Ahh, Pittsburgh. That’s all of it, right there, just a little handful in the valley where the Allegheny and Monongahela meet to form the Ohio. And on a day like this, there is no more beautiful little city.
Actually on any day. Or at night, when Pittsburgh’s lights reflect on the rivers. Personally, I’d rather be out in a field somewhere watching the hawks or stalking butterflies; I’m not a person to visit cities for fun. However, that’s where my art materials are, and often where the poetry readings are and the symphony and ballet and opera, the universities and better hospitals and a lot of other things I don’t even realize make life a little better for the existence of this little city.
And the most magical thing, as I was standing atop Mt. Washington with a bunch of other locals and visitors all taking the same photos was the cacophony of languages in addition to English: Polish, Ukrainian, Russian, German, Chinese, Japanese, Hindi or Urdu, German, and someone speaking with a very rounded Australian accent. Also, Pittsburghese, ‘n’at. I grew up hearing a variety of foreign languages spoken by people whose first language came from their home country, and in some cases their children who learned it as a matter of everyday life, and still all these wonderful conversations happening like leaves fluttering on trees, everyone could be saying the same thing, but everyone’s version of it is different and special.
Don’t see any “hell with the lid off”, do you? I think we can dispense with that myth. I heard about the 1940s when my mother said she had to wrap herself in a scarf, wear her blouse inside out and another on top, then change when she got to work every day or all would be caked in soot. I remember some pretty polluted summers in the 60s and 70s when the air would hang yellow and sulfurous over everything. It was indeed unfortunate to lose our one big employing industry, steelmaking, but out of the pits of darkness Pittsburgh rose up, cleaned itself off and went on. It’s an example of how not only a city but an entire region can change into something completely different from what it was.
I love our tree-covered hills, our free-flowing rivers and clear blue skies. And where else in the world would Roberto Clemente, Andy Warhol and Rachel Carson stand side by side, as they do in our “sister bridges” over the Allegheny River, the three peaked suspension bridges on the left? I live ten minutes away from this, and ten minutes away from farmland in the other direction. If I have to live near a city, this one is pretty good.