Sitting in the office, watching cloud after cloud canter across the blue. We’ve lived here six months, our personal clocks ticking away at intervals both fast and slow, wholly dependent upon on our moods (bewildered, happy, sad), the skies, the indolent pace of emerging spring leaves. Pittsburgh is a difficult city in winter. Not for the cold and snow and ice, no, these were reasonable, expected, and largely enjoyed. Our shock was in the lack of color in our snow covered world. Though Pittsburgh’s cloudy skies are much the same as Portland’s, it is what lies beneath that is so vastly different. Our winter rolling hills sport only the occasional evergreen and nary a fern (I miss ferns!), the majority a mass of arced bare limbs and rusty fallen leaves. The resultant landscape is hued only by what man makes, houses, cars, buildings, smoke stacks and steam, a shock to our green Pacific Northwest eyes. I had to promise the hubster that it would turn and he would marvel at the change. Thank you nature for not making a liar out of me.
Pittsburgh remains a city of navigational mysteries. The myriad hills and dales (now brilliantly dressed in every shade of green!) and the impossibility of cherished grid systems leaves me in frequent wonder at which direction I am facing. Though we are finding our way, better and more accurately with each passing day, with a car ride driven by our own sense of direction and not GPS a giddy celebration! Adding to the mystery are the curious and confounding drivers. With all the hills and densely packed neighborhoods, the majority of streets are two lanes, making turn lanes a rather unfortunate impossibility. But, thanks to the politesse of the Pittsburgh left, a flash of lights, a waved hand, or a dead stare to get moving, drivers can turn without so much as a problem the majority of the time. It is marvelous, though the feeling can be quickly dashed by the angry honks while sitting at a red light, or a car tailing wildly close and at breakneck speed before zooming past.
It’s a town that doesn’t quite know how to be, and rightly so. When the steel industry collapsed, thousands of people lost their livelihoods, and nearly 200,000 residents vanished in the ensuing decades. Pittsburghers are proud. Proud to have gotten back on their feet largely without help from the outside. Proud to have such wildly successful sports teams. Proud to have fine institutions like the Carnegie Libraries, the Phipps Conservatory (where I took today’s photos!), Heinz Hall and the Cultural District, a vibrant downtown and waterfront, so many beautiful bridges. Proud to have intact small businesses, even if the service is lousy, or in the case of restaurants, the servers are super friendly, but the food is beyond anything the worst cook you know would serve. Pittsburghers are kind and friendly and welcoming despite their wonder. Why did you move HERE?
The truth is, we are still finding out…