Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Ten Things I Hate About You

From the University of Pittsburgh
Downtown at midday in the '40's
No secret that I adore this city.  There is so much to love here that I've long contemplated what I would write about it to convince everyone that this is paradise on earth, which of course it is not.  Glacier National Park is.  But it is completely awesome.  However, as I have said before, like all major metropolitan areas, Pittsburgh has its drawbacks.  One cannot be completely naive to them because sometimes, if you are, you will put yourself at risk.  There is always the element of being aware, I believe, that one must have living in a populated area.  Aware of traffic, aware of environmental factors that come from man living in mass and trying to hold off nature, which will inevitably try and reclaim the land, and most of all aware of other people, who come in all shapes, sizes, temperaments and motives.  I always think about a scene in Law and Order: SVU where a woman was telling Olivia and Elliot how she reads while riding the subway.  "Read a line and scan the car, read a line and scan the car."  I do not live in paranoia here by any means.  I would probably feel comfortable reading a whole page before scanning the car, but I try not to be blind to the things that are not so perfect about the city at the same time.  Here's what I've come up with as things I would change if I could:

10)  Pittsburgh Sports Fan Are Spoiled.  God bless, you Steeler and Penguin Nations, I love being here and being a part of this, but you've forgotten how hard it was to reach the pinnacle of the sport.  Therefore, if you don't see your teams hoist the Lombardi and Stanley Cup trophies respectively each and every year, you're on sports talk radio talking about who's head should roll. Go live in Buffalo for a while and then come tell me what it's like to be a six-time champion.  For that matter, go to Philly.  They don't have a Lombardi either.  If we won every year, it would no longer be special.  Don't get overly cocky, people.  We've got great teams staffed by great people.

9)  Stink Bugs.  The name is not ironic.  They stink if you kill them.  And last year they were all over the place.  You'd wonder what that awful smell is and find a dead one lurking in the corner.  This year they weren't so prevalent, and I haven't actually seen one in a while, making it low on my list, but still one of my least favorite things here.

8)  Humidity.  People back in Texas laugh at me if I whine about the heat, which has been uncharacteristically brutal here this summer.  But, I'm telling you, it's not the heat itself, it's the combination of heat and humidity.  A co-worker from Nevada told me that it's not just me, that the heat index in a wet climate like this one is a very real factor.  Like wrapping yourself in a hot, soaking wet blanket and then going outside to jog.  No sane person would do such a thing.

7)  Mold and Mildew.  Which is a result of the humidity.  Not only is it miserable to exist in a wet, hot blanket, but try keeping mildew out of your bathroom.  I had to re-paint the bathroom ceiling with this extremely expensive paint because the very walls were nasty with it last year.  It works, mostly.  I'll be bleaching down the walls and ceiling in there this weekend.  Don't get me started about the caulking, which I'll be re-doing.  This would rank much higher on the list if not for the fact that it is a problem in the summer and that's all.

6)   GPS Sucks in This Town.  And now I know why - at least partially.  I had a real a-ha moment the other day when the tour guide on the river cruise Greg took us on stated that it is a documented fact that Pittsburgh has more public staircases than any other US city.  There's one not too terribly far from me actually.  Then she said they show up on GPS as roadways.  Do you know how many times I've been told by my Garmin to turn on a particular street that I swear didn't exist?!  Or to go south on a road that is running east and west?  Now I know, it's not just me and my horrible sense of direction.  It's all those damn stairways.  They don't lead to heaven.

5)  Road Construction.  A long standing joke about Pennsylvania roadways is that they are always under construction.  Well, it's really not that funny if it's true.  Since I've been here the two major roadways I travel on the most have been undergoing construction:  Route 19 and Route 28. I'm not the most confident of drivers, my travails on the windy, twisty roads of PGH are well documented and add lane closure and detours to the recipe, and it's a wonder I'm here to tell the tale.

4)  There is Too Much to Do!  I missed the nighttime dog walk downtown for the second year in a row to catch the Death Cab for Cutie concert the other day with Marissa.  We chose Death Cab because I had missed them the year before so we could be extras in The Dark Knight Rises.  On any given day there are multiple things that are appealing to do.  Somewhere in there one has to fit in work, cleaning the house, laundry, walking the dog and maintaining a 60 year old house that springs leaks and wants to succumb to mildew all the time.  But, I have confess it, it's a nice problem to have.

3)  Lack of Racial Diversity.  I don't think the people of Pittsburgh are racists, although, like anywhere, racism does exist here, but neither do I think they are too keen on integrating either.  If you look at the various neighborhoods and their ethnic make-up, you'll notice some trends.  The whole reason I thought to look into it is because after living around my area of Shaler for a while, it struck me how lily white the population was.  Not only were there no African Americans, there were no minorities of any kind.  They do exist here - but literally in the dozens.  What an odd sensation that must be for those rare individuals.  So, we started paying attention to the demographics all around the city.  There are some distinct lines that are drawn and adhered to.  This is a city of strong traditions, so you half wonder if Jews live in Squirrel Hill because they always have.  Their synagogue is there.  Catholics live out here, near their churches and schools.  And so on.  Maybe it's no more nefarious than that.  But, then again, maybe it is.

2)  Everything Burns.  During dinner the other night, Marissa was commenting how the news is the same every night, and at least one of the stories involves a house burning to the ground.  Her boyfriend explained that was because so many of the homes were built with old wood, essentially scraps from the factories, and are very close to one another.  Now, three-quarters of a century later, some of these houses are like cinder kegs ready to go up with very little urging.  Since I've got a healthy fear of fire, this is never particularly far from my mind.  One reason I like my four side brick home with a little space between me and my neighbors.

1) Heroin.  It's not unique to Pittsburgh by any stretch.  It's not even unique to large cities, but it is a real issue here and, ironically, integrates the city in a way that nothing else seems to.  Rich, poor, black, white, it has impacted every layer of the citizenship.  One of my favorite local journalists has done a series of articles about it, including an interview with someone very close to me.  To my mind, it is the scariest scourge the city faces currently.  But, when I think of all the things this city has overcome to be what it is today, I know it can be beat.

Of course, if you love something, you fight for it.  Pittsburgh is well worth fighting for because I've got a big long list of the things I love about it.

Downtown Pittsburgh Now

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