Love Letters: Pittsburgh

You welcome strangers. You welcome thousands of students every year. You welcome LGBTQ. You welcome art. You welcome immigrants. You welcome the weird. You welcomed a huge Rubber Duck. You welcomed me, and I love you for it.
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Allison Bustin may have grown up in Lancaster County, but she's called Pittsburgh home since 2008. A former AmeriCorps volunteer, now she works as a Volunteer Coordinator for a small local non-profit.

Oh Pittsburgh, I love you.

The Paris of Appalachia. The Steel City. Not Philadelphia. The Most Livable City. The City of Champions. The Burgh. The 412.

This is my city. Not by birth, I was born in Baltimore, but my family is from West Virginia, and Pittsburgh is the big city. I came here for the first time when I was 18 to visit and tour the University of Pittsburgh. It was December. It wasn't snowing, but everything and everyone was apocalyptically pale and frosted. A pathfinder took my Mom and me around campus. We were happy to walk, just to stay warm. The wind didn't do the Pathfinder any favors, but I didn't need to hear anything anyway. I was set on Pitt in a second. It was the furthest away that I could get from home & still pay in-state tuition, and it was beautiful even on such an ugly day.

I hated you for maybe a year, Pittsburgh, to be honest. I didn't get it. I never left Oakland, where Pitt's campus is located. I didn't even understand what living in a city meant. I was confused and sad, and didn't give you a proper chance. It took me a while, but eventually I started taking the bus and exploring. I made friends. We ventured out into this city together, and fell in love all over the place.

It's time I give you the credit you deserve.

I could write hundreds of love letters for The Cathedral of Learning alone. Some call her Cathy. I think of him as the greatest phallic symbol Freud probably never got to see. Catching a glimpse of you from a distant neighborhood still makes any day better. Dear Catheedge, you brought me to this city when I was 18, and I haven't had the heart to leave you since.

I love your bridges, all 446 (take that Venice). I love that I got to help Knit the Bridge (in particular, The Andy Warhol Bridge) this summer, and do yoga on that bridge with 500 fellow Pittsburghers. I love your ridiculous roads and limited time to change lanes to catch any exit. I love that every time you go to Mount Washington you can get a great picture, and someone is probably getting engaged right next to you. You just can't beat that view. I love that people used to dress up as ghosts and "haunt" staircases leading to Mount Washington, to convince the steel workers to pay to use the Inclines. I love that the steep winding staircases littering Pittsburgh's multiple--and treacherous--hills have street names. I love the growing number of bike lanes and constant cyclists--even though I'm terrified I'm going to hit one of you with my rusty, trusty Mazda.

I love that this really is the most livable city. I don't want to give too much away, because yinz don't all need to move here immediately. I live in a popular, safe neighborhood brimming with unique small businesses, music, history, people I love and new and old everything working and living side by side. I have one roommate. We live in a row house with a brand new kitchen, a basement, a 3rd story attic room, and it has plenty of space and character--and two bedrooms. We pay $750 a month. I know a couple that lives 5 blocks away, in a somewhat smaller version of my house, and they pay $500. Think about that for a minute.

I love that Pittsburgh is getting attention. I love that I can go from neighborhood to neighborhood and experience completely different miniature cities. I love that Pittsburgh hipsters will hate this article (and that I called them hipsters), because I don't know enough about the immense and impactful music scene that is exploding here to do it justice with any sort of prose. I'm more versed in the drag scene: go figure out who The Moon Baby is right now. You won't regret it. I mean, Pittsburgh is Sharon Needles' adopted city, people-- I'm in good company.

I love the "h" that outsiders forget to tack on to the end of your name. I remember the first time I pronounced it "Pixburgh" by accident (& how it secretly made me feel a sense of pride). I love a good yinzer. I love hearing Pittsburghese (Go Stillers n'at). I love how fiercely Pittsburghers will defend their city. I love all of the "You're in Steelers Country" signs and Jolly Roger Flags, from the vibrantly new to the faded and tattered.

I love the rivalry with Philadelphia. I love the rivalry with WVU. I love the rivalry with Baltimore. I love that most prefer to pretend that Ohio (Ahia) doesn't exist.

Mainly, I love the Pittsburghers themselves. People ask me how I'm doing wherever I go. When I posted a status on Facebook asking for help with a move this past September, I got so many responses I had to turn people down. Last summer I had to wear a walking boot after spraining my ankle at roller derby, and my car died the same week. I was a wreck. I cried in front of my mechanic and he told me I could pay whenever I wanted to ("Don't worry about it"), and let me leave with my car. That same week a bus driver whose route I took 3 times that week, let me and my boot ride for free. Don't tell me it's because I'm a girl; Pittsburghers deserve more credit than that. You may make too many quick left turns at traffic lights, but usually you're all just the greatest humans I have ever met. Yinz kept this city alive after steel died. You care. You try. You welcome strangers. You welcome thousands of students every year. You welcome LGBTQ. You welcome art. You welcome immigrants. You welcome the weird. You welcomed a huge Rubber Duck. You welcomed me, and I love you for it.

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