t you think we’d be able to see the Incline from here?  Geez.”

Shamed and vanquished, Angela submitted that indeed, she could not see any classic Pittsburgh landmarks. 

So we pressed on.

For two hours.

After searching for the damnable Lucky Charms leper at the end of the mountain-bow for far longer than the luscious loaves of bread had wanted us to, we gave up.  We had traveled the road less traveled, and what had it gotten us?  Vile geysers of mud up our pant legs and we slogged through the Guatemalan wilderness.  Thanks a lot, Bob.

So, after much Nietzschian reflection, we turned back.  And walked. 

For two more hours.

Luckily, being the Greekly-physiqued human beings that we are, Butler and I ended up with a few minutes on our hands once we got to within sight of our San Matean metropolis.  Curious, and lacking urban stimulation, I decided to examine the plot of land that Angela had so wrongly proclaimed “Pittsburgh” oh so many hours ago.

And then I saw it. 

Nestled behind the minty foliage of the shoreline was a city.  A city to end all cities.  A city wedged between two pestilent streams of sudsy water that merged so anticlimactically as to make one think one was watching a dishwasher in Ruby Tuesday’s dumping two glasses of water into a bucket at the same time.  But there it was, nonetheless, with baseball winning streaks, slag heaps, n’at.

Our day had come to an end.  Victory was ours.  Unfortunately, as we teetered on the edge of dehydration and starvation, we were forced to make a reservation on tomorrow’s boat down to the Big Easy instead of hewing to our original plan of bunging our pulchritudinous selves onto Huck’s Saturday afternoon raft.  But not to worry–Pittsburgh will be there tomorrow. 

2 Comments

Filed under Guatemalan Travels

2 responses to “The Search for Pittsburgh

  1. Walt

    But where are the sandwiches with french fries on them?

    WHERE ARE THE SANDWICHES WITH FRENCH FRIES ON THEM?!?!?!

  2. Renee

    I’m speechless and my face hurts from laughing. Having grown up in Chile, I do appreciate some of the finer points. There was that time going up to Los Andes on that road with the 2,000 foot drop on my side, in the jeep that was being towed behind the truck with the old tires…………there were a lot of shrines along the road which at the time I thought were pretty but came to find out they market the sites of vehicles that had made their departure from the road…………..

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