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pittsburgh, photos, recap, thoughts etc.

Filed under: — adrian @ 12:28 am

I spent 48ish hours in Pittsburgh a little after Christmas. It was my first trip there in two years. I’ve already posted a couple from the trip, but here’s a bit more.

I love Pittsburgh. I’ve lived in something like nine places at this point, but the longest tenure and most formative years were spent in Western Pennsylvania. I didn’t really didn’t think much of it while I lived there, but in summers of college and afterward on visits, I realized how much I liked it. Let’s say that everyone I know who didn’t grow up there thinks I talk too much about Pittsburgh for their liking.

When Pittsburghers say “Pittsburgh” to non-natives, they often mean Western Pennsylvania. Culturally, linguistically and in landscape it is a region that is pretty unique region. And driving to Pittsburgh from Southeastern Virginia, I could tell when Western PA was getting near–Cumberland, MD seemed very familiar. A shrinking town in a hill with similar architecture. And maybe it’s selective memory mixed with nostalgia talking, but I think if you lean your head against a car window and look out, through the trees and at the sky, you can tell just from that when you hit Western Pennsylvania.

Pittsburgh surprises me every time I go back, both by changing and by staying the same. I didn’t expect there to be cyclists on the road or to have the same experience at a number of places that I had 8 or 10 years ago. Coming from a place where bars and restaurants and people turn over every few years, it’s odd to be in a place where something is still pretty new if it was built five years ago and many people have spent their whole lives in the region.

One of my favorite traditions is late night pizza at Mineo’s. It’s cheap and good and the company is unbeatable.

A newish place to me is Pamela’s Diner. They have great food at reasonable prices, compared to what I’m used to. I’d been introduced to the original (in the Strip) a few years ago by a friend from out this way who’d moved to Pittsburgh. It’s still good.

I’d been to Jerry’s and to Paul’s CD but I’d never been to Dave’s Music Mine. I don’t know how that hadn’t happened before, but it’s a pretty cool place. It’s got a good used selection and their soul records are pretty good.

I had a couple pinball aficionado friends that lived in Pittsburgh for a bit. One introduced me to pinball at the Beehive. I liked the Spiderman one. It had plenty of action but it was still pretty straight forward.

I love walking around the South Side. There are such great buildings. Also, there’s a sweet Salvation Army Thrift Store. I bought a suit for New Year’s Eve for $6.50.

I went back to the Church Brewworks for the first time since 2000ish. It was still good and, hey, possibly even better now that I can/ like to drink beer.

I went to Gooski’s for the first time. We didn’t spend a lot of time there, but I can imagine spending a lot of time at a place that’s halfway between its hard scrabble Polish neighborhood and the hip and alternative side of the clientele. Next time I’ll have to have the pierogies.

Primantis is as good as I remember it, but I’m glad I have Giordano Brothers the rest of the year for my Pittsburgh-style sandwich cravings.

I rode the incline, had cheap draft beer at a dive bar, and watched a football game.

Oh and did I mention I got to have buckeyes for the first time in a while? They’re a Christmas tradition for me and the region for whatever reason.

Pittsburgh always seems to tease me when I’m leaving, as if to say, look, Pittsburgh can have enticing weather sometimes.

Finally, all my friends now seem to have GPSs in their car. These are pretty funny in Pittsburgh, with its convoluted roads, one way streets and difficult geography because the driver inevitably says/ yells: “Why does it want me to go that way?? No, no, no, this other way is much faster.”

4 Responses to “pittsburgh, photos, recap, thoughts etc.”

  1. Mummy Says:

    Super pics….Yes, the Steel City is special in a very textured and gritty way. We had many happy times there. I must admit, I have a soft spot for the ‘Burgh.
    Don’t forget Pamela’s in Oakland, where you can also get a fabulous omelet

  2. Leo Says:

    a bunch of my friends from high school (in Morgantown, WV) have moved up to “the city” recently and I’ve briefly toyed with the idea of moving there as well. Maybe it’ll be more interesting now, though it feels a bit far from the ocean. Boo! :-(

  3. Alex Says:

    I totally agree with you about Pittsburgh. Man, what a fabulous city. I do miss it sometimes, but I guess I don’t really have many opportunities to head back there since just about all of my Pittsburgh-area friends have since moved to other parts of the country :-/.

  4. Bill Doorley Says:

    I just stumbled across your post while looking for something else. I’m a transplanted Pittsburgher myself, born and raised, and just two weeks into a new job outside DC.

    When I think of Pittsburgh, I think of the terrain first, all those steep hillsides, narrow valleys, and “runs” (creeks to you outsiders) finding their way to one of the rivers. The hillsides turn brown in the winter, green in the spring and summer, then briefly flame with oranges and yellows in the fall. Here and there, but especially near the sites of former steel mills, are classic Pittsburgh houses with their two stories in front and four stories in back. They don’t so much cling to the hillside as kind of stubbornly squat in position, determined to remain come hell or high water . . . which does come occasionally.

    I use my GPS in Pittsburgh, but not for directions. As you suggested, computer logic is no match for a native’s knowledge of back roads and short cuts. Instead, I use it to track where I’ve been, and at the end of the week I save my digital ball of string as a map of my journeys.

    I’m in northern Virginia now because one of the sad truths about Pittsburgh is that people aren’t staying anymore. (Or, in Pittsburghese, “Anymore, people aren’t staying.) Us older guys usually reach a point where the job is a dead end and we have to look elsewhere. Maybe that’s why Pittsburgh is becoming a great place for twenty-somethings. The living is relatively cheap, the recreational options varied, and the townies friendly.

    In short, I think Pittsburgh is one of those places you don’t really understand until you have to leave.


    Bill Doorley

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