Well we packed our bags and grabbed our passports and set sail for Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh doesn’t make everyone’s list for destination cities. One imagines it to be filled with smudgy turn-of-the-century steelworkers in helmets and sturdy pants who keep themselves from jumping into the three available rivers by drinking industrial-grade beer. Probably it’s the “Pitts” part that colors the picture, but Pittsburgh was not meant as a descriptive name. It was named by a British general named Forbes who was sucking up to a British statesman named Pitt and he got the honors by doing well in the French and Indian War, so you’re not going to get an American spin on it. Otherwise it would be Steel And Sandwiches, Pennsylvania.
The point of the trip was to check up on our beloveds and make sure they weren’t living in catastrophic conditions. Pittsburgh is one of fifty or sixty cities that is currently being touted as “the next Portland, Oregon,” which is a fine thing. Ideally, we would discover that our friends are thriving in an agreeable town, but not one so fine that they don’t want to come back to Portland where they belong.
“Friends” is accurate enough, but Dave (Big Dave, to distinguish him from Little Dave, Store Dave, Homeless Dave, Republican Dave, and my own Old Dave) is more like our son. He is the man we greatly flatter ourselves to imagine that we could have turned out all by ourselves, assuming of course that he got only our finest traits and none of our parenting skills, which remain unproven and unlikely. Lucky for him, he was born to and raised by others and delivered to our care only when he was nearly ripe and needed just a few more spins in the polisher. He then doubled down by marrying Vivi, a miracle match he was able to find only after scouring the intertubes all the way to Brazil. Now they are together and demonstrating the meaning of love and marriage to the rest of us. In Pittsburgh.
So, well, shit. Pittsburgh is pretty fine. It has an Aviary and a Conservatory and a huge bunch of forest and eight million bridges and a swell little ballpark temporarily hosting the World Champion Chicago Cubs (I like to say that just to see if I get hit by lightning), and spiffy houses in cozy self-contained neighborhoods, just like Portland, except in brick. Also, there’s a Church of Beer.
They tailored the tour to our tastes. And that is how one day we found ourselves in the very room where Hannibal Lector murdered those police officers, on the very day the director of Silence Of The Lambs–Old Dave’s favorite movie–died. And that is how on another day we walked through Frick Park where I promptly located two salamanders. This is a pretty good city, I thought unhappily, tucking the amphibians back under their logs. Perhaps it was my troubled look that led two Park Conservancy employees to ask me if I needed help. Do you have any red efts? I asked, naturally, and they weren’t sure, but suggested perhaps I could take a look in Salamander Park.
What the sequin-studded chocolate-coated gold-plated pudding-filled Heck did you just say?
Salamander Park. They said Salamander Park. Pittsburgh has a Salamander Park.
I give up. Dave and Vivi are in Pittsburgh. They’ll be fine in Pittsburgh. The beer isn’t as good, but they don’t even drink. They’ll be fine.
So did you find any red efts?
I did not. They had to be there.
I had no idea that Pittsburgh was such a fine place. When I hear the name, I picture factories and run-down housing. I think you're right; it IS the name. Perhaps they could change it to Salamandia?
Believe it or not, I hail from Pittsburgh. I'm told it's a fine place.
ARE THERE RED EFTS?
In Laurel Highlands, east of town, yes – that is where I first encountered them.
I KNEW IT!!!
I used to drive by Pittsburgh regularly about 45 years ago, but wasn't impressed. Looks like they've done it up a bit since then. That's a good thing. When I was a kid I remember finding salamanders anytime I got near the Appalachian Mountains. Good to know they're still there. The salamanders and the mountains.
The Appalachians are the world's best place for salamanders, particularly in the W. Va. and Tennessee portions. Sadly, in some of those same areas, the mountains are NOT still there. Someone lopped them off and dumped them in the stream.
I've always heard that Pittsburgh was a pretty nifty town, your post confirms it.
Yes: my word is to be taken as gospel at all times!
Maybe you and Old Dave will be moving to Pittsburgh? After all, you need some sympathetic youngsters around as you coast down the Hill of Old Age in a couple of decades. And – SALAMANDERS.
You're right about needing the sympathetic youngsters, but fortunately we've cultivated enough of them we can spare two.
Salamanders? And the possiblity of red efts? You wrote this from Pittsburg didn't you. The new Murrville.
I ain't moving. But I could imagine living there. I could. (Also I could buy two houses there for what I could sell mine for.)
Having just returned from touring the city, my old hometown, on foot, I'm happy to report that it is a much different place than the sooty, smelly town in which I was raised. There are a number of old industrial neighborhoods that are being spiffed up by young, adventurous urban activists. There are some terrific museums, a good symphony orchestra and an increasing number of excellent restaurants and (yay!) craft breweries.
And, people, when he says "touring the city on foot," he means he walked the Pittsburgh Marathon in under thirteen minutes per mile. Which, I don't mind telling you, is a blistering pace.
Actually, my official time was 13'05"/mile. My Nike app has proved to be inaccurate. Perhaps it was designed to boost egos.
Don't forget that fifteen minutes you spent at the beginning while everyone was all bunched up.
Nope. Full speed from the start line. Although it took 48 minutes to get there.
Is there still a pawnshop on the corner?
Had to Google it, dear. My goodness! That sounds like the same tune as "Little Boxes (on the hillside and they're all made out of tickey tackey)."
Yes, I think Mr Seeger "borrowed" it.
Malvina Reynolds! I happen to know that one the way you knew Pawnshop. Pete Seeger did sing it though.
Arrggghh, you only three hours north, and me working too durn hard at a festival. Clean miss. I love you.
I know, I know–and also, we were at a Pirates game! I had dreams of calling you while in the stadium in case you were there, but I knew you weren't. WOULDN'T THAT HAVE BEEN FUN???
My husband hails from Pittsburgh (left when he was 4) and our daughter decided to attend the University of Pittsburgh (that's great Honey. You go to a state university in another state, and I'll pay these bills forever). My husband was shocked to see that the buildings are NOT dark grey. Once the coal dust settled, they powerwashed the buildings, and now it's very pretty, with a blue sky and everything.
Our daughter graduated this month, and immediately landed a job in her beloved Pittsburgh. She's staying, as are many of her twentysomething friends.
I don't blame them. And eventually they'll perfect their beer!
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