Hubs and I have been on the road again.
AGMA think’s you’re not surprised.
Last weekend I went back to where it all began. Actually to where I began. My hometown of Pittsburgh, PA.
It’s changed immensely since I left for college in 1971.
The beautiful three rivers of the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio are still there as are the skyscrapers downtown, Allegheny General Hospital, the Cathedral of Learning and the inclines up Mt. Washington.
But so much is different.
The demise of the steel industry over the past 40 years has been devastating for the steelworkers in the small neighborhoods around the mills and the small businesses they supported. But out of those ashes, something new has emerged. Pittsburgh’s become hotbed of tech. There are new mixed use developments and beautiful parks where the old steel mills used to be. And the air and rivers are much cleaner minus said steel mills.
The North Side that was home to Heinz (the ketchup you know?), Three Rivers Stadium and Allegheny General and little else, is booming. Two new sports stadiums, Heinz Field and PNC Park, replaced Three Rivers, and the old Heinz plant is now loft apartments. The original Allegheny General Hospital (where AGMA came into the world smoking a cigarette and drinking champagne) is still there, but is dwarfed by a huge addition. Add the Andy Warhol Museum, The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, the Carnegie Science Center, the Mattress Factory Museum and the National Avairy plus new hotels and restaurants, and the area is sizzling with life!
The Strip District was full of grimy warehouses, and blue collar workers from Italy and Eastern Europe worked in its streets and alleys. It’s now turned into one of the hot, hip spots of the cities where Millennials and GenZ-ers go to eat, drink and play.
And AGMA of course.
We went to the Steel City to visit my niece and her family. But we spent our first night downtown (dahntahn) because it had been years since I wandered the streets I used to haunt as a child and teen.
There was much that was new, but, comfortingly, much of what has been there for years and years was still there. Even if it has been repurposed.
Back in the day, three department stores anchored the downtown area – Gimbels, Hornes and Kaufmanns. All three closed a long time ago and their massive buildings still stand partially empty. We were a Hornes/Kaufmanns family with many a meet-up under the Kaufmann’s clock. To see people walking past these once great retail powerhouses that teamed with shoppers without a glance sideways made AGMA a bit sad.
One change thrilled me.
I went past the Lutheran church I was baptized in and attended as a child. It’s in an area of town called East Liberty which is coming back from being blighted for years. Once great homes that fell into disrepair are again being restored to greatness. My church was very formal and conservative back in the late 50’s/early 60’s. Imagine AGMA’s delight when I saw the rainbow flag flying from the front door, a banner over the other door saying “Immigrants and refugees welcome!” and the electric church sign saying “Love everyone, exclude no one” with a rainbow background.
You go St. Andrews!!
One thing that, thankfully, hasn’t changed is the dialect, called Pittsburghese.
AGMA used to be quite proficient in Pittsburghese. As a freshman in college in Texas, learning the rest of the world did not call a rubber band a “gum band” was truly a revelation. Or that everybody else called a Coke a soda and not a “pop”. I had to quit using “yinz” and start using “you all”. The first time my roommate heard me say, “We need to redd up the room and do the worsh,” she wasn’t sure what the hell I was talking about. Still, to this day, I call people “nebby noses” if they’re being just a bit too inquisitive.
But I think “jag off” is a rude term.
Except as it applies to one particular individual with orange skin and hair, and tiny hands wearing a red MAGA hat over his KKK hood. Jag off.
Sometimes I miss my hometown. I miss my family and friends still there, the beautiful hills, the food, the scenic rivers and being grounded in the generations that came before.
But according to Heraclitus, change is the only constant in life.
This is true for Pittsburgh and AGMA.
Neither one of us wants to get mired down by the past. And we don’t want to accept the status quo. We seem to always have to be growing, changing, reinventing.
Aging gracefully my ass n’at!
Yinz alls rock on!