It’s a cloudy afternoon in The ‘Burgh with a threat of rain. I’m sitting at my work station, doing what every full-time editor/publisher of an online magazine does: searching for content. The radio is tuned to the local 24/7 news station and I’ve been checking out online publications that are locale centric like The Village Voice (New York City) and the Gothamist (New York City). Which got me thinking about The Gazette (Pittsburgh).
But the Pittsburgh Flash Fiction Gazette is less about Pittsburgh and more about one particular neighborhood in Pittsburgh: Bloomfield. Why do I cover Bloomfield? I hang out there. I sing karaoke there. I live in North Oakland, but I drink in Bloomfield. Bloomfield is only a ten-fifteen minute walk (I’ve never actually clocked myself) from my apartment building. This is what Wikipedia has to say about Bloomfield which is also known as Little Italy…
Bloomfield is a neighborhood in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It is located three miles from the downtown area. Bloomfield is sometimes referred to as Pittsburgh’s Little Italy because of its historically Italian-American population. Pittsburgh architectural historian, Franklin Toker, has said that Bloomfield “is a feast, as rich to the eyes as the homemade tortellini and cannoli in its shop windows are to the stomach.” Today the neighborhood has a combination of working class Italian-Americans, various other European populations, African-Americans, and a substantial population of college students. Liberty Avenue is the neighborhood’s main business thoroughfare. Every year the Bloomfield Business Association hosts the Little Italy Days Festival.
…Several years ago I tried to capture Little Italy Days in a flash fiction story.
La Dolce Vita
Bloomfield is a neighborhood in Pittsburgh. Because of the large number of people of Italian heritage living in the neighborhood, Bloomfield is known as “Little Italy.” For three days every year during the nice weather a food festival is held…
Food booths line both sides of Liberty Avenue. The smell of hot sausages, green peppers and onions and many kinds of pastas and their sauces cooking fill the air. There are also stands cooking and grilling non-Italian foods like Chinese fried rice with beef, shrimp and chicken and all kinds of egg rolls. Other food stands serve gyros, shish kabob, hummus, ribs, kielbasa, hamburgers, hot dogs and chicken. There are many stands that sell things a customer cannot eat but the things are nice to buy.
The songs of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin issue from large speakers. The crowds flow leisurely back and forth. The crowds are made up of people of many different ethnic backgrounds. Adults push babies in baby carriages. At different times during the day musicians and singers perform on a stage setup on a blocked-off side street. Sometimes the singers sing in Italian. Above the heads of the crowds, on flag poles up and down the avenue, the red, white and green bars of the Italian flag snaps in the breeze.
Brad Wilson was happy. He was happy because Kristin Clayton walked beside him. He’d known her for more than a year and now they were both sophomores at the University of Pittsburgh; but this was the first time he’d actually asked her out. He was pretty sure she liked him. They’d spent a lot of time together freshman year with mutual friends but this was the first time he’d actually asked her out just by herself.
“Brad, look,” Kristin said. “Smoothies.”
“I love smoothies.”
They waited in line and he bought two from the woman behind the stand and gave one to Kristin.
“Thank, you,” she said.
The two continued slowly strolling with the crowd.
She said, “It’s good.” She smiled up at him.
“It is good.”
They kept strolling. Overhead, the flag of Italy snapped in the warm breeze. Brad was working on his courage.
“Ah, Kristin?” he said.
“Hummmmmmmm?” She was watching the sights.
“Ah, well, see I was thinking. I mean maybe…Well I really like you and, ah, we’ve known each other for more than a year now and like I was thinking maybe you would like to be my girlfriend.”
She stopped walking and looked at him. He could see she was confused.
He said, “I mean no pressure. I mean we’re really good friends and that’s…I really like us being good friends. I like doing things together.” He thought, that was weak. Man, that was so lame.
In silence they strolled on. He thought, think of something to say. Quick, think of something to say.
Kristin, concentrating on her smoothie, said, “I thought I was your girlfriend.”
This is Guy Hogan reporting for the Pittsburgh Flash Fiction Gazette.
PS I’ll be back on my beat in Little Italy the last week of this month.
Hail to Pitt!