“Still” not “Steel” is how it’s said here….by at least some of the residents versed in Pittsburghese. Their variation of “you all” is “yins” or “yuns” and they tag “an that” to whatever they’re going to be doing (e.g., “We’re dahntahn watchin’ the Bucs, gonna get some drinks an that.) Some natives aren’t fans of Pittsburghese, but I think it adds to the charm. Turns out this hub of the formerly called Rust Belt is full of it.
First, not much to report from the road between Lexington, KY and Pittsburgh other than to say it was a lovely drive sans rain through western West Virginia, a first on my trip thus far. A few snaps along the way….
I knew this place was different right when I got off the main freeway….
And finally to the impetus of this whole road trip idea- one of my best buddies Michael.
I met Mike in grad school at the University of Oregon a few years ago. In fact, it was at our initial orientation to the program where I saw him across the room rocking a Sonic Youth t-shirt…a sight for sore eyes in any academic setting…went over to chat, and instantly knew we would become fast friends. I don’t have a lot of great things to say about grad school, but Mike’s one of the reasons I could never regret having gone. A true intellect and music fanatic with a passion for justice, and one of the kindest, gentlest, and sweetest people I’ve known (even though, surprising to me even, he’s a closet road-rager), I’m really lucky to call him my friend.
It had been five years since we last saw each other, and I’ve been promising to come out to Pittsburgh for a visit practically every year since. We’ve kept in pretty good contact, though, and his is a friendship that I expect to last a lifetime. I’m glad I finally got it together to make it, and I’m happy to say we had a blast over two weeks of catching up, watching futbol, listening to music, guessing Greece’s fate, grubbing on Pittsburgh’s best (which includes his mother’s cooking and the 7th best Yelped about restaurant in the country, Gaucho Parilla Argentina, where two of Mike’s friends work), and just hanging out. Better yet, I’ll be stopping by again on my way back west for another brief round of good times.
Mike lives in Mt. Lebanon, which is a pretty affluent suburb just a few minutes southwest of the city. I was in awe as we drove around this place…after we loaded up on brews at the local beer distributor. (No running to the grocery store for beer around here, unless you want lower alcohol content.)
I kept thinking these houses would go for outrageous amounts of cash where I’m from in southern California. The cost-of-living anywhere else always catches me off guard, just like it did when I first moved to Eugene and rented a two-bedroom condo for practically nothing by SoCal standards. That said, there still seems to be a lot of money here in Mt. Lebanon.
Even the smaller houses have a lot of style. Lots of brick, too.
I love random things like a pink ball rolling down the street with no one in sight. Which reminds me, the Pittsburgh area is hilly! I had no idea, but driving around here feels like you’re in a mountain community with all the narrow roads and steep inclines. I can’t imagine how difficult it is getting around in the winter.
Mt. Lebanon has a nationally recognized and historically well-ranked school district with graduates as diverse as billionaire Mark Cuban and actor Joe Manganiello (of Magic Mike’s XXL fame) walking out its doors. Mike actually graduated with Joe and says he’s happy success found such a nice guy, who as captain of every sport in school could’ve very easily become a true “jagoff” (more Pittsburghese, haha.)
Brick streets throughout the town blew my mind.
Up on the hill near downtown Mt. Lebanon.
Surprisingly, it didn’t seem to have a lot going on.
My only problem in Pitt, and it’s the same one since I left Phoenix, was the rain. It came down. A lot. A couple weeks ago I read an article that said the national average rainfall this year is beyond what it’s ever been since records have been kept. I don’t know the facts, but from what I’ve seen in the last month, I can’t argue with the assertion.
We don’t see these out west…the Cardinal, not the umbrella.
We went up to nearby Mt. Washington on one of the few sunny days for my first view of the city. It’s a pretty impressive sight. (Click the photo below for a large version, then zoom in for an even better view!)
I didn’t realize it before, but if anyone knows sports, they know Pitt had Three Rivers Stadium. It’s long gone now and replaced with Heinz Field, but the point is that the city is located at the convergence of the Allegheny, Ohio, and Monongahela rivers. You can see Point State Park in the background below at the confluence.
For some reason I thought it was funny this fixer upper with the best view in Pittsburgh was being sold by Berkshire Hathaway. The view in the panorama above is literally available from every window on the backside of this place.
Have you ever seen the movie or read the book “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”? It’s based in the Upper St. Clair township, near Mt. Lebanon. Anyway, there are a couple scenes in the movie of the kids driving through a tunnel that opens up to a beautiful cityscape on the other end. It’s the Fort Pitt Tunnel, and it really is amazing because upon entering you have no idea what awaits at the other end.
I want to go through it at night on way way back west.
It’s hard not to compare Pitt to Portland, Oregon, both in topography and weather. But there’s something about the bridges here that I feel are more part of the cityscape, probably because downtown is less than 20 blocks big and sits in a valley completely surrounded by hills and water.
Andrew Carnegie left a huge mark here…
And so ends Part 1 of Steel City. I’ll be back through, and there’ll be more photos, but of a different sort. Stay tuned for that. In the meantime, NYC and DC are the next stops on the itinerary.