Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A "Street with a View"

The most happening street in Google's view

Whenever I get homesick I usually go for a drive down the streets where I grew up. Thanks to Google Street View I can make the journey without ever leaving my kitchen/office and leave behind only the slightest carbon footprint to boot. 

It's a good thing I don't have to make the trip in a ton of steel on wheels because it could be dangerous. The truth is my hometown's Street View works like a tranquilizer. While in reality those streets are alive with the possibility of anything happening at any given moment, the monotonous rows of little layered brick boxes that line the macadam lanes depicted on the information highway are a yawn-and-a-half. 

Freezing a singular moment in time, Street View only gives you a fraction of the real picture, or so I thought until this morning. That's when I discovered perhaps the most sizzling street in the world. Most surprising of all, it isn't in Rio, or Chicago or any place that you might equate with the word "sizzling." It's actually tucked away on the north side of an American rust belt city whose name is perhaps the perfect antonym for "exciting." It's in Pittsburgh.*

Behind all this excitement in Pittsburgh are two local artists, Robin Hewlett and Ben Kinsley, who thought it might be nice if residents of the neighborhoods pictured on Street View could "choose how they are seen" by the world. So as the Google Street View cam car wound its way through the city streets on May 3, 2008, the residents of one tiny side alley were waiting. 

When the car finally turned down Sampsonia Way, these local Pittsburghers literally put on the show of their lives with a parade, a mini-marathon, a reenacted seventeenth century sword fight and much more. While every event was staged, Kinsley says everything captured by the camera was something "that could potentially happen" on Sampsonia Way, "the most exciting street in the world."

View the making of Street with a View:

Along Pittsburgh's Sampsonia Way you'll also find the offices of the online magazine of the same name. Sampsonia Way is "sponsored by City of Asylum/Pittsburgh celebrating literary free expression and supporting persecuted poets and novelists worldwide."

*I'm not up to date with all the latest  etymological theories behind the origin of the name Pittsburgh but it's clear to me that it's a combination of Pitt and burghPitt, or rather its alternatively spelling pit, is defined by Webster's Dictionary as a "place of futility, misery or degradation," as in "It's the pits (worst)." This combined with burgh, a word described by Webster's as " a medieval fortified group of houses..." gives us the word Pittsburgh.

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