Pittsburgh, I love you (And you aren’t bringing me down)

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I know I’ve been gone for a while. Some of you remember that I was taking a trip to scout out a new home; I was blindly walking into a city I had only read about. And I might have spent a few hours aimlessly wandering streets via google street view. My expectations were low, but I had a very clear idea in my head of what the city would be like.

P and I loaded up the car at around three in the afternoon on a sunday. With almost no stops, we got to Cleveland at four in the morning and couldn’t drive on any longer. We found a Motel Six and slept five hours on the hardest mattress I’ve ever felt. P got up to shower in the morning but ended up with his head in the sink since the shower hardly worked. We got our belongings and stepped outside into some intense humidity; a far cry from the freezing temperatures still hanging around Michigan. We stopped at Denny’s and made friends with our waiter after sympathizing with him over some rude customers. We shared a few of our own food service stories, dropped him a 50% tip and wished him good luck. Seriously, servers do NOT make enough for the shit they have to deal with.

We drove on ahead and I started squealing when we entered Pennsylvania. We were surprised at the amount of green, being that Michigan is still a dirt-brown barren land with too many patches of snow. As the gps reached around two miles to our destination, we began wondering where the skyline was. We drove through winding hills, through increasing traffic, anxious to see our possible new home town. One hill was all it took to expose the skyline, which looked far different than we had imagined it.

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Pictures don’t do it justice. I felt the same way when I had first moved to San Francisco; experiencing the three dimensional city is far different.

We drove in through E. Ohio St.

During rush hour.

Let me tell you, for the first day I HATED the city because of the traffic. Not only the traffic, but Pittsburgh has some of the stupidest roads I’ve ever seen. Two lane roads where you’re allowed to park in the right lane, but if you need to get in the left lane to avoid ramming into parked cars, you’re likely in a left turn only lane. So you have to merge over within a two second time frame. When I first started driving these roads, I was honked at for making normal turns. Then I tried just cutting people off and apparently that’s what you are supposed to do because I didn’t get a single evil eye or honk for that. It just so happened that we spent the first day around the worst traffic spots; Squirrel Hill tunnel, bridges, downtown, all during rush hour. Needless to say the night ended in tears and frustration because of the confusion caused by traffic and the unexpected nature of the city [mind you, it was BETTER than I thought, but my expectations where totally different, therefore I was confused]

We ended up at the Monroeville mall since P wanted to see where Dawn of the Dead was filmed. Unfortunately we didn’t find any displays, but we did stop at H&M, which I’ve been trying to convince P to shop at for a while now. He tried on tons of clothes and fell in love with the stuff [I told him it was his style!!] so we walked out with our ‘souvenirs’.

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Feeling defeated, we went to bed. I thought that this might not be the city for us, but my decision was entirely emotional and due to exhaustion.

The next day was the Pièce de résistance, however. We spent all day checking out the film and photography resources from places like Bernie’s Photo Center and Pittsburgh Filmmakers. Let me tell you that if you want to make film, you will not find better resources in America than what Pittsburgh has to offer. Loads of free locations, cheap equipment rentals [I’m talking $400 for a full year of ANYTHING YOU WANT TO RENT] and massive amounts of studio space, tax incentives, and diverse neighborhoods to get the look you want. In fact, ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ was filmed in Pittsburgh, despite supposedly being set in Gotham/New York. While we were there, the film ‘Fathers and Daughters’ with Russell Crowe and Jane Fonda was being made.

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As we worked our way through the city, we began to find out that there is literally NOTHING that this city doesn’t have. Take the hilly environment and Gay Pride [YAY] of San Francisco, add the small, hip, green businesses found in Portland, the row houses and architecture of NYC, and add a dash of Los Angeles traffic. That’s Pittsburgh. For people like P and I, who have been/ lived in quite a few metro areas in the US, this is perfect. There’s a reason we didn’t stay in the other metro areas. The balances were uneven, and the good never outweighed the bad. After meeting a few people in the ‘burgh we realized that not only is it a massively diverse city, the people are insanely nice and hospitable.

On another note, there is NO discernible tax bracket in this city. Which is AWESOME because it lowers segregation, violence, and class related crime. Big money and little money live next door to each other. African Americans, Latino-Americans, and White Americans [amongst other races!] face very little separation between hoods here. Unlike any city I’ve seen before; thinking of Los Angeles or the like, it can be dangerous to enter ‘racial territories’ that only exist because of a separation in poverty and upper classes. Immigrants and minorities need not be left out in this wonderful city.

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The “worst” [If you can call it that] neighborhood in the city features a revival cinema. Seriously.

Don’t even get me started on the theaters. Look, you guys know how much I love film. And P…I can’t think of anyone but Godard himself who loves film more. So imagine our glee when we see the list of revival, big-name, and performance theaters:

Harris Theatre
Byham Theater
Omnimax Theatre – Carnegie Science Center
Melwood Screening Room
Southside Works
Manor Theatre
Hollywood Theater – Dormont
Waterworks Cinemas
Carmike 10 – Pittsburgh
Penn Hills Cinema
Rave Cinemas Pittsburgh North 11

Those are just the cinematic theaters. Not to mention a Drive-In theater in one of the nearby towns. In our two days we spent in PGH, we did get to see ‘Under the Skin’ at Manor Theatre [which we now are moving RIGHT NEXT TO] and I do recommend the film!

As for nightlife, we aren’t into drinking and that leaves us with eating/movies/exploring. However, there are a few late-night secrets that the city holds- the Cathedral of Learning is open 24/7 [not the nationality rooms, just the study hall and all floors] and know P and I, we’ll have times where it’s 4 a.m. and we’re going stir-crazy, which could be cured by snagging a seat on the 36th floor windowsill for a kick-ass reading spot. Primanti Bros. in the strip district is apparently open 24/7, and who wouldn’t want one of these in the wee morning hours?

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To bad I’m now a pescetarian ;_;

For those who prefer to make their own food, diverse markets abound in PGH:

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Downtown farmers market

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Tokyo Japanese food store carries sushi-grade fish, bento lunches, and just about every other Japanese food item or ingredient you can think of.

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Pennsylvania Macaroni Co. carries around 400 types of cheese as well as countless cured meats and Italian delicacies galore.

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Of course there’s a fish market in the strip.

This doesn’t count the numerous Jewish, Polish, and Italian Delis [everywhere you look!] masses of French, Vietnamese, Chinese, and Gluten-Free Bakeries [we live next to at least four!] and some big-name stores like Trader-Joe’s, a Food Co-Op, Whole Foods, Giant Eagle, and Target. No Wal-Mart, Hooray!

The city also hosts at least 10 museums [the mattress factory looks pretty great-Andy Warhol was a native yinzer], a beautiful conservatory, observatories, science centers, and the amount of restaurants in this city is bananas. In fact, Bon Appétit named Pittsburgh best food city in America for 2014. As if I didn’t have enough reason already.

By the end of the second day we were sold. We had been for months just due to the low cost of living [$600-$800 for a one bedroom wut] but that first traffic experience really threw a wrench into the plans. After driving a second day, I got slightly used to the nutso streets and the rush hour traffic no longer existed; just stay away from direct entry points to the city and you’ll be fine.

By the end of day two, we had an apartment on the corner of Murray Ave. in Squirrel Hill, one of the most happening spots in the Burgh. With every type of food imaginable, a coffee shop outside our window, Manor Theatre and a branch of the Carnegie Library is two blocks away. We’ve got a record store, ethnic markets, and a huge park on either side of us. Also one of the safest hoods around.

But, consumerist options aside- we are most excited to make a step forward in our lives together. Both of us have struggled our entire lives but have finally found solace and growing success in each other, and THAT is what Pittsburgh means to me. A physical, tactile form of how far we’ve come as a couple as well as how far we can go. Pittsburgh, I love you.

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