Gotham City
August 21, 2011

My reports on sailing this summer have been so focused on the winds that I have neglected to remark on the most remarkable part of downtown sailing.

Gotham City tag

Each sailing venture starts in the middle of a dense downtown. I'm never quite sure what I will find when I wheel my bicycle out onto the street, laden with sailing gear. Sometimes it's the lunchtime crowd. Sometimes it's lines of people waiting for a bus. Sometimes the streets are quieter.

The uncertainty has been greatest over the last few weeks while the new Batman movie was being filmed in the streets in front of our place and the alley behind it. Earlier this Sunday morning we'd wandered up to the corner to gawk at some of the vehicles used in the filming. Gawking is popular, so the vehicles are protected by a police officer and film staff.


Then a flock of inline skaters flutter past.


By the time I'm ready to sail in the early afternoon, the temperature is in the high 70s. It's warm. Yet the street is draped in snow. It's fake, but visually quite convincing movie snow that we've been tracking inside for weeks.



Since the morning, a line of movie trucks has pulled up, blocking the street view. I lean my bicycle against a post to take a photo.


The film crews have blocked off different parts of the street to keep spectators out of the filming. They are lined up against the barricades, talking and taking photos.


Here's the view down Smithfield Street.

batmobile maybe

The object under the beige tarpaulin is the batmobile, I'm told. It sits on a machine that will raise and lower it, so it looks like it is swooping and swerving through the streets.

Then the remarkable transition begins. I've ridden to the edge of the downtown street grid. Now I'm at the Allegheny River and about to cross the 7th Street Bridge. Gazing across it and its sister 6th Street Bridge, I'm looking straight into the ballpark. A game is underway and a tapestry of people is covering the seats.


I'm soon cycling under the same 6th Street Bridge, where Kayak Pittsburgh is launching and retrieving its kayaks.

kayak launch

Riding along the river's edge, I come to a riverboat. Perhaps it has just delivered passengers to the ballpark; or perhaps it is waiting to load up with passengers when the game is over.


I'd been running along this stretch of river the night before just as the game finished. It was so crowded with people making their way to riverboats or car parks that I could progress only with gymnastic zigzags.

Now I'm riding past the Science Center. They have set up a life-sized version of the Mousetrap game.

Science Center

Next comes the casino. It is right at the water's edge, so people drift out to sit on benches and watch the water.


Finally I am at the marina, ready to deal with launching my sailboat. All around me is the calm of a marina, set in trees on the river's edge, and slapping of water against the docks. It is hard to imagine that just a few minutes before, I had been immersed in the grit of a downtown filming of a movie. My sailing plans would take me back past every landmark just passed. I'd see them all, from a different, watery vantage point.

My thoughts were far from them, however. Looking westward along the river, I could see quite ominous storm clouds. They might interfere with plans to sail. Now what do I do?

storm clouds

John D. Norton


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