Pittsburgh

17 Nov

Introducing a new blog feature in which I talk about different places I’ve visited.

Doesn’t this look like a fun city?

The Rust Belt has a pretty dismal reputation. A lot of people seem to think Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Cleveland, Detroit, etc. are all interchangeable and terrible cities. I don’t think this is true. I’ve been to Pittsburgh a couple times. I like Pittsburgh. I’d be happy to go back to Pittsburgh.

This is the Southside Flats neighborhood. I’m pretty sure there’s a Cheesecake Factory somewhere in there.

Pittsburgh is known for its three rivers, the Allegheny, the Monongahela, and the Ohio. The first two meet to form the third. Downtown Pittsburgh is on the triangle created by the meeting rivers. There’s a big park right at the tip of the triangle. The park was closed for some kind of construction when I was there. Still it’s a cool geographical feature. The other thing the rivers create is cool riverfront neighborhoods all over the place. A lot of them are gentrified and lame now,* but there are still a lot of good views everywhere.

*I ate at a Cheesecake Factory in one of these neighborhoods once.

Bring your binoculars

Pittsburgh is has a lot of good sporting venues. PNC park is supposed to be one of the best baseball stadiums around. I wasn’t there during baseball season but I walked around it. I also walked across the Roberto Clemente Bridge, which has a (not very good) view of the field. That’s a good piece of stadium design. Heinz Field is just down the road. They’re both right across the river from downtown which I like. There’s also a new hockey arena, but who cares. The old building, Mellon Arena, was awesome. It was torn down after the new one was built. A shame. It was a unique building. I staying at the Marriott across the street once and there was a Penguins preseason game. I tried to scalp a ticket, but by the time I got there the first period was over and all the scalpers had left and the ticket office was closed. Bogus. I wish I had gotten in. I was very curious about the arena’s interior and I bet Penguins fans are a good time.

Tell me this isn’t the coolest-looking arena ever. Too bad they tore it down.

I’ve spent most of my life living in cities laid out on a simple square grid. This is the ideal city layout. It’s easy to get around, neighborhoods and business districts follow a logical pattern, you always know how to get to the highway. Pittsburgh is not like this. Lots of hills. Kind of an odd layout. I was in a charter bus driving to Pittsburgh once and the driver got lost. We were driving around what seemed like a hip neighborhood and this bus driver had no clue where to go. He had a talking GPS and after every intersection it said “turn left” but he couldn’t because we were in a huge fucking bus on these tiny surface roads and then he did turn and it was too late and we were even more lost and it was dark. What a disaster. The direction problem is compounded by the rivers. There are a lot of bridges and following the highway is kind of complicated. At least it was for this bus driver. There’s a weird maze of highways downtown. The Penn Turnpike bypasses the city completely so it’s all state highways and offshoots of I-76 and 79. Could have been done better.

This is an impressive retaining wall

Duquesne University and the University of Pittsburgh both have interesting campuses. They’re sort of cut into the hills in places. Big urban colleges are very underrated. There should be more of them. Pitt also has an old-school fieldhouse which is the kind of venue I enjoy. The basketball team doesn’t play there anymore, which is a shame.

I think it would be a lot better for basketball than volleyball

One of the downsides of my various travels is that I haven’t had as much of a chance to sample local cuisines or do fun local things as I’d like. Lots of Applebee’s-type restaurants and bland suburban hotels on itineraries. Which sucks. Primanti Brothers in Pittsburgh is famous. I’d like to eat there. The Andy Warhol Museum is also in Pittsburgh. I could have gone there I guess, but my visit would have had to be brief and I’d have needed to take cabs there and back. Hailing cabs in cities like Pittsburgh isn’t easy and calling the dispatcher isn’t quick. So that’s on my list of things to do if I’m ever there again.

Hooray for unnecessarily large train depots

Old industrial cities like Pittsburgh have a lot of cool buildings. More cities should have huge train stations and Beaux Arts skyscrapers. Walking around the city is interesting, which isn’t the case for a lot of cities. Downtown has a lot of Beaux-Arts buildings and masonry and all the other things that make you feel like you’re in a historic place. I like that feeling.

Fancy

There’s a neighborhood in Pittsburgh called Squirrel Hill. Ha.

The Pittsburgh airport is not very busy and has free Wi-Fi. I can’t think of another airport with free Wi-Fi. Score one for Pittsburgh.

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