Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Opportunity to See Our City with a Fresh Set of Eyes

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Opportunity to See Our City with a Fresh Set of Eyes

Article excerpt

The Stauffer family of Homer City in Indiana County is a fixture at the North Side Citiparks farmers' market on Fridays - Wayne and Shallimar and their grown children, April and Jeffrey. Under their tent, they unbox produce from the back of a box truck while their driver sits in a sling-back chair off to the side.

The Stauffers are old-world Mennonites who neither drive nor use electronic devices. They have been selling at the market for several years, but their sense of place is a roughly 10-foot by 10-foot parcel of space on the east side of Allegheny Commons Park for four hours a week.

Earlier this autumn, 24-year-old Jeffrey Stauffer leafed through a book of photographs of the city that Randy Strothman had taken and published. A marketing consultant who lives near the market, Mr. Strothman also has been a documentary filmmaker and TV producer.

The images tantalized Mr. Stauffer, who ventured to ask whether he might get a look at some of those places in the book. Randy offered to give him a tour and invited me along as a neighborhood consultant.

For two hours, we visited places I have seen hundreds of times, if not more; yet I was seeing everything through the eyes of a humble young man full of thank-yous and curiosity, whose world is mostly on a farm. He has never taken a selfie. He has never been in a selfie, and when I thoughtlessly took a photo of him, I felt his discomfort before he said anything.

"I'd rather you wouldn't," he said softly. "We're not supposed to pride ourselves."

He did acquiesce to a photo of his shadow as he read the story plaque at the George Washington/Guyasuta sculpture on Mount Washington.

Mr. Stauffer stopped to look at an old hi-fi record player at Randyland, a North Side tourist attraction. A hi-fi is a familiar conveyance of pop culture to baby boomers and a complete mystery to anyone younger.

"Mennonites don't use such things," he said.

Randyland is a colorful compound that gets hundreds of visitors a day from all over the world. Owner Randy Gilson wasn't there that day, but the place was crawling with the awestruck and the curious, all taking photos.

The sandy courtyard in the middle is chock-full of playthings and art objects, plastic rats and snakes, chairs hanging from a third-floor balcony, painted doors and artifacts from the past. …

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