Monday, May 23, 2011

The Worry

So, back to the weekend when Greg and his dearest friend drove straight through by themselves to bring me the dogs.  The reason it was emotionally charged for me was, quite simply, the huge worry that Greg would take one look at the tiny little house or at me - older than the last time he saw me - and say he wanted nothing to do with it.  As the three of us spent a little time that Saturday driving around the city, the same nagging worry tugged at me.  I kept watching his face.  He seemed pleased, but of course he was seeing the highlights Pittsburgh has to offer:  the skyline as seen from the Duquesne Incline, Heinz Field, PNC Park, Pamela's (yum), the Strip District, a glimpse of the old Igloo up against the new, sparkling Consol Energy Center.  What he didn't see is the dark underbelly.  All cities have it.  Pittsburgh is small enough that it's hard to ignore among the pretty package of a reinvented Rust Belt town.

Big news around here are the trials for a series of young defendants known as the Greensburg Six who admittedly tortured a mentally challenged woman for two days, then brutally murdered her and stuffed her head first in a trash can.  All the participants are white, so there was nothing like a history of racial tension boiling over, it's not a mob crime, it had nothing to do with drugs - other than you can more or less assume they were on them - or debt; it was pure, simple evil.  Their only defense it seems is to keep trying to pass along more of the blame on their co-conspirators.  Even for someone like me, who likes a good law and order story, it has turned my stomach more than once.  That's the most sensational crime, but there is no shortage of other, straight forward shootings, car jackings, drug related crimes, stabbings, bank robberies, scams against the large elderly population, and so on.  There seem to be a lot of child abandonment stories.  It's not a secret that many of the disenfranchised of any city get through their dark days drunk or stoned, so one can assume the root cause for these issues relates to that, but it sometimes takes an interesting spin.  My favorite (for lack of a better word) is the story of the man accused of leaving his four-year-old alone while he wandered around the neighborhood dressed as a ninja.  The footage of him being arrested is priceless because, as he's being dragged away in handcuffs, all he was saying was that it was all a misunderstanding, that he wasn't playing ninja, he just went out for a jog.  He missed the point entirely that he was being arrested not for his unusual fashion statement but for leaving his defenseless child alone.  One can only hope the boy's mother is better, but I worry.  After all, this is the prize package she chose to father her child...

For some reason, either because Austin ignores their dark side or is denial about it, there is not the plethora of bleeding news like there is here.  I doubt really that Austin is that much safer of a city, it certainly wasn't for my daughters, who found trouble as much as it found them, but it's just less in your face.

So, there's that.  Then there's just the culture shock.  I felt like a fish out of water for a while, and I was raised by Pennsylvania natives and spent time here.  Greg is a born and raised Austinite, and he's a homebody to be sure.  For me, the way people are here, a mixture of sincere friendliness with a forthright manner that can be shocking if you're not used to it, is no longer an oddity.  But Greg, having experienced nothing but Southern manners (which is to tell you to have a nice day when in point of fact they may really want you to go to hell), is in for quite the experience.

Then there is navigating around, which I've bemoaned many a time here.  I found an awesome t-shirt the other day that said "Welcome to Pittsburgh" and below it had directional road signs that looped and intertwined and were totally confusing.  It was so perfect, I had to laugh.  I'm obviously not alone in my frustration.  And, who can forget the government?  Things are so layered here, it's insanely complicated.  These two issues collide for me:  I live in Glenshaw, which is in Shaler, literally two minutes away is Allison Park.  I pass through Ross Township when I run the short distance to the pet store.  The nearest Pamela's (yum yum) to me is in Millvale.  When we went home from there, we went through Etna.  These are not areas of the city, like Squirrel Hill or the Mexican War Streets (don't ask me why it's called that, but it's a quirky cool historic district), they are separate governmental entities.  It's complicated and inefficient, but it's always been that way.  Granted, Round Rock and Austin are literally fifteen minutes apart in places (just not at rush hour), but that's due to urban sprawl.  Pittsburgh and all its myriad of abutting entities sprawled together long ago.  For an outsider, it all looks like part of the Steel City.  But, you learn, that while we are the Steeler Nation and are united in that way, the common geography stops there.  When you ask someone where they are from, they will respond Aspinwall or Butler, not Pittsburgh.  They like their neighborhood roots and identify strongly with the area where they live or grew up.  And most of the people grew up here.  People feel strongly about this area, one way or the other.  Not that native Texans do not - oh, trust me, they do - but there are so many of us Yankee outsiders in and around Austin now that it's harder to find someone born and raised in the state than it is to find someone initially from California.  It's a transient town now.  Had we lived in rural Texas, it probably would have been different, but that's actually a good thing for Greg.  At least he's experienced Yankee mentality aside from mine.  But people here haven't experienced that much of his Southern style.  And then there's the whole Cowboy fan thing, which I've been told is worse than being a Ravens or Browns fan.

And the weather!  Hard to complain about it on a beautiful spring day when the sun is shining, the birds are singing, and the temperature is rooted firmly in the 70's.  Problem has been that this year you can count those days on the fingers of one hand.  The area has been literally drowning for weeks now.  I constantly joke that I think I moved to Seattle by mistake.  Big change, big shock.  Then eventually will come winter.

This is all completely apart from the biggest issue of all:  rending him from his friends and family.  People he's known longer than me.  It's a whole other topic, but in short, I feel a huge sense of responsibility for uprooting someone so firmly entrenched and bringing him to a lifestyle so far removed from what he has known, let alone the people he loves.  I feel selfish.  I guess we could have chosen somewhere completely neutral to both of us to try and begin again, but too late for that now, here we will find ourselves.  I don't worry about Marissa, she will love it here.  It suits her in many ways.  And she is young enough to adapt easily to the differences.

No, it's for Greg that I fret.  I want him to love it, I truly do, because, for all its odd flaws, in the end analysis, I have found that I do; more than I ever thought I could.  Why?  That's up next.


  1. Cheryl, worrying is not going to help anything, so STOP WORRYING. He loves you. You are his home. You are finding some joy - this will help him find some too, more than any of the familiar could.

    What the hell are crispy malted waffles? They sound DAMN good. Can you FedEx me some? Or maybe just order some, take a pic and email it to me - AWESOME.

  2. Val, better yet, come see me, and I'll take you there first hand. Warning: it'll ruin breakfast from anywhere else.