Why I like Pittsburgh

IMG00035IMG00012-20091025-1208Giant Rubber Duck's American Debut Goes Swimmingly - Wired Scienceneil_walker.jpg.size.xxlarge.letterboxphoto Imagine if you will coming into the airport in Pittsburgh,Pa. and not knowing much about our fair city. The first two guys you see are shown above. One is George and one is Franco. Now George made a big splash here in 1753 as a surveyor and almost literally drowned in a big splash in the Allegheny River. But he went on to great notoriety as a British officer and helped to secure the cornerstone of our city’s early existence -Fort Pitt. He later made many trips to our region and Pittsburgh was near and dear to his heart. The other guy, Franco made a great catch in a football game against the hated Oakland Raiders that went down in gridiron history. If you ask most older Pittsburgers today, they will all tell you, in a friendly way, that they were at the game and saw the “Immaculate Reception.” Now if that were true, I would estimate that there were 600,000 people at that game. Wow- that must have been crowded. I don’t rememberit being THAT crowded because I was there. ( Yea – sure you were Pat). But I was.

As you make your way through the tunnels, you are treated to a spectacular collage of buildings and 3 rivers that form the “Point”. You can see the most beautiful baseball field in the country( PNC Park), as well as Heinz Field that is the home of the Pitt Panthers and the Pittsburgh Steelers. But as you make your way to the Strip District and perhaps the South Side, you will begin to notice what makes Pittsburgh so special- the people. Pittsburghers are a friendly lot and will be glad to help you find your way even take you there if they have the time. In many larger cities, folks are in survivor mode and will hip check you to get a cab, or they will do whatever they can to get over on you just because there are so many people. It is survival in the bigger cities, but Pittsburgh is just small enough that the pressure of urban civilization has been lost a little bit on our community.

To go along with the friendliness of the city are the neighborhoods. Please check out a great blog, http://90Proofpgh.wordpress.com This will give you a great feel for the neighborhoods that make the city so special. Local cuisine, taverns, restaurants in corners and nooks, all are represented. Everyone thinks that Pittsburgh is all about Primanti sandwiches, but as good as they are (late at night), there are so many more eateries and establishments in Pittsburgh’s many neighborhoods that can be enjoyed. 90 Proof can illustrate it well.

Pittsburgh is an enthusiastic town. When the steel industry went in the tank in the 80s, Pittsburgh was resilient and vowed not to be a “rust belt” city. The city fathers welcomed construction of new residence communities to encourage surburbanites to think about living and working along the rivers and supporting the new life that was sprouting up out of the coal and dust of the industrial evacuation. Pittsburgh quickly became a white collar community with the UPMC Medical Facility expansion and the rise of the financial markets in town. Along with this entrepreneurial excitement and resiliency, was the spirit of our community in it’s tireless support of it’s sports teams. The Steelers are having a rough start, but that does not stop the Black and Gold faithful from attending in sell out conditions and having their beloved tailgates at every home game. We are in playoff baseball right now and it is the first time that the Pirates have been in the post season in 21 years. The other night the park was standing room only and the balance of fans were either on the Clemente Bridge watching what they could, or glued to ther TV sets at home sporting Bucco gear in their neighborhoods. The Penguins opened their season this week and Stanley Cup fever is in the air and Pittsburgh fans hang on every word that comes out of Sidney Crosby’s mouth.

We even have a 40 foot rubber duckie moored in the water!! Pittsburgh is the innaugural bathtub for the Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman’s duck and Pittsburghers lined the rivers and the point by the thousands welcoming this piece of inflated art that will be here for a month. The crowds at PNC Park say that the duck is good luck to the Bucs and are grateful that it will be floating close to the stadium in the post season. Shaundra Miles of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust says it best when she remarked that the duck is a “reminder with all that is going on in the world, that there is joy, and joy in simple things.” That is what defines a person living in the ‘burg. We have joy in our communities, our city, our sports teams, and in our lives in general. There is a spirit in Pittsburgh that is most evident in the happiness that a kielbassa sandwich brings at a football game, the micro-brews that are enjoyed at the many local establishments, the thrill of a home run in the post season, the visual bonus of fireworks over our three rivers, the colorful buildings, and the comraderie in the streets during a game or in the work place in anticipation of a win on the ice, field, or gridiron. That spirit is alive in me because of the many nights I sat up and listened to Bob Prince (The Gunner) broadcast a Pirate game and announcing after a victory that ” we had then alllllllll the way!!!” That red plaid sportcoat is etched forever in my memory.

Pittsburgh also has a vibrant outdoor community. Visit http://www.ventureoutdoors.org to see the many hikes, beer tasting hikes, bike rides, snowshoe events, and other outdoor instructional outings that this organization so aptly make available to visitors and locals alike. Janet and I like to use the many bike paths that wind their way through the city. You can park up river and ride to the games, leave your bike in the racks at Kayak Pittsburgh on the Allegheny River, and then return without having to worry about parking. Ride to the Red Fin on Herr’s Island and take in a good lunch while looking at folks enjoying the river on their boats and jetskis. Get involved with the rowing clubs on the island and get instruction on how to take part in a great activity on the river. You don’t have to go to an Ivy League school to learn to row. You can do it on the Allegheny River with a local club.

Well, I may have exhausted that visitor who first stepped off the plane and met George and Franco in the airport. But there sure is enough for him or her to do and maybe, just maybe, they will begin to have that great Pittsburgh spirit as they enjoy dahntahhn with a chipped ham sandwich and some Blend an at. Go see the duck, root for the Bucs, and be glad that you have experienced the “Most Liveable City in America” Thanks for reading.