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THE COMMONS ROOM

THE ROAD
BEHIND

"Mozart's Vienna" was the title of the talk. But in full truth, the lecture wasn't really about Mozart. Nor actually was it about late eighteenth-century Vienna. Robert Norman had something else on his mind.

Norman, a convivial man with a neatly trimmed white beard, is a professor with the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs. His pre- sentation-cum-slide show took place in Forbes Quad classroom 3J12 where a map of the world dominated one wall.

Before Norman spoke of Mozart he spoke of a genius in another mode, computer sachem Bill Gates. The name of Gates, of course, is a ubiquitous presence these days, unsurprising to hear in any context. Gates's company, Microsoft, rules the software universe. His book, The Road Ahead, divines the contours of the next century.

"Gates's book," said Norman, "is a compilation of technological guesses. That's one way of looking at the future. Another way is by storytelling. That's what I do. I tell stories about cities, about what works and what doesn't work." This story begins in Vienna, back in the 1780s and '90s, back on the road behind.

Vienna, Norman reminds us, was without such modern-day amenities as elevators, recorded music, and electricity. City life was lit by a different light then. Yet Vienna was a civilized place, home to Mozart (and future home to such superlative spirits as Prince Klemens von Metternich, Gustav Mahler, Johann Strauss, and Sigmund Freud). "I'm risking my life on this topic," Norman joked. "My wife Liane [former Pitt English professor] is the Mozart expert. In comparison I feel sort of like Salieri [the narrator and second-rate composer in the movie Amadeus]. I don't know the artistry of Vienna. I stand for the brick and mortar."

Mozart's Vienna was the third-largest city in size in Europe, following Paris and Naples. Total population was 200,000 but 50,000 lived within the inner city, fortified by a powerful wall to withstand enemy invasions. The bad news: The inner city was rife with illness, secret police, and censorship. The good news: Crime was low; the streets, after dark, were safe.

Remarkably, in about a decade, Mozart resided in a total of 14 Viennese homes. As a bachelor, he once dwelt in a residence known as "The Eye of God House" with three young ladies at a time. He also lodged in the dwelling of Adam Isaac Arnstein, reputedly the only Jew in Vienna free to reside anywhere in the city. During Mozart's marriage to Constanze [Weber], "the suitcases were always packed."

Why such impermanence? One reason was to escape the anguish of life's losses; four of six Mozart children died in infancy. Also, Mozart's profession as a freelance concertizer meant an up-and-down financial existence dependent on court intrigues and aristocratic patronage--or lack thereof.

At Mozart's death he was buried, with few mourners present, in the suburban cemetery of St. Mark's Church, which has remained his continuing residence for more than 200 years.

To Robert Norman, provocative urbanist, the great cities of the past are the key to the cities of the future. Mozart's Vienna was "a concentrated society of 50,000 citizens living amidst a soaring cathedral, assorted churches, theaters, shops, and residences. The inner city, astonishingly, was no larger than a modern shopping mall." Norman's slide show, documenting Mozart's peregrinations from one domicile to another, brought to vivid life the scale and shape and texture of the city.

"Bill Gates," he said, "wants us to live on the monitor. But I wonder what happens to us when face- to-face communication is lost."

Norman noted two twentieth-century predictions by Frank Lloyd Wright. One envisioned people residing in mile-high skyscrapers. The other view would offer "one broad acre for everyone." A middle path, preferred by Norman, would be to recreate vital pockets of localism such as Mozart's Vienna--without the secret police or the censorship.

"But what we don't want to do," Norman argued, "is allow new technologies to dictate how we live."

Norman cares deeply about the distinctive character of human communities: "Even though Mozart was a citizen of the world who had traveled to hundreds of cities in Europe, Vienna was his home base." The city was his muse and his refuge. The walls there were sheltering boundaries of his infinite imaginative universe. The ultimate philosophical question Norman ponders: "What does locality mean when we are also part of something very much bigger?"

The professor is not entirely accurate when he says he "stands for the brick and mortar." He also stands for the dignity and security and harmony of the great cities--past and future--and for cultivating the places where we live with one another, what we call home.

Robert Norman tells stories of Mozart's Vienna because it is beautiful music to his ears. --Tommy Ehrbar



NURSING A
MISUNDERSTANDING

While reminiscing over lunch about his days as an ob/gyn resident at Magee-Womens Hospital in the early '60s, an old friend wondered what had happened to a Pitt nursing student he had met at the time.

One day, he remembered, the first-year nursing student was called into an examining room to assist a nurse. The patient, a pregnant woman on the verge of giving birth, began having some minor complications, and the doctor decided to induce labor. The procedure involved a drug called pitocin, used to either induce or augment labor, that is diluted and administered one drip at a time through an IV.

Frustrated that it was taking such a long time for the RN to locate a pitocin IV, the doctor shouted, "Where's the pit drip?" No one noticed, in the confusion of the moment, that the young nursing student had suddenly broken into tears and run out of the examining room.

Soon after, the ob/gyn resident came across the nursing student bawling in a break room. He asked her what was wrong. Through sporadic sobs, she began mumbling that she couldn't possibly return to her shift or even to the nursing program, for that matter, because she felt so humiliated after her experience in the examining room.

The resident asked her what had happened.

"The doctor," she explained. "He just called me 'the Pitt drip.'"--Vicki Glembocki



A CONDUIT ATTITUDE

I'm standing in the middle of O'Hara Street across from Western Psych, deciding whether to turn left toward Presbyterian-University Hospital or right toward the Sunoco gas station. After several minutes of wavering, I finally retreat back into Parran Hall garage. In my short time in the middle of the street, at least 20 cars have driven over me.

The sacrifices I make for this job.

This is a story about steam and tunnels and access panels. Standing in a steam tunnel means standing in the middle of streets like O'Hara--and I mean in the middle--maybe 10 feet underground. I have come with facilities management engineer Bob Gratson into this tunnel, following his map of steam lines that run throughout the campus. The lines criss-cross Pitt like a secret interstate, beginning at the Bellefield boiler beside Carnegie Library and spreading out like, well, like steam lines. The boiler uses more than 60,000 tons of clean-burning, low-sulphur Kentucky coal per year, brought in each winter day via 70-ton railroad cars. At its peak, the system generates 175 pounds of pressure per square inch--enough to heat nine separate institutions, including Pitt, The Carnegie, CMU, Pitt's medical center, and the Pittsburgh Board of Education, all webbed together with a couple miles of steel pipes, much of it housed in tunnels like the one beneath O'Hara Street.

Exploring steam tunnels requires a certain agility. The tunnel provides ample head room, but width-wise it's crowded by the paired steam pipes--"A" and "B" lines, each a couple of feet in diameter, plus a third return line. And the tunnel's floor is curved, making walking a tricky adventure. Plus, the Parran Hall garage access panel sits right next to a enormous exhaust fan; if you don't pay attention, your friends might soon be calling you "Lefty."

I shouldn't joke. Monitoring 180 thermal megawatts of heat is an important job. Keeping tabs on innumerable conduits, tunnels, and access "vaults" requires a cartographer's mapping skills. The steam lines form a huge jagged path around the University's perimeter, with radial lines connected to buildings. Gratson's blueprint divides the system into three loops--"Mellon," "Schenley," and "Hospital," all labeled for reference. Where I stood on O'Hara was M-T-14: Mellon loop, tunnel access number 14. (It sure beats saying "We have a problem on steam line B, somewhere between, um, here and there.")

All access points are securely locked to keep out the curious. As a matter of fact, "tunneling" has become something of a fad among students at older campuses across the nation. (I know it's a legit fad because it has its own discussion group on the Internet. A map of Columbia University's tunnel system is available on the Web, if you're interested in the seamy, er, steamy side of Manhattan.) Around Pitt, you can sometimes glimpse the tunnels through an open grate in the sidewalk, or spy them through the locked gate in the Cathedral's basement. Sometimes you can feel the warmth of the radiant heat emanating from the dark cement hallways running underground.

So much of a city's life--or a university's, for that matter--happens in places you cannot see. Connections are made, lines of access are discovered, new paths are found...yet the surface seems undisturbed. Your Chevy makes a simple turn from DeSoto onto O'Hara, and already you've run over a writer and an engineer.

And let's face it: When you can't summon heat into your office this winter, you're really gonna miss the engineer.--Mark Collins



HARD HIT

It was a perfect day for a baseball game, the sunny Indian summer kind of October afternoon that could have been the reason why base-ball was created in the first place. The kind of day when all you want to do is sit at a ballpark, pop open an Iron City, and disappear into the world of innings and outs and hits and runs, where you can cheer at the top of your voice and no one will care. For the crowd gathered at Forbes Field, though, it was more than just a great day for baseball. It was the day for baseball--the seventh game of the World Series. And the crowd already knew who would win.

They knew because the game they had gathered for on October 13, 1995, actually had taken place 35 years before--the legendary game when Pittsburgh Pirate Bill Mazeroski hit the winning home run against the Yankees during the bottom of the ninth inning of the seventh game of the 1960 World Series. "The hit that closed down the town," some fans have said. But in 1995 there were no players playing. There were no tickets or programs or students watching from the top of the Cathedral of Learning. There wasn't even really a ballpark--just the small strip of grass next to the ivy-covered remains of a red brick wall that once surrounded Forbes Field. Yet there still was a game.

The 35-year-old recording sounded a bit muffled through the speakers set up for the anniversary celebration, drowned out even more by the traffic driving along Roberto Clemente Drive, driving through what used to be left field. But the crowd of nearly 100, decked out in gold and black regalia, didn't mind. They were at a ball game, caught up in the magic, in the rhythm that only baseball inspires. During the innings, everyone listened. In between, they relaxed. Some tossed a ball back and forth. Some lolled around, looking for the 436-foot mark on the red brick wall, chatting with a group at a card table or the one lounging on a blanket on the lawn. Some shared their own memories of the game while others told stories they wished were their own, stories they'd heard over the years from people who'd actually been there.

"Baseball was different then," explained one man sitting alone on the grass, wearing a cap he hadn't worn since the 1960 series, a "Beat 'em Bucs" bumper sticker still taped to the brim. "Baseball was everything. Those players were everything to us."

It seemed, in a way, that the crowd gathered at Forbes Field was there for more than an anniversary. It seemed they were there to try to step back in time for one afternoon and disappear into what they remembered as the good ole days of baseball. The time when a general admission seat was $1.50. When bags of peanuts and popcorn sold for 25 cents each. When the game itself was something people counted on. When the players were more like heroes. Those good old days when a 24-year-old guy named Bill Mazeroski could go down in history for hitting one ball really well.

On October 13, 1995, at 3:36 p.m., Bill Mazeroski's hit disappeared over the left-field wall of Forbes Field, just as it had 35 years before. It didn't matter that the crowd didn't see it this time. They all still stood up and cheered--again.--Vicki Glembocki


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