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Pittsburgh, PA – Home of the Steelers.

Posted by gingerbreadpirate on September 19, 2009

Hello, all!  It’s been awhile since I’VE written a post (The Husband), but I will likely be writing more posts, as the Wife is back in school for the semester, completing her Master’s Degree.  She finishes this winter!

In the mean time, I’m traveling like mad for work.  This week, I was in Pittsburgh, PA.  It was a wonderful surprise.  I had visions of a dingy, smelly, smog-filled, big city, with all the downsides of a big city.  Not so, however.  It was very similar to Charlotte, in a lot of ways, but was also very different.  Once the 10th largest city in the Country, now 60th, being about half the size, in terms of population than Charlotte.  Being bounded by the three rivers, it does have the distinct disadvantage of being unable to expand the city’s boundaries, however, and its greater metropolitan area has nearly 2.5 million people.

To be honest, I would not say it was much of a tourist town.  Clearly, the city has not embraced what it has to offer for visitors.  The public transportation subway, “T”, had no instructions for the unindoctrinated.  Indeed, after riding the “T” twice with my co-worker, we had paid $6 ($1.50/one-way fare), never received a single receipt or “ticket”, and still weren’t sure if we had appropriately addressed the system.  See my rant-blog for the whole story.  Otherwise, there was no clear city center, used for drawing in tourists, like most cities have.  Charlotte has Uptown with the Mint, Discovery Place, and the nightlife.  Pittsburgh encouraged us, in our off hours, to go find the local hangout, where we were not embraced as guests, but were equally not shunned as outsiders.

With all that being said, the town was far cleaner than I expected.  Having its history deeply rooted within steel production,  I expected a heavy, almost permanent-overcast gloom over the city.  Not so, however.  The weather was gorgeous.  The city has clearly made a concerted effort to reinvent itself, without the benefit of steel, but without forgetting its heritage.  The medical industry seemed almost intrusive within the city.  We failed to find solace from the seeming perpetual infiltration of the scrub-donning populace.  Indeed, when we had lunch at Station Square, we felt like we had simply missed the memo, as upwards of 70% of our co-lunchgoers were in the light-blue scrubs.  Second to that was education.  University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon, and Duquesne were all there, as the major universities, but there were several, several smaller institutions.   I believe these two staples, education and medicine, were the catalyst for the endless sea of young people who were around.  It seemed like there was no one in the city over the age of 45, except my coworker, and this old, old woman that we saw, literally, crossing the street and shaking her cane at a car waiting for her to complete her trek through the endless salt flat that was the crosswalk.  I kid you not.  The streets were neither clean nor dirty, however; more of a “well-used” look.

The revitalization has clearly been focused on recapitalizing the downtown real estate to provide jobs, not to become an international spectacle, reflecting its humble, blue-collar roots.  The amount of construction was amazing; between the sea of over/underpasses routing drivers across the rivers (usually, in my case, the WRONG river), to building a new skyscraper or sports complex.  Indeed, it was a city focused on taking care of the people who made it great.

Down to the sports complexes.  Being from Washington, D.C., and being a die-hard Redskins fan (please celebrate the victories we’ve had, don’t mourn the dry spell we endure <sigh>), I assumed that all “old guard” franchises (Dallas, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Washington, etc.), who claim to have the “best” fans, were like Redskins fans, and celebrated the team similarly.  Indeed, the Redskins hold the record for the longest sellout streak in NFL history.  Pittsburgh, however, celebrates sports like no other city I have ever seen.  Every three blocks, there is Steelers store, littered with “Franco Harris for Mayor” signs.  It was amazing, and it made me jealous.  I will not name the Pittsburgh fans the “best” (truly, all die-hard fans, regardless of their team of allegiance, are the “best” fans), but I can see that they celebrate their teams wonderfully and differently than Washington does, and I applaud them for it.

While Pittsburgh won’t win any “Best City to Visit” awards, I suspect it would be a wonderful city to live in, speckled with “corner dives” and entrenched in their sports heritage (not just the Steelers, but Pirates and Penguins, too), with a city government that clearly takes an interest in taking care of its people’s needs.


2 Responses to “Pittsburgh, PA – Home of the Steelers.”

  1. Stacy said

    I LOVE Pittsburgh, although I’ve spent a lot of time there visiting family. There is an excellent restaurant (can’t remember where) that is in an old church. It’s a brewery and the confessional is behind the bar – awesome atmosphere and outstanding food.

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