Pittsburgh-Someplace Special

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Ever been to Pittsburgh? You’re probably thinking…why bother? It is dirty, old and cold. You’d be wrong. Pittsburgh is someplace special—just like the magnet on our fridge says. Trust me—the beautiful Allegheny Mountains are stunning as they converge into the wide rivers that encompass the town. Not too hot in the summer, snowy in winter, gorgeous color in fall and brand-new in spring. What more could you ask for? The change of seasons is a beautiful thing—especially when snow is involved! Throw in the bonus factor of Super Bowl ring #6 and you’ve got yourself a winner!
My parents’ families, traditions and roots began in Western Pennsylvania. They remain proud to call Pittsburgh “home” although they’ve both been gone longer than the sum total of years they resided there. Doesn’t make sense, huh? Well, it does if you know anything about Pittsburgh. This no-frills place gets lodged in your blood stream and courses through your veins for life.
Blue-collar values are not just instilled in people from this part of the country. They live them daily. Tough-minded and hard working stock, many still to this day work in mills and mines. The types of jobs they have require strength of a physical stature and strength emotionally too. Humility, loyalty and plain old sweat and determination are qualities needed daily for survival in sometimes harsh—but real--Pittsburgh. Strange sounding foods are also the norm—perogies, kielbasa and gnoochles are happily devoured by everyone—even people who do not originate from Poland. These foods are things most my friends here in Atlanta have never even heard of, much less eaten. They don’t know what they’re missing!
One visit to Polish Hill, one ride up the side of the mountain on the tram, one trip to Pirmani Brothers where cole slaw is layered on your sandwich creating a delicious effect, and you’re hooked on this unusual place. Heritage and tradition mean something here. It is never lost or misplaced and those roots are visited often through rituals that have been handed down for generations. Even the language of a native from Pittsburgh is unique. The spoken long “o” vowel sound goes on forever and words such as “pop” for soda, “gum band” for rubber band, and “Mum” for Mom are common place. (Where else can you go where people tell you to “read-up the place?” By the way, that means to clean or straighten up the area.)
Downtown is more beautiful, modern and hip than you might think. (So is the airport…it was recently renovated.) Downtown also hosts a really cool sports museum for kids that I personally never wanted to leave along with a bunch of upscale eateries. If that isn’t your thing, there are plenty of down-home type places that afford you a lot of choices. Heinz Field is a sight in itself to behold. There seems to be greatness there that one can sense. And there is.
You can’t mention Pittsburgh without mentioning the Steelers. (Those who know me best know this.) The old greats such as Jack Lambert (the reason I chose #58 when I was younger), Mean Joe Greene, Lynn Swann and Terry Bradshaw (the current reason I am #12) will never be forgotten. No matter how many Big Ben wins. Don’t get me wrong. We all cheer Big Ben and his accomplishments but the old guys symbolize a dynasty, a steel curtain unable to be broken. Steelers Nation reflects longingly at a childhood that is no more. Back then, kids did not know what technology and name-brand clothing they were missing. All they knew was playing tag in the valleys they called home and rooting for their high school team on Friday and the Steelers on Sunday. Life was good.
As mills and mines closed, people had to leave to become employed. Had to. Didn’t want to. They never lost sight of a simpler, easier and gentler way of life. As a result, terrible towels are waving all over the world as we relish this latest victory. The values and lessons learned “back home” run as deeply as the river waters that flow in Pittsburgh. And so those traditions and values are passed on to the next generation…regardless of current address.
If you ever get the chance to visit Pennsylvania, take a look at Philly and the Old Dutch country, but then do yourself a favor. Head west to Pittsburgh. To the land of plenty—plenty of scenery, outstanding ethnic foods, people without pretense and superior sports teams. I know I hope to in the near future. It truly is a town of champions.





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