What do I have to say about Pittsburgh?

It’s a small big city. Getting to the center of Pittsburgh from the outskirts only takes twenty minutes if you’re not driving during rush hour. During peak times; take a book–you’ll sit still long enough to read a chapter here and there. It’s different from NYC or LA, where you have acres and acres of city spread out wide and vast. You drive for long, long minutes before hitting the core.

Pittsburgh’s City View

There are views of Pittsburgh that take my breath away. Come through the Fort Pitt Tunnel and boom! the City is laid out before you. Bright stadiums, the Carnegie Science Center, and 5th Avenue Place dead ahead.

Coming from the east (after surviving the Squirrel Hill Tunnel), you round a curve on 376 and there it is! PPG’s spires shoot up grand, tall and shiny. The (former) US Steel building proclaims the city’s heritage even with a name change.

From the north, zip down 65, and glimpse the city, then see a blast of city, and the colors of three rivers. The view coming from the northeast is totally different. You gradually wrap yourself into the twisting threads of roadway that weave you into buildings, then poof you’re through, and driving over a river again.

How about the view from Mount Washington? Breathtaking at night, like no other skyline I’ve ever seen. Not sprawling Los Angeles from the Bon Adventure Hotel with its spinning bar. Nor Central Park from the 70th floor of Rockefeller Center. Or New Orleans from the 40th floor of the French Quarter Marriott with its grand view of the wide Mississippi.

Mt Washington, Pittsburgh

Friends in Montana don’t think a city can be pretty, but they haven’t seen Pittsburgh in the springtime. From Mount Washington, the sky spreads out and trees are full and colorful—several shades of green from trunks to buds.

Autumn in Pittsburgh?

We hear about the New England states in the fall and some year I’ll make that trek. In the meantime, I can drive Alex batty with the leaf collecting I do each September. “Oh, look at this one!” I say about the eighteenth maple leaf I pick up during a walk. The words come out in a surprise as if a maple leaf is brand new. Well … one was.

Cars sing on the brick and cobblestone streets—some of the uneven ones chattering your teeth. Our morning sky often looks gray like the steel that made this city.

We read shop names as we walk the neighborhoods: Jakicic, Puznakoski, Rozgonyi, Mericli, Merigliano, Klingesmsith, Felen, Fellabaum, Coulter, Caputo, Capriotti, Boothe, Tozzi—the ethnic names I grew up with. There are new names, (Hashimoto, Hashmi, Seghal) reminiscent of my time spent in Los Angeles. Montana taught me to read names and realize the story they can tell: Robert Lone Wolfe, Sheila Tall Pine—fabulous imagery for your mind.

Transplanting to Pittsburgh

I met a person new to Pittsburgh—she’d lived in big cities like Boston—and I know that Pittsburgh is very different. I urged her to look at our cultural district with six varied theaters and to become immersed in what we have to offer: friendliness, low crime rates, so many universities that you never hurt for diversity or the opportunity to learn, museums that evolve.

There is so much to do here that Alex and I have crammed Grandma’s vintage cookie jar (yes, cousins, I have it) full of ideas. Dinner at ___________; coffee shop on _______________; the ______________ theater; a new walking trail along ______________________. Any time we’re stymied or we’re falling into a rut, one of us reaches into the black, flower-covered jar and pulls out a new adventure.

Pittsburgh makes me crazy with drivers who make up their own traffic laws, streets that aren’t linear, and reluctance by some people to cross rivers or drive through tunnels. None of that outweighs how much fun it is to live here, how contagious the civic pride can be, and how much more there is to do other than watch sports. Come and visit just once and you’ll see what I mean.