I love my city
February 9, 2008, 11:39 pm
Filed under: Pittsburgh | Tags:

I don’t know if I’ve made the clear in the past, but I do.

I also love it when other people love my city. I love it when they tell The Internet about loving the city too, in prose that I wish I could produce. Thank you, Dutch at Sweet Juniper!

I fell in love with this city 4, almost 5 years ago. I went to the Governor’s School for the Sciences (HUGE, HUGE nerd of epic proportions) at CMU in 2003. 5 weeks of science, pretend college, no sleep and fantastic memories in a wonderful place. We were all under 18, so officially we were “wards of the state” for those 5 weeks and hence, under strict limitations as to our whereabouts. For instance, we needed TA’s to go with us if we wanted to get ice cream at Dave and Andy’s. For non-Pittsburghers, CMU is about 8 (longish) blocks down the street from the cross-street that Dave and Andy’s is on.

Despite these limitations, we still got to experience the city. I watched 4th of July fireworks from Schenley Park, rode the rollercoasters at Kennywood and waterslides at Sandcastle, went to a ballgame at PNC Park, and explored some of Oakland. Before the program started, my mom and I had dinner at Station Square, where I covered my ears as the trains pass by a few feet from me, blocking my view of the most glorious skyline, behind the restored Bessemer. This was all an extremely touristy, scrubbed-up overview of the city, but after those 5 weeks I was hooked. I didn’t bother applying to any other college. I knew this was where I wanted to be, probably for the rest of my life.

Of course, I have a hard time convincing my family of this. They are certain that if I wasn’t dating Bear, I would go elsewhere, preferably back east. In all honesty, Bear is a huge part of me staying here. I want to stay with him, and he wants to stay in Pittsburgh. It helps that I also want to stay here. Also, he is part of what I love about this place. The people are different from where I grew up. Eastern PA is a different state than Western PA. In some ways, things are very similar, but the people here are more open, welcoming and warm. The Germans of PA Dutch Country are notoriously stand-offish, unwelcoming, and cold. Outsiders are recognized and not made welcome. My mom went to the same elementary and high school as I did, and people recognize her from that. When people don’t recognize her because of her childhood, they recognize her maiden name as being the major candy and chocolate business in the vicinity up until the 1980’s. People still ask me for recipe for Marshmallow fluff eggs (lost when the business was sold when I was 4, and subsequently collapsed, and my grandfather left it when my mom was 16, anyways). Of course, it helps that my mom is so very tall and loud so people remember her. Regardless, we are “insiders”.

However, my friend Becca moved there at 14 from Missouri/Minnesota. They have distinctive accents, and no connection with people here. They had a hard time making friends, and will never be totally part of the community. Her mom complains about it regularly. That makes me sad, that as a community, we don’t welcome strangers.

Pittsburgh is different. Bear is one of the most welcoming people I know, as is his family. People here love sharing their food, their city and their traditions with you. They love welcoming you and getting to know you. They love to share. It is something I love, but will also never get used to. I fight against my inherent need for personal space constantly. Sometimes it’s hard for me to contain my shock when Bear’s aunts kiss and hug me, because that is not the way I was raised. I know it is the better way: we should all share what we love, and tell our loved ones that we love them as often as possible. Life is better that way. We should also pause at intersections and wave people waiting to turn left in front of us. That never happens back east: it is expected here.

Essentially, Bear is representative of what I love about this place: he is hard-working, fun-loving, and warm. He pushes me, gently, to step out of my box of German shyness. I love exploring this city with him. I love trying to find new churches with him, hiking down Pittsburgh steps and getting lost in the Hill District. I love driving down 376 and both being shocked when we turn the bend right before the Oakland exit by the site of downtown popping out of the hill. I love fighting the crowds in the Strip District, buying hunks of cheese, bags of biscotti, and huge jugs of olive oil. I love breakfast at DeLuca’s (egg, cheese and kielbasa with a milkshake, mmmm). I love chit-chatting with people in the stores, and feeling like we’re family because we love the same places. I love people watching while waiting for buses in desolate locations. I love taking the 54C across the Birmingham Bridge (closed now because it dropped 8 inches! AH infrastructure!). I love the hills of Pittsburgh. Specifically, I love how I can see down the hill through Oakland to the South Side Slopes, from the bus stop in front of Trees Hall. I love the distinct neighborhoods, from the houses perched precariously on the Slopes, to the old Victorian dames being refurbished in Shadyside, to the fake flowers displayed proudly in the windows of Polish Hill and Italian Oakland old ladies. I love the identical Virgin Mary’s displayed in little brick shrines throughout the city, particularly in Oakland. I love the very very tiny Italian old ladies who are about 175 years old, and still totter through the neighborhood, going to church and visiting friends, surrounded by the mess left by drunken college students. I love how hard this city is trying to recover from the fallout of the steel industry. I love how they’ve embraced science, medicine and technology as a new way to support the economy. I love how the newspapers bemoan the 2% loss in population since 2000, but the actual people ignore it and are thriving despite it. I love how the steel industry might be gone, but as the sites are being renovated, the history is being preserved. The Waterfront retained the huge smoke towers, the site of the Homestead Massacre. Station Square has the Bessemer. The Hot Metal Bridge, originally built to be able to carry hot metal from one side of the river to the other by a steel company, has been renovated for car traffic, and pedestrian walkways are being added. The buildings are being cleaned to prevent the soot from disintegrating the walls, but sections of dirty stone are being saved to remind us of the steel past: the Carnegie Museum has done this, as well as the Carnegie Institute at CMU. Pitt tried to do this when they pressure-washed the Cathedral of Learning last summer, but a missed memo caused the saved section to be washed accidently.

Long story short, my family is wrong. I would stay here, Bear or not. This is my home, these people are the people I want to be, and I can’t imagine living anywhere else. I want to raise my children like Pittsburghers, kissing and everything, not like the PA Dutch.

I love this city. Can you tell?


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