Friends, I have made no secret of my love for Pittsburgh. As my graduate student days here wane, I think of some of things I will miss.
Pittsburgh is my first home as an adult. I came here alone to forge my own future, and the city welcomed me warmly with low rent and a beautiful living space, a fabulous and incongruous skyline, late-night Indian food, and the world’s greatest dive bars.
I also discovered (and even still, continue to discover) Pittsburgh’s eccentricities. Right away, I found myself in a land operating by laws I’d never heard of before. I can only buy beer in a bar, but I can take it with me? What the hell is a growler? BYOB restaurants?
Pittsburgh is a land of bizarre twists and turns, dozens of neighborhoods with their own offerings. The first time I rode the Eliza Furnace Trail (Jail Trail), I was amazed. There’s a secret path behind the Cathedral of Learning that takes you over some railroad tracks, through a tiny residential neighborhood, through a big park, and then drops you on the Hot Metal Bridge (which, for me, usually leads to the bike bar). Mr. M and I seriously just found Highland Park and all it has to offer, like, last weekend.
I also feel like Pittsburgh gives rise to some great creative projects–I’d like to say, in a way that other places can’t, or at least in a way that wouldn’t be the same if they were to happen someplace else. We have an active arts community–here’s one in my neighborhood. The cycling community has made itself strong. Young people build excellent businesses, such as these (all owned by women friends my age): http://www.pavementshoes.com/, http://evolvemodhair.com/, and http://pghpopcorn.com/. Yesterday I went to Fleeting Pages, set up in the massive cavern left by Borders.
They set up an independent and local bookstore and community gathering space.
I loved being in the reclaimed space. The escalators have been shut down. There is much more room to wander. Upstairs, some of the repetitive Borders furniture has been replaced by an old, long, heavy oak table and an assortment of chairs. A sewing machine and a typewriter sit on desks against the wall. It was amazing how quickly this space was transformed into a place that felt like home. I can say the same thing for the city. It’s amazing how, when I mention that I study psychology at Duquesne to a stranger in Pittsburgh (most recently, the manager of a new beer distributor in my area), they say, “Oh, yeah, existential-phenomenological theory and psychotherapy.”
Pittsburgh has given me the greatest karaoke experiences of my life, the first place that I really felt like a “regular”–the Quiet Storm (I go here all the time–seriously, check Foursquare), and an excellent Bikram Yoga school. They gave me my first farmshare and an appreciation for good food. They gave me Girl Talk and Wiz Khalifa. My god, they even got me to enjoy watching football a couple of times. Pittsburgh has been deeply generous to me, and during my time here I’ve received massive support and encouragement, had a series of opportunities open up to me, and learned huge things about the world and myself. We’re not quite finished yet.