Pittsburgh Pit Stop: Merry At The Abbey
We agreed to meet at The Abbey at seven on Friday evening. We’d been friends since freshman year of college, so I reasoned that taking a couple extra minutes to choose the correct earrings would not be detrimental to this occasion. I still silently correct myself, heeding that internal warning to not take advantage of anyone’s time or expectations, as I navigate the Lawrenceville hill to Butler Street, glancing nervously at the dash clock.
The drive proves fruitful for finding parking just in front of the cemetery entrance. I laugh, trying to back into the open space not neglected by the red-arrowed city sign, in front of a car I guess is a stranger’s. I’m hitting the curb multiple times and needing to pull forward and readjust again. And again. Sigh. Daydreaming, I must have failed to calculate the curve in the sidewalk. My friend’s cutely trimmed profile appears in my rearview mirror as she emerges from the car space behind mine. I turn off the engine, embarrassed to have not been erratically parking anonymously, and soon join her on the sidewalk as we approach the restaurant separately, me more than a comfortable call’s wavelength behind. My cell phone goes silently into my pastel pencil-case-turned-purse, and suddenly my friend is across the street, thankfully still oblivious to our concurrent presence, or just my parking job that disguises how long we’ve both been driving in the city.
We find each other inside what was once a funeral home, she cheerfully informs me after a hug. The hardwood floor leads up a twenty degree incline to the pub, which tonight is packed with guests. We search for a seat at the bar counter in vain.
The young host says table reservations are booked until nine. Patio seating is closed for the coming storm. Instead, we wander over and find a couple cozy stools behind the coffeehouse taps. It’s quiet enough to talk here, despite live music playing across the open hallway (is that what’s called the bistro)? It feels like a city within a city, like the close quarters of Roman times, like the underground site at the history museum in Barcelona, except everyone here is eating, drinking, talking, alive.
Couches line the covered part of the patio, where reclined pairs chat comfortably. A fountain flows peacefully while the rain begins, unaware of any absence of audience.
I would describe all this in architectural terms if I were that astute, but the lighting is beautiful: the spectacular wooden rose window-turned-chandelier speaks evidence of Pittsburgh’s past, while our coffeehouse conversation diminishes two cups of tea. Hers: iced, mine hot, decaf. In the pub the TV is broadcasting its sound across the bartender’s space. Overhead, red and yellow glass lamps emit an ecclesiastic glow.
The menu and alcohol selection are comforting and challenging enough: raspberry beer bubbles over my wine glass, and the house soup suits a more melancholy mood, a tomato-based seafood. Laughter wafts across the room’s chatter as we reminisce and share stories, cooing and awwing at photos of new family members, like we were friends before Facebook (really, we were).
Next time, I might make sense of the writing on The Abbey’s upper hallway walls, of this beautiful intersection of art and life, church and death… Or maybe we will just enjoy the food and beer, remembering what a couple Biblical writers inspired: “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.”