Bone City

April 25, 1994|By ANDREI CODRESCU

PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh.--It was after dark and I was standing in a vast hall filled with the hugest bones on earth, dinosaur bones. The dinosaurs themselves towered to great heights over us, supremely bony in their chiaro-oscuro.

Nature used to be profligate and excessive, I said to Dennis. It made bones like these once. Now look at us, pale fearful worms crawling about the remains of the lavish experiment.

Dennis, who had sneaked me into the greatest dino boneyard on earth, in the Natural Sciences Museum in Pittsburgh after closing hours, said that Andrew Carnegie had financed the earliest dino-bone hunts in order to satisfy something in himself. He was himself a dinosaur, a lavish creature from the days before income taxes, who had roamed the hills of Pittsburgh once. Mr. Carnegie and Mr. Mellon and Mr. Frick threw lavish palaces all over the hills of this town.

Dennis drove me to a hill where the Frick manse and museum stood. The house had been left exactly the way Mr. and Mrs. Frick one sad day in the 19th century left it. They moved to New York and never came back.

The teacups rest still half-full on tables crowded with morning bric-a-brac. A housekeeper on the third floor removes the dust but moves no object from its place.

Dennis' tour of great bony facts then took us up Polish Hill to the modest neighborhood where Andy Warhol was born. Andy left Pittsburgh as soon as he could, but in the end both his body and his art came back. He is buried here and the Andy Warhol Museum will open next month.

Pittsburgh reclaims its own. Only the Fricks, who fled without notice, got away. All others come back. Even Dennis, who used to live in New York. It's a nice city, he says. There is a free subway and the city loves art.

I believe it. It's a big bone city. Later, when we play basketball in an art loft, Dennis runs smack into a decorative airplane propeller and bruises the bone of his skull. Some cities have flesh, others have bones. Pittsburgh is bone.

Andrei Codrescu is editor of ''Exquisite Corpse.''

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