03 February 2006

In Search of Lost Steel City Time

I suppose it is fairly silly to even pretend that this weekend is about MLS, or soccer. No, this is Super Bowl weekend, and I would be a fool to pretend otherwise. What's more, I don't want to. Unlike many SuperBowls of the past, where I had no connection to either of the teams playing, I am actively supporting the Pittsburgh Steelers this time around. There are many Pittsburgh ex-pats in the DC area, and the fervor to which they remember the Steel City surprises many from other parts of the nation. Hell, it surprises me. I only lived in Pittsburgh four and a half years, so I certainly can't pretend to be a yinzer. But there's something about Pittsburgh that infects you while you are there. It's not that the people are especially welcoming and inclusive. They are, but so are most people. Rather it is the fact that Pittsburgh has a unique culture that is not the product of intent or artifice. The Seattle music scene, and hipsters in general, made a fetish out of Terrible Towel authenticity. In so doing, in trying to be authentic, they failed. Pittsburgh doesn't care about authenticity, or keeping it real, or any of that. It is what it is, and you accept that or you don't.

It is a surprisingly beautiful city, especially after you are prepared for it by people who were last there in 1962. There are tons of small nooks and crannies to lose yourself in, and they aren't segregated into some ethnic area but rather are spread throughout the city, though there are certainly areas where one culture may be more dominant than others. I lived in Shadyside for most of my time there, and loved every moment. My room in my apartment was a sun room overlooking Walnut Avenue, so the gay pride parade marched right by my windows, and the concert series held over the summer made it feel almost like a sky-box. The 2 bedroom apartment cost $800 a month, which was split three ways. For those that are around DC, Shadyside would probably remind you of a slightly nicer Takoma Park. It was wonderful.

Like many, I left Pittsburgh. The excuse we all give is that there were no jobs. The truth is closer to "There weren't any jobs that I wanted to take." So I returned to the DC area where I could make more money in a cushier job even after cost of living adjustments. I think many Pittsburgh ex-pats have a sense of guilt about this. The city needs people, younger people especially, to stay and work and keep it going. And we've abandoned it. So as an act of atonement, we carry black and gold around town, wave our terrible towels, and search for cases of Iron City. One day perhaps we'll go back. One day.

Photos from Wikipedia under Creative Commons License.


At 03 February, 2006 14:50, Anonymous Tom said...

Great stuff about Pittsburgh...you're right, there is something about the city that infects you. I also lived there for about four and a half years, part of that in Shadyside too (corner of 5th and S. Aiken). I haven't lived there for 15 years, but I can still see myself going back and living there again. It's not as spread out as DC is. it's more scenic than Philadelphia, and the people are friendlier than in Baltimore. I make a point of going back at least once a year and no trip is complete without a stop at Primanti Brothers, usually the one in Oakland. Glad to see others with the same appreciation for a great city. Now if only Aleko can ome back and start scoring again for United.

At 03 February, 2006 15:53, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Would Pittsburgh be a good city for MLS expansion? In all the rumors, it never seems to come up. (I've always wondered too why Pittsburgh never got an NBA team) Or would Philly be a better choice in the near future?

At 03 February, 2006 16:17, Blogger D said...

Tom: Walnut and S. Negley, right across from the Nat'l City Bank.

K: Probably not right now. Pittsburgh is having growth problems. There are better candidates for expansion with a populace with more entertainment $ for spending. Still, I do support the Riverhounds (USL-2). It's just not a great market for anything right now.

At 03 February, 2006 23:24, Blogger Crew Fan said...

I suppose it is fairly silly to even pretend that this weekend is about MLS, or soccer. No, this is Super Bowl weekend, and I would be a fool to pretend otherwise. Then I must be a fool. Frankly, I'd rather spend my "free time" watching soccer, not football. Still, as one who grew up relatively close to Pittsburgh, I, too, am rooting for the Steelers the this weekend.

At 04 February, 2006 14:37, Anonymous Matt from Seattle said...

Yes...it will be a home game for the Steelers. Everybody loves the Steelers...

All week the Seattle sports radio guys (already in Detroit) have been telling Seattle listeners "will the Hawk fans please show up already..there are a ton of Steeler fans"

Even I liked them until Porter started popping off and Ward was sarcastic. They seem a little smug and maybe too confident. Hawks are a real good team...and it's going to be a rough game.

Enjoy...but hopefully not too much.

At 04 February, 2006 14:43, Anonymous Matt said...

PS: The country has never tried to understand Seattle (like we care) so everyone throws the grunge music scene at us.

Yes..it's a small part of Seattle, but the Pacific NW is an outdoors persons wet dream.

Oh and we have Boeing and Microsoft...

At 06 February, 2006 08:27, Blogger D said...

Crew Fan: While I sympathise, I don't feel similarly, at least not this time. If it is a SuperBowl with Pittsburgh, Washington, or the Jets, well, I'm gonna be interested no matter what is being offered, except for perhaps a US-Mexico match.

Matt: Truth be told, I've only spent about 48 hours in Seattle (I've actually spent more time in Portland than Seattle, and I don't know what that means.) And while I threw the grunge thing at you, I think it's best to keep it in perspective: Seattle was once the coolest city in America, the city where Singles was supposed to take place. Pittsburgh has never been the coolest city in America.

As for Boeing and Microsoft, yes, you have those. As has been well established, Pittsburgh is lacking when it comes to the employment department. I hope that changes.

And finally, the game. Well, it was interesting, and Seattle certainly didn't look out of place. Reminded me of the 2004 MLS Cup final: Team I don't want strikes first, my team responds, then sweats out some nervous minutes at the end.

At 06 February, 2006 19:09, Anonymous Matt-NFL hater said...

The refereeing was terrible...not saying that Pitt wouldn't have won anyway..in fact the refereeing kind of puts an asterick near their win...not fair to Pitt at all.

Cowher and his team are class..as are the Hawks...and the refs were total crap.

Oh well..an exciting game overall.

Well on to DC United and the World Cup stuff that REALLY matters!!!


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