Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Bombs Found In Car During Lebo Traffic Stop

Several homes in Mt. Lebanon were evacuated for a short time Monday evening after police stopped a motorist who had several homemade bombs in his car. No one was harmed, and the Allegheny County Bomb Squad removed the devices without incident, Mt. Lebanon police Lt. Mark Rayburg said.

"There is no indication that this incident is terrorist-related," he said. The motorist, a Pittsburgh man who was being questioned last night, will be charged with possession of prohibited offensive weapons and reckless endangerment, Rayburg said.

Link: www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/news/cityregion/s_519883.html

Link 2: www.postgazette.com/pg/07212/805726-100.stm

Link 3: www.kdka.com/local/local_story_212165425.html

Link 4: www.postgazette.com/pg/07213/806005-100.stm


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Thursday, July 26, 2007

At Last, Lebo's Wilson Living His Dream

When the 1999 Major League Baseball draft was approaching, there was speculation Mt. Lebanon's Josh Wilson would be a first-round pick.

The shortstop ended up going in the third round to the Florida Marlins, but in a draft that has been known to last 50 rounds or more, that still signified Wilson, son of Duquesne University coach Mike Wilson, was considered a top prospect.

Link: www.post-gazette.com/pg/07207/804238-139.stm

Link 2: Josh's player information page

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DUI Task Forces Report On Results

Two area Driving Under the Influence police task force teams released results of sobriety checks held this month. Last Friday, the Mt Lebanon Area DUI Task Force held a stationary sobriety checkpoint on Washington Road during overnight hours.

Police arrested eight drivers for DUI, and one person for possession of a controlled substance and possession of a prohibited offensive weapon. Officers also issued nine traffic citations and 36 warnings. Drivers also were reminded to buckle their safety belts.

Link: www.post-gazette.com/pg/07207/804301-55.stm


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Sunday, July 22, 2007

Lebo NOT One of Money Magazine's Top 100 Towns

Money magazine recently released its annual "top 100 towns" in America. Mt. Lebanon, nice though it is, didn't make the cut. Want to know more? Here's Lebo's fact sheet, where Lebo stats are rated against the "best places" average. What hurts? Negative job growth. Terrible diversity index. High property taxes relative to property value. Lousy air quality.
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Friday, July 20, 2007

Mt. Lebanon Sidewalks In Need Of Repair

Nearly 400 Mt. Lebanon residents have four more days to decide what to do with their cracked and uneven sidewalks. During an annual assessment of sidewalks, municipal workers identified 382 sections on 28 streets in need of repair. Residents received letters last week and must let officials know if they plan to make repairs themselves or have a contractor hired by the municipality do it.

"This program, it's a benefit to the residents," said public works manager Tom Kelley. "We have a fairly substantial sidewalk network that is pretty heavily used by the residents."

Link: www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/news/today/s_517705.html

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Commissioners Discuss New Aquatic Center

After hearing a consultant's four final recommendations for a new aquatic center, commissioners had whittled the selections to two outdoor choices: A new bathhouse and a combined leisure pool and competitive eight-lane, 25-yard pool for $7.4 million or a new bathhouse and separate leisure pool and competitive 50 meter pool for $9.7 million.

But at a July 9 meeting, commissioners asked consultants from Councilman-Hunsaker to give them estimates for how much it would cost to simply replace the current 50-meter pool.

Consultant D. Scot Hunsaker said he would do the work and also pull out the figures for the bathhouse redo, since that would be a good portion of the cost.

There is no timetable for the decision but at least four commissioners would need to approve a bond issue for the project. Three commissioners chose not to seek a seat in this year's election so the board will have three new faces in January.

Link: www.postgazette.com/pg/07200/802605-55.stm

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Transit Stations' Futures Being Plotted

Despite the lack of glitter and glamour associated with planning transit-oriented development, dozens of people turned out for several meetings on the topic in Mt. Lebanon last Thursday.

The three meetings united a team of planners working on potential development in what is being called the South Hills Transit Investment District. Dormont and Mt. Lebanon are spending $200,000, including state grant money, on a study to investigate what kind of development mix would be desirable and feasible for the 1/2-mile area around each of three important light rail transit stations: Dormont Junction, Mt. Lebanon and Potomac.

Link: www.post-gazette.com/pg/07200/802660-55.stm

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Mt. Lebanon Street Party Will Aid Autism Center

When Cindy Waeltermann got the diagnosis for her nearly 3-year-old son, she recalled, "All I heard was 'autism,' and I think my ears started ringing. I heard nothing after that."

To compound her distress, her younger son later was also diagnosed with autism. "That truck didn't kill me when it ran over me, so it backed up to make sure I was completely dead," she said.

Such reactions are common among parents in her position and that's one of the reasons for the group she directs, the Autism Center of Pittsburgh/AutismLink. The center now needs a South Hills location, which could cost $15,000. That's where ULTRAparty comes in. ULTRAparty, a street jam Aug. 3 in Mt. Lebanon, will offer music, food and drinks with proceeds benefitting the Autism Center of Pittsburgh/AutismLink.

Link: www.post-gazette.com/pg/07207/804285-55.stm

Link 2: www.post-gazette.com/pg/07200/802661-54.stm

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Blue Horse Coffee Named Best In P-G Readers' Poll

Lebo's own Blue Horse Coffee was recently named as the Best Cafe/Coffee House in Pittsburgh by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Reader's Choice Restaurant Poll.

Link: biz.post-gazette.com/restaurantpoll


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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

FiOS TV Getting Closer to Lebo

Verizon announced today that it is close to reaching franchise agreements with more than 15 Western Pennsylvania municipalities -- a necessary step before Verizon's FiOS TV can enter the market to compete with cable giant Comcast. FiOS TV, which will deliver television programming over Verizon's fiber-optic network, is expected to be available in Pittsburgh before the end of the year.

The agreements cover Bethel Park, Mt. Lebanon, Peters and Upper St. Clair in the South Hills.....

Link: www.postgazette.com/pg/07199/802457-28.stm

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Washington Park Moves Forward

Washington Park, a $44 million mixed-use development planned for Mt. Lebanon, has been designated a tax increment financing district and has received a $5 million tax guarantee from the state.

“We have a contract pending for the sale of three units. Starbucks has expressed interest in coming to the site. We’ve talked to a few boutique grocers. We’re working very hard to study what the demographic wants to see there,” says Michael Heins, CFO with Zamagias Properties. “It’s a great location from the standpoint of access to Uptown Mt. Lebanon. It provides exceptional access to Downtown and the stadiums.” Amenities will include wine storage, exercise facilities and 38 unique floor plans. Additional retail may include a spa and wealth management firm.

Link: www.popcitymedia.com/developmentnews/pittsburghcondos0718.aspx

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Art Loft Opens Doors In Mt. Lebanon

A new art venue has joined Mt. Lebanon’s central business district at 615 Washington Rd. On July 6th, Art Loft hosted its inaugural exhibition INTERSECTION:ART/LIFE, in conjunction with the neighborhood’s popular First Fridays series.

Link: www.popcitymedia.com/developmentnews/pittsburghgallery0718.aspx

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Friday, July 13, 2007

Hidden Mt. Lebanon, Chapter Four

[For the first post in this series -- on the centrality of children and dogs in Mt. Lebanon -- click here.]

[For the second post in this series -- on the Fourth of July celebration in Mt. Lebanon -- click here.]

[For the third post in this series -- on the status economy -- click here.]

This Hidden Mt. Lebanon tip isn't so hidden for most Mt. Lebanites; it comes mostly as a surprise, however, to folks who move to town from outside of Western Pennsylvania.

This town goes nuts for its football team. High school football has a following and an intensity in Western Pennsylvania that is matched in only a handful of regions around the country, and Mt. Lebanon is not immune. Quite the opposite, in fact; expectations for the team on the field frequently run high.

In some ways, high school football in Pittsburgh is more important than Steelers football. That's heresy to some Pittsburghers, I know, but the Steelers don't open training camp this summer for two more weeks. The Mt. Lebanon football team is already running organized summer practices. I was at the stadium last night, and that looked like coaching to me!

Even if you're not a football fan, stop by the high school stadium for a home game on a Friday night. Soak in the atmosphere. Chat with your neighbors. Watch the band, and especially watch the drum line after the half-time show. When you're on the soccer field the following morning, watching your kids run around, the town will be talking about the football game the evening before.


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Mt. Lebanon: Birthplace of the Computer Virus

Born in Pittsburgh:

Rich Skrenta, a 1985 Mt. Lebanon High School graduate, is credited here with developing the first virus for a microcomputer -- when he was in the 9th grade. The virus celebrates its 25th birthday this year.

Skrenta moved on to bigger and better things. Computer viruses continue to play a big role in Pittsburgh.

[Thanks, Steve, for the tip; cross-posted at Pittsblog and Blog Lebo.]

Link: Rich Skrenta page on Wikipedia


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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Mt. Lebanon Historical Society Hopes To Get A Home

A Mt. Lebanon historical group wants to move its collection of artifacts from homes and rented storage space to its first permanent home.

The Historical Society of Mount Lebanon, organized in 1998, hopes to sublease the basement of a building owned by the Mt. Lebanon Parking Authority and recently asked the municipality for help paying for the plan.

Link: www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/news/cityregion/s_516799.html

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State Grant Would Aid Mt. Lebanon Hospital Expansion

St. Clair Hospital's $13.5 million expansion of its emergency department might receive a $500,000 state grant.

The Redevelopment Authority of Allegheny County agreed to submit an application for the money, part of what's needed to enable the Mt. Lebanon hospital to increase treatment rooms from 26 to 46.

Link: www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/news/cityregion/s_516797.html


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Mt. Lebanon Celebrates 100-year History Of Oldest Municipal Golf Course

Amid the lush green fairways dotted with golf carts, 150 people Saturday evening toasted the 100th anniversary of the Mt. Lebanon Public Golf Course on Pine Avenue during a daylong fete that culminated in the unveiling of the Historic Landmark plaque honoring the oldest municipal course in the state.

Link: www.post-gazette.com/pg/07193/800976-55.stm

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Mt. Lebanon Firm Buying Retirement Community Faces Lawsuits, Sanctions in California

Sunwest Management, the Salem, Ore., firm that is set to take over management of the Covenant at South Hills retirement community in Mt. Lebanon, has had action taken by the state of California to revoke the license of an assisted living community it manages in Mission Viejo.

In addition, the firm recently settled a lawsuit filed against it by the family of a dementia patient who walked away from the same facility, called Paragon Gardens, and has never been found. Sunwest faces yet another suit that contends an elderly Alzheimer's patient was found with a dead rat in his mouth.

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Mt. Lebanon Family Looks To Sky For Concert In Son's Memory

When it comes to honoring the memory of their son, Matt, the sky is the limit for the Conovers. The Mt. Lebanon family has helped build a playground in Mexico, raised more than $150,000 for cancer research through various benefits, such as the sale of scarves fashioned by volunteer knitters. And the family has endowed a memorial fund at church, and more.

Link: www.post-gazette.com/pg/07193/800872-55.stm
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Mt. Lebanon AD Gets Three-Year Contract

Monday's Mt. Lebanon school board meeting became a pep rally for Athletic Director John Grogan and high school swim coach Don Wagner, who defended themselves against complaints lodged against them at the June 18 board meeting.

The audience was filled Monday with swim team members and parents and other supporters of Mr. Grogan and Mr. Wagner and about 20 of them stood up to defend the men and the way they do their jobs.

Link: www.post-gazette.com/pg/07193/800986-55.stm

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Sidewalks Proposed For 15 Homes In Mt. Lebanon

Fifteen homes could have sidewalks added to their property under a Mt. Lebanon proposal that aims to give kids a safer walk to Foster Elementary School.

The plan, submitted by the Mt. Lebanon Public Works Department, calls for 866 feet of sidewalk to be added to four homes from 202 to 214 Whitmore St., and 11 homes on MacArthur Drive, from 845 MacArthur, to the corner property, 128 Woodland Drive. Mt. Lebanon would pay the estimated $40,000 cost.

Link: www.post-gazette.com/pg/07193/800985-55.stm

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Lebo School Board Follow-Up

David Franklin gave me permission to post this text of an email that he sent to me:

I think it is only appropriate (after last month's events) to provide an entry for comments following Monday night's school board meeting. I was amazed at the number of residents that appeared to speak in support of Mr. Grogan and Coach Wagner. They included parents, coaches, students, teachers, residents and many others. They spoke in a common voice, and many spoke quite emotionally about their positive experiences with these men. A far cry from the rumor, innuendo and half truths that were spewed by just a few people last month, including a Board member.

I was shocked to learn the facts not only about Coach Wagner, but from Coach Wagner himself. I was also amazed to hear from the assistant coaches and the Aqua Club officers themselves, who to a person all stated that none of the unhappy parents ever brought their issues or concerns about Coach Wagner to them. As both a lawyer, and more importantly a tax payer and a parent in Mt. Lebanon, I was appalled that my colleagues in the bar (the women who spoke out against Coach Wagner last month were attorneys) and my neighbors would raise allegations from Coach Wagner's past in a public meeting that had previously been fully investigated and determined by appropriate officials to be without merit. Conveniently, they left those final details out of their public comments, and unfortunately the rules of evidence do not apply at school board meetings.

Perhaps the most spot-on comment on Monday came from a well-spoken gentleman, who accurately pointed out that the few malcontents that show up at the school board meetings represent the incredibly small minority, and that the majority of the residents don't show up because we are generally satisfied with the staff, the administration and the operation of the district. He also correctly noted that it probably makes sense for a few more of us satisfied customers to show up now and then just to say, "Good job."


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Monday, July 09, 2007

Officials To Listen To T-Station Area Ideas

Residents of Dormont and Mt. Lebanon will get a chance this week to put themselves on the forefront of what urban planners call a national trend in transportation planning.

Allegheny County and municipal officials will listen Thursday to suggestions for enhancing neighborhoods around Port Authority light-rail T stations. The meeting is the first step in what officials hope will transform the T-station areas into community hubs.

Link: www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/news/cityregion/s_516335.html

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Saturday, July 07, 2007

Port Authority Cutting More Bus, Trolley Routes

Less than a month after reducing bus and trolley service by 15 percent, the Port Authority of Allegheny County has announced another 10 percent cut. The Port Authority said that unless the state passes a budget that dedicates more transit funding, bus service would be cut again in September.

The cut list includes 37A Mt. Lebanon-McFarland, 41C Cedar Boulevard, 42M Mt. Lebanon Short, 46H Pleasant Hills, 67E Greensburg Pike, 75D Penn Hills-Monroeville, 77C Shadyside, 78E Penn Hills-East Vue Express, 84B Oakland Loop and many others.

Link: www.thepittsburghchannel.com/news/13635577/detail.html

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Friday, July 06, 2007

Hidden Mt. Lebanon, Chapter Three

[For the first post in this series -- on the centrality of children and dogs in Mt. Lebanon -- click here.]

[For the second post in this series -- on the Fourth of July celebration in Mt. Lebanon -- click here.]

I moved to Mt. Lebanon for the schools. When I visited before committing to move here, I liked the old houses and the big trees and the sidewalks, but I moved to Mt. Lebanon for the schools. I was completely and utterly unaware of both the town's self-image and of its reputation in Pittsburgh more generally. That first Fall, one of my daughter's new friends invited her to the Howe School Sunny Funny Fair. (We live in the Markham neighborhood.) When we presented ourselves at the ticket table at Howe, our friend announced to the kids selling tickets that my daughter went to Markham. One of the little girls behind the table looked up at me and said, "Oooh, you must be rich!" That was a "welcome to Mt. Lebanon!" that puzzled me, to say the least.

Fortunately for me, I've both learned a lot about Mt. Lebanon, and even more fortunately, I don't care much about these things. My family has gotten a good deal out of the schools, and we've enjoyed living in town. Still, we've had to pay attention to local culture as we've moved around socially and culturally -- even with kids, and even with a dog. Today's Hidden Mt. Lebanon tip focuses on the most important dimension of that culture: Mt. Lebanon operates on a cultural economy that traffics in one ultimately important commodity: status.

What I mean by "status economy" is that folks (and groups) in Mt. Lebanon have it -- some high, some middle, some lower -- and they are concerned, and sometimes obsessively so, with keeping it, that is, with maintaining its value. Some people work hard at moving up, but in Mt. Lebanon, I think, we have a community composed largely of people who think that they have it and simply want to hold on to it. In economic terms, maintaining your status means keeping the supply relatively low and the price relatively high. Look around at groups in town -- PTAs, athletic associations, political party committees, social networks in various neighborhoods -- and on and on -- and think about how this plays out in terms of who is "in" and who is "not." Who are the status monopolists? (Please, keep your answers to yourselves!) Public communications circulate the accoutrements of status. Mt. Lebanon magazine, for example, doesn't do a lot of investigative journalism. It does do a lot of smiling neighbors and renovated houses.

I've thought about this a lot recently in terms of anxiety expressed on the blog about anonymity. If I speak publicly and by name, goes the argument, then I and/or my family will be punished or ostracized. Some of that fear is specifically tit-for-tat -- if I speak out against the coach, then the coach will sit my kid. Much of it, though, is broader and social -- if I associate my name with an opinion that turns out to be unpopular, then my neighbors will look at me funny. That's the status economy in action. Twice in the last week, in conversations about topics raised on this blog, people speaking to me have used the word "McCarthy-ism" in connection with local pressures to conform. I think that's an overstatement; the pressure to conform socially, and the fear of expressing public criticism, is a status thing. Anxiety about status produces subtle efforts -- and sometimes not so subtle efforts -- to enforce the status quo.

Lots of high-end suburbs revolve around status. Mt. Lebanon is a little different from most of them, because the status economy here, as elsewhere in Pittsburgh, has been so static. Mt. Lebanon as a whole, its high status neighborhoods, and high status groups and high status families have been high status for a long, long while. Middle- and lower-status institutions likewise haven't moved much. Some high-end suburbs occupy geographies where lots of people come and lots of people go. The churn of mobility keeps the status economy in motion; no one gets too hung up on the "right" schools, groups, people, clothes, car, or things to say (or not).

Is any of this changing in Mt. Lebanon? Or should it change?

After all, the status economy isn't peculiar to Mt. Lebanon or Pittsburgh; chasing and conserving status is an American thing. As Gene Collier might say, invoking his least favorite sports cliche, it is what it is.

But as more young families move to town, and as more non-natives move in, there is at least the possibility of reorienting the status economy just a little bit. It is not true that every resident of Mt. Lebanon is status-obsessed, though some who deny that they are status-obsessed are nonetheless active participants in the status economy. And there are those Mt. Lebanites (the leading contender, by the way, though it doesn't have a majority of the votes) who clearly thumb their noses as the status economy. But change is a more likely option today than perhaps it has ever been. Rich (and sometimes uncomfortable) public discussion of local issues -- social, cultural, political, economic -- helps to loosen status supply and demand. Even Mt. Lebanon magazine, in my view, has read less like a "happy talk" publication in the last two or three years, which I think is a good thing. Social monopolists, like real monopolists, thrive on secrecy and control of information. Population churn brings change. Transparency brings change.

And at the end of the day, that -- change -- is what the local status economy has to confront. Many people of good will don't want Mt. Lebanon to change. It's quite a nice place just the way it is. In many ways, the status quo is a good and useful thing. But many people -- perhaps a minority, perhaps not -- would like to feel less socially stifled. They would like to see the status quo shaken -- and stirred. The status economy won't go away. But what happens next, if anything?


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Thursday, July 05, 2007

The End of the Suburbs?

Take a look at this response to Jim Kunstler's post about the coming end of "Peak Suburbia."
Kunstler is convinced that the end of the oil economy will mean the end of suburbia as we know it. To some extent I think he's right. The remorseless proliferation of retail space, for example, is seriously threatened by the web. Of course, there's another side to this: Chicago's population is shrinking because affluent gentrifiers consume more space. Perhaps the same is true in retail, though how that will be enough to sustain long-term expansion isn't clear. Here's where I think regulatory interventions designed to encourage the "recycling" of abandoned retail and residential space makes a lot of sense.
. . .
So what will the next American lanscape look like? I think Paul Krugman had came close in "White Collars Turn Blue," still one of my favorite magazine articles of all time.

But this proved to be a transitory phase. For one thing, high gasoline prices and the cost of environmental permits made a one-person, one-car commuting pattern impractical. Today the roads belong mainly to hordes of share-a-ride minivans, efficiently routed by a web of intercommunicating computers. However, although this semi-mass-transit system works better than 20th-century commuters could have imagined -- and employs more than 4 million drivers -- suburban door-to-door transportation still takes considerably longer than it did when ordinary commuters and shoppers could afford to drive their own cars. Moreover, the jobs that had temporarily flourished in the suburbs -- mainly relatively routine office work -- were precisely the jobs that were eliminated in vast numbers beginning in the mid-90s. Some white-collar jobs migrated to low-wage countries; others were taken over by computers. The jobs that could not be shipped abroad or handled by machines were those that required the human touch -- that required face-to-face interaction, or close physical proximity between people working directly with physical materials. In short, they were jobs best done in the middle of dense urban areas, areas served by what is still the most effective mass-transit system yet devised: the elevator.

Except I think this "share-a-ride" arrangements will work well in old suburbs retrofitted for 24-hour living. We'll see.

Getting the prices right will have cross-cutting effects. In some cases, this will mean making driving more expensive, a strike against suburbia. But it will also mean encouraging telecommuting and a decentralization of America's growing population, from dense inner suburbs to existing small cities and towns. That will be a strike against downtowns, which will have to diversify from hulking office towers devoid of families to flourishing 24-hour communities. Consider the added advantage is that 24-hour suburbs, with more and more adults working from home, will be better communities for children, with more eyes on the street.

Something to think about when you've had enough about the strengths and weaknesses of the School Board and the athletic director.


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High End Nonconformists

From last Sunday's New York Times, a parent's thoughts on her iconoclastic graduate:
As I watched the ceremonies, it occurred to me that anyone who chanced to walk in could not help being struck by the principle of diversity on display that morning. Without indulging in open dissent or looking to rail against the established system, each of the girls was clearly marching to the beat of her own drum, putting a new twist on a school tradition. Thoreau and Emerson, those great American connoisseurs of individualism, would have warmed to the proceedings, and Robert Frost, had he been in attendance, would have realized that more than a few of these girls had already struck out on the road less traveled by, even if it was only by way of a daring accessory.

Then there was my daughter, who was dressed in a demure skirt and blouse that she bought at the last perilous minute, as is her (and my) regrettable habit. A stranger would never have picked her out as a potential rebel; if anything, she has always been determined not to stand out. Except for one fact: Of her senior class, she alone had decided to sidestep the college-application process. This campaign — more an assault than a campaign — to push, prod and expensively tutor one’s teenager into the most auspicious, cocktail-party-ready of colleges has crescendoed in the last few years, fueled by the growing belief on the part of upper-middle-class parents that there are no ungifted offspring in their gilded ranks.

Although this elitist stampede is decried by one and all as being antithetical to the recognition of real talent and to democratic values as a whole, it is nonetheless almost uniformly embraced. And much though the administration of my daughter’s school professed to admire her decision to take a year off after high school, the fact remained that she was the only one of her class who was not heading off to college come the fall.

Which brings me back to my daughter, who, underneath her shy and somewhat diffident exterior, has always harbored the soul of an iconoclast. I might take some credit for having planted this renegade seed — when she was still very young, I invented a nonconformist club to which we were to elect worthy candidates (we found very few) — were it not for the fact that where I am volubly contrarian she has always quietly done her own thing. The truth is, I am of mixed minds about having handed on the mantle of dissent — of keeping a leery distance from the commonly held view — to my daughter. I worry that her instinct to think for herself is as much a curse as a blessing — that she will, despite her capacity to establish close connections, end up standing warily on the sidelines. Although as a culture we bemoan the perils of groupthink, it can be very cold once you move beyond the circle of warmth that is the reward for adding your voice to the collective chorus. We celebrate loners and visionaries, but we tend to do so only after the fact, when the class nerd who sat by himself in the lunchroom ends up writing a best-selling software program. Defiant individualism is fine if it succeeds, but for every misfit who becomes a Charles Bukowski or R. Crumb there is one who becomes Jeffrey Dahmer or the Unabomber. Striking up a different tune has always come with certain costs, beginning with ridicule and ending with social ostracism. A famous loner of a British poet once noted that “our virtues are all social” and that there is always the lurking possibility that what you stand for on your lonesome is nothing more than “a compensating make-believe.”
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Association Aims To Boost Castle Shannon Boulevard Business

Take a walk along Mt. Lebanon's Castle Shannon Boulevard between Pennsylvania Boulevard and the Shop 'n Save and you might be one of the few people out there.

Lots of vehicles pass by -- about 18,000, according to a 2002 study by PBS&J, a civil engineering firm with offices in Coraopolis and Canonsburg. But not too many who drive them stop and shop at the 45 or so establishments located on the one-mile stretch of road.

"People forget we are a business community down here," said Cassie Gillen, 37, who owns Josephine Florals Furnishing Finds at 190 Castle Shannon Blvd.

Link: www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/news/today/s_515642.html

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Monday, July 02, 2007

Hidden Mt. Lebanon, Chapter Two

[For the first post in this series, click here.]

I promised that Chapter Two of "Hidden Mt. Lebanon" would be "living with fear" -- that is, dealing with the profound anxiety, fear, and anger that swirls below the placid surface of the cauldron of our little town. But there's a holiday coming up, and I'd rather write about the positive today.

Hidden Mt. Lebanon lesson number two: The best community party of the year takes place at the high school on July 4, before and during the fireworks show.

I'll start with a confession: The Fourth of July is my second favorite holiday -- Thanksgiving is #1 -- and it's one of the few that comes with a built-in excuse to celebrate publicly, with a lot of people that you don't necessarily know. As a child, I used to go to the Fourth of July parade in Redwood City. When our kids were young and we lived in Oakland, we would drive up to Piedmont on the Fourth and watch a perfectly silly parade. The highlight was the Lawn Chair Drill Team. When we moved to Mt. Lebanon, we arrived on July 1. Right away, we went looking for something similar.

We found it at the high school. Lebo has no parade on the Fourth, but we do have something that serves just as well as community glue: the fireworks show. Because Western PA is home to the Zambelli family, and probably for other reasons, lots of communities in the area have great fireworks on the Fourth. I don't know how Mt. Lebanon compares on that score, and where there is the promise of a great fireworks show, lots of people gather. So Mt. Lebanon may not be special on this score either (or on others -- another Hidden Mt. Lebanon chapter to come!). But I do know that if we're in town on the Fourth, we're at the high school in the evening, along with thousands of other people.

The fireworks are terrific (and loud!), but there's also a palpable and visible sense of community all around you. We walk to the show, accompanied by dozens of neighbors. We spread out on lawn chairs and blankets and beds of pickup trucks. The party spreads up on to Washington Road and down below the main parking lot; there are satellites at Markham and probably other places. Unlike high school football games, where some people in the stands want to watch the game while others simultaneously use the evening for socializing, at the fireworks show the action is neatly divided into "before" and "during." "During," you have no choice but to watch and/or listen to the action in the sky. "Before," however, is all strolling and chatting and playing with the kids and watching them play. This is Mt. Lebanon at its least self-conscious and most comfortable, neighbors and friends enjoying each others' company.

Happy Fourth, everyone. If you want to see me on Wednesday evening (fireworks start at 9:30), I'll be wearing a blue ball cap with a white "Y" on the front.

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