Thursday, April 01, 2010

Love Affair with Pittsburgh

I love Pittsburgh. I just hope my boyfriend doesn't find out I'm two-timing him with a geographic location.
I've lived in Pittsburgh for almost four years and there hasn't been a week that goes by where I see something, hear about something, or do something that prompts me to say, "that's why I like it here so much". I was born in Western New York in a small town, and I've lived in Upstate NY and Boston before, but never have I found such a good fit for me. The size of the city seems just right, and the cost of living is almost right where can pay the rent and my student loans. I like that "Pittsburgh" as an entity covers a lot of territory, so that my address can be in the right city– few New Yorkers ever get to see "New York, NY" on their mail, and when I lived in Boston, I technically lived in Somerville, which is more like a town outside of a town outside of Boston.

I love Pittsburgh in a sort of Michael Chabon "Mysteries of Pittsburgh"-esque romanticized way, as the first time I ever visited was to see A.S., who was born and raised here, and he showed me all of the local sights in a way that tourists just wouldn't (the slag heap! the angsty teen hangout! the places you can get bubble tea!).It was during the intense heat and humidity of August summer, and we were in college, and I still had blocks of time resembling summer vacation. A.S. convinced me there was something dreamy about the place, and others who have moved here since then have reconfirmed that fact. I've even seen two Pirates games during my times here, though I can't admit to staying through to the end of both of them.

Sure, there are some things that frustrate me about Pittsburgh. I'm also seriously irked by mass transit at least once a week as well, waiting around for a bus that doesn't show up, or missing a connection. I don't have a car, and Pittsburgh teeters on the border of one's not needing a car, and one's inability to lug big objects onto the bus, and bothering friends by asking them for rides. Also, obnoxious drunks, my crappy landlord, and Steelers-obsessed fans, but you can find those people anywhere.

Nevertheless, I came here for Carnegie-Mellon but I stuck around. Here are some things I love about the city. It's a list in no particular order (you know I love lists). I love the immediacy of the skyline as viewed from across one of Pittsburgh's 400+ bridges. I love the city's green initatives. The city steps! They are stairways, sometimes enormous, that are also technically city streets, often dubbed "paper streets"...just don't try to turn right on them when driving, as your paper map is misleading. I love the varied architecture of Pittsburgh, from a Richard Meier house on Chatham's campus, to Henry Hornbostle's Rodef Shalom Temple, and many repurposed old warehouses and old factories. I love that the weather is always changing, and that it rains a lot, which reminds me of my semester abroad in Scotland (and perhaps with Andrew Carnegie's influence on the city, the place physically looks a bit more Scottish than other cities). I love being a part of an art scene that allows me to actually get to know people, exhibit a work, get a piece performed, and collaborate with others. Cupcake shops, a vintage clothing store, and a gay bar just down the street from my apartment. Friends made along the way, the quality of light, the closeness to home without being too close. Mattress Factory is of course on the best-of list. Distinct neighborhoods with close-knit concentrations of Russians, Italians, Jews, and families that have stuck around the same street for generations. Putting french fries on every meal item. Pittsburgh's home-boy, Fred Rogers. What's not to love about Mister Rogers' own neighborhood? A restaurant that only sells waffles. New boutiquey shops that open up and try their best to succeed. Andy Warhol is everywhere. The Phipps Conservatory's Japanese garden. A crazy man who ties entire car bumpers to his bike and spray-paints everything teal.

It's only poignant that I write a post to PGH after contemplating moving away, or perhaps starting another chapter of my life in my plan to conquer the music composition-slash-art world, but these thoughts are only fermenting. This is the longest I've ever stayed in one place since college. Maybe the sense that I may not be here forever makes the memories I do have all the more poignant. And there's still more to do, like eating at one of the fancy restaurants on Mount Washington, and going to the Science Center, and visiting Kentuck Knob, out by Frank Llyod Wright's other masterpiece, Fallingwater.
If you haven't visited the city, you should check it out. Just don't move here all at once- I need the rent price to stay low for a little while longer.

(Photos: all taken by myself: Kraus Campos, Carnegie Mellon; airplane over Pittsburgh; downtown Pittsburgh at the Trinity Cathedral; Warhol Museum; private residence in Shadyside.)


jess said...

Aw, Pittsburgh. I will come back to visit sometime in the next few months!

Amy B. said...

I am feeling Pittstalgic, too...

Jake and I went to Kentuck Knob on Monday. It was really, really beautiful. Maybe even better than Fallingwater... almost.

I've never been to the aviary. I need to go to the art museum and Phipps before I leave, too. Maybe we could have dinner at Monteray Bay on Mt. Washington.