Saturday, October 9, 2010

Best Friday Ever (well... at least here in Pittsburgh)

There are a number of interwoven tales here. So bear with me, I feel as though most of it is interesting.

So Carnegie Mellon's theater was putting on a production of "He Who Gets Slapped." I am a fan of culture. But I didn't really have anyone in particular to enjoy such a play with, so I sent out an e-mail to the Shadyside (church) Young Adults group. This e-mail was also inviting people to join me for dinner, I made some joke about the face that I was asking the whole group out on a date. I sent this out Thursday morning, this timing comes in to play later. The message was a little awkward; however, a few people responded. So Jessica and Lexi responded and said that they would be up for a evening of high society. I had never met Jessica, but I had previously met Lexi (I think she is a quasi leader of the ministry).

Well, turns out this weekend is Fall family weekend at CMU (family... where were you?) and the show had been sold out for a while. I was not expecting this, and I did not know this until 3:45 on Friday afternoon. Well this sort of destroyed my plans. I made sure that everyone knew that the show was full, and I just kept working on my Computer Photography project. At the time I think I was transposing beards on to people's faces. I decided that I would work on stuff for a while, then head in to Oakland and get some dinner, and head home.

As I was sitting down at Chipole, with my glorious burrito, I get a text from Lexi saying that if I was hungry, she had a friend who was having a BBQ, and that I was invited to come if I wanted. Seriously. My phone went off as I was in the process from going to standing to sitting. I thought about it. I ate my burrito. I thought about it some more, and realized I didn't have anything better to do. After confirming that I was invited, and establishing that I was within walking distance, I had some time to kill. Lexi was not going to get off work for a while, but I knew the intersection that the apartments were near, so I thought I would try to find them.

I ended up walking the wrong way. But I re-found MadMex, a restaurant that Dad and I went to when he was here! Dad, if we would have gone down the street for another 2 blocks there is a Mexican place that looks like I need to try it. So in aimlessly wondering around, I walked past two guys sitting on a bench. Seeing as I am properly trained by Holly, to make eye contact with people, I looked at them and smiled. One of them said "Hi" which is not all that normal, but a nice surprise. I walked past them for about a half block and realized that I had zero clue as the where I was headed. I thought that I would try to ask the two guys I just pasted if they could point me in the right direction. The conversation went a little like this:
Me : "Hey, sorry to interrupt, but could I ask you a question?"
Guy 1 :"Not a problem, what is up?"
Me: "I am looking for Center Ave. where abouts is that?"
Guy 1 : "Oh, it is about a mile north, <through some shady neighbor hoods> , take Craig St, up until you get to a big green building, that is right next to the intersection of Center and Craig. Are you not from around here?"
Me : "Oh, ok, thanks! Nope, I just started at CMU."
Guy 2 : "Where did you come from?"
Me : "Washington state..."
Both guys : "Oh! Wow, that is quite the trek."
conversations continues for quite a wihile. They started to tell me that they were about to start a book group in the Oakland area, and hinted that if I wanted to take part in I could. I think the guy may have seen my bad religion patch on my bag, he mentioned that they were going to start with a book that looked in to why mainstream religions don't encourage questioning of faith. And how it normally makes Christians really angry. I mentioned that as a Christian, I think it is really important to question everything. Only after you have wrestled with something, can you truly know what you believe. I think both of them were expecting a different response, and their eyes sort of lit up. At that point I realized that Guy 1 was wearing a shirt with a gigantic cross on it, so I asked him if he was a Christian, he replied with "Yeah, I am a pastor."

So Lance is the pastor of a fairly new church (5 years) that has a very unique and powerful mission. They intentionally rent out space from another church for Sunday worship, with the idea that he does not want the church to become financially tied to the building. He wants the money to go straight back in to ministry. He believes very much that ministry is to be carried out away from the church, and encourages groups to meet in public spaces so that they can pull others around them in to the church. They are a very missional church, and they focus a lot on looking to the comunity. Guy 2, Richard, has been a member of the church for quite sometime, and really really enjoys it. I got to talk to them for a while about the book group that they are starting, about punk music, about mission, about life in general. In the middle of the conversation, Lexi called back with more detailed instructions, as well as numbers for people who were going to be there. So I was wrapping up the conversation, when Lance, looked at Richard and asked if he was ready to go, he said yes; then asked me "Would you like a ride to where you are going?"

Ah! So cool! I got to ride around with these two guys for a little bit, They both impressed me as good men. Very welcoming, and very sociable, they had a certain genuine quality. I made sure to exchange information with them, so that they could contact me for the next event that would happen. And the let me off right next to the apartment building I was heading towards. Awesome. That made my day.

I do not really know Lexi all that well. I have met her 4 or 5 time before, and in large group settings, I would classify her as an "acquaintance." But I got the same feeling from her as Lance and Richard, she is a very charismatic and genuine person, very centered on how others are doing. Needless to say, I was a little intrigued as to what I was about to walk in to. Lexi was running late as well, so she was not even there yet. However she told me that Jessica (yep, other girl who was going to go see the play) was going to be there. So I called Hedi (the resident of the apartment I was going to), she was expecting me and gave me directions on how to get in. I walked in to the apartment and was very energetically greeted by a room full of guys, one of which was Hedi's husband (I cannot for the life of me remember his name) who welcomed me in and introduced me to everyone in the room.

A note about the apartment. It is the pent house of the building. It is on the 11th floor of the highest building for about 20 or so blocks. It has an amazing view of the east side of Pittsburgh. It was not all that big, a living/dining room area, a very small kitchen, a bedroom, and a very funky (yet big) bathroom. With a giant deck! Ah! Amazing. So I made it out on to the deck and met Hedi, and Jessica! Yay so at least I know of one person there. Jessica and I talked for a while out on the deck, enjoying the awesome evening (it had been a beautiful day, and the evening was perfect). Eventually Lexi got there, her Brother Luke also came, I had met him before. And Matt came. I got to know Matt at the Never ending pasta bowl night. All of those people right there, turns out are also awesome people. I talked with Matt and Lexi for a long time, just sharing stories and laughing. They are good, funny, righteous, people. People were filtering in and out of the "party" all night. Total there were most likely 15 to 20 people there over the course of the evening.

It was very enjoyable to just relax and be social with people who are not from India, and with people who are not taking courses at CMU. It was really nice to just sit back and watch everyone interact, try to figure out who people were. I imposed upon Matt for a ride, and we left around 12:30ish. Matt and I had a great talk about life in Pittsburgh, and something that he called a "christian family." This is something that he has been looking for, and is excited about seeing it come together. More or less it is the grouping of like minded people together, for support, growth and fellowship. I really liked what he had to say about it, and was amazed at how much his ideas resonated with me.

I have a strong feeling that I will be hanging out with them some more in the future.

So today. Before I go to bed:

Larry is gone. He is at some Ligonieere Days thing.... he invited me to go, but I have too much stuff to get done. This morning I met up with Mitch to work on Machine Learning, we made really good progress, and I feel a lot better than I did about this time two weeks ago. After that I headed over to the ECE graduate Fall  picnic at an amazing pavilion in Schenly park. On one side of the pavilion, there were burgers and hot dogs, on the other side, trays and trays of Indian food, typical.

If you look, you can see that the two smallest girls are playing T.o.W.

Two things: Playing volleyball with Indian kids is not all that enjoyable (and interesting that my ability, which is poor, was better than anyone else). And I dominated the power of suggestion. There was a air-brush tattoo guy there. He sat there for an hour doing nothing. No one was going up to him. So I sat down and started talking to him. As soon as I sat down, a line formed behind me and he was busy for the next 2 hours. I ended up with this:
Nope, that is not a Poisson Blend...


  1. You are an adventurous soul. I'd say you're getting your nickel's worth out of the Pittsburgh adventure. My comprehension skills being what they are (fading) I am trying to remember if you have written about wearing the kilt yet - or if you haven't do you have it in your plans?
    It worked out okay so I won't say anything about getting in the car with two guys you just met... even if they did play the Christian card on you. Sorry Scott - I'm not a trusting soul.

  2. Haha, Stan: it was either go with two average looking white guys, or try to navigate through an area that I was not familiar with. At night. By myself. In an area that is not known for rainbows and butterflys. Don't worry, it did cross my mind when I was climbing in to the back of the van, that I could end up really far away from where I started with no way back.

    Speaking of the kilt, I think it may have its debut tomorrow! Thanks for the suggestion, ill let you know how it goes.