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4200 FIFTH AVENUE

The morning after the Monongahela River rose and swelled over its banks, I sat in a car on the Grant Street ramp of the Parkway, watching the river course downstream. I watched for a long time, not by design, but by circumstance. Further ahead, the Parkway was closed, overrun by deep water. This was the last stop. All cars had to get off here and figure another way to get to where they were going. Myself, this was the exit I wanted anyway. But no matter. I still had to inch along with all the others.

I wasn't complaining. I studied the eclectic traffic on the Mon where thick tree branches and other pieces of flood debris were being pushed along through the soupy brown water as if the prize of a giant dog paddling mightily along underwater to bring this magnificent trophy back to shore. The river was impatient, urgent, I less so in the face of it. Watching the water sweep along, I realized that there's nothing like big weather to force a retreat from the onslaught of your life's demands. Your thoughts may have been scurrying frantically as usual through the litany of your mental to-do list--clean the bathroom, wash the dishes, feed the cat, figure out why the humidifier is making a scraping noise that sounds like someone is in your basement shoveling snow, worry about finding a graduation present for your oldest niece who got her diploma a year ago already, call your mother, be a better friend, make everyone happy--all in the next hour. Big weather, though, insists that you turn your attention to where you are right now, to the great well of water suddenly ahead, to the ice-covered road, to the menace of lightning, the fury of heavy rain, the sway of tall trees in terrible wind. Nothing like big weather to remind you that you could drown, wreck, swerve, lose control.

Or be set free. Over on the other side of town, a piece of a dock broke from its moorings and, so, down the ice-choked Allegheny, floated this: a ragged wooden raft--upon which sat a resolute old ice machine. The ice machine bobbed cheerfully up and down with the movement of the choppy river. Now and again it nuzzled up against the floe-sized chunks of river ice--Free Willy, reunited at long last with his glacial brothers and sisters. Born Free may have sounded in the noble distance. "Frosty" set out on his true course to the sea. The ice machine cometh.

At a staff meeting Last fall, contributing editor Tommy Ehrbar took his trademark ochre-colored #2 pencil out from behind his ear and tapped it, eraser end, on the table. This is how he gets our attention. We know that the tapping is what he does as he forms his shyly singular ideas. With this issue, Pitt Magazine would move into its second decade in its incarnation as a four-color magazine, he pointed out. Working at Pitt Magazine is a lot like being carried along by a swift river current. You look up and find that one or five or ten years have gone by. (Tommy, by the way, has been here from day one.) We hope that Pitt Magazine has afforded our readers moments of contemplation and connection. And, like the spunky Ice Machine of the Allegheny, we hope we have offered moments of unexpected humor and joy.


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