The Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership awarded prizes last week to a writer who provided the best "Downtown Pittsburgh Love Story" in advance of Valentine's Day.
The winner, whose submission is published at www.downtownpitt.blogspot.com, raved about meeting a beau for the first time at the Three Rivers Regatta, with their relationship being sparked by the fireworks that night and other good times Downtown.
It made us wish we'd written our own love letter to Downtown, like the one below, and submitted it in time to win.
For some lovers, young and old alike, nothing in the world is so intoxicating as the springtime gardens in Paris or the summer fountains throughout Rome, but give this romanticist Downtown Pittsburgh in winter any day.
Only a too-frigid heart could avoid swelling when winds from the west come howling through the Ohio Valley, whipping across the Point and piercing through thick layers of protective corduroy, wool and leather, reminding with each stinging tear to the eye that one is alive -- yes, alive! -- while strolling hunched over for protection in the center of one of the great cities of the 21st century.
My feelings for Downtown pound with all the clamor of a jackhammer helping to build another PNC office tower. The sights, the sounds, the smells -- yea, even those of the most pungent alleyways off Market Square -- draw me to the inviting bosom of the Golden Triangle. This is where a man is inspired to seek true love, especially after 6 o'clock, when the search becomes a lot more cost-efficient since the meters don't have to be filled (for now).
Even earlier than that, though -- say, 5:15 -- any mortal soul would be aroused by the beeps and brake lights enlivening every street. I tremble, I swoon, I sigh -- sigh louder than anything Eros and Aphrodite ever heard -- as a potential soulmate driving a small Honda crawls into the intersection behind another stopped vehicle, even as the signal turns as crimson as a valentine.
And there an indifferent, careless, beauteous creature sits nonchalantly behind the wheel, for eyes of mine and many others to feast upon her for minutes that feel like hours. She can move nowhere, and so neither can I. It is a mating dance that none of the 19th century romantic novelists ever imagined, and a thousand times more rapturous than anything they ever wrote. Gridlock me, my fair maiden! Let us "block the box" together, and cursed be the traffic cop whose whistle strains to tear us asunder.
The language of love is enunciated even more clearly on foot in the city's central business district. Beneath the clock of the place once known as Kaufmann's, so many couples have met over the years, germinating relationships that would survive long beyond the demise of every Pittsburgh department store.
Salutes be offered to the gallant knights who have won the hearts of the fairer sex by offering them a diamond ring from a Downtown jewelry shop, a stylish wig from one of its many salons or, best yet, reimbursement for a full day's garage parking fee. Such gestures lay the foundation for courtships that last an eternity together -- or nearly as long as it takes to get out of town after a fireworks show.
But why ever try to leave Downtown, as it has everything young lovers could desire except a supermarket -- and aren't groceries so overrated? There are plenty of opportunities, after all, to buy cigarettes, which are one of the items that lend a smokily seductive atmosphere to the environs.
Walk a few feet from any office building's entrance and smile at the flirtations among the nicotine-fueled men and women enjoying the company of other risk-takers for whom carcinogens are but an aphrodisiac. Ah, the aroma when a Marlboro entwines with a Newport! Is there anything sexier as you smell it hours later on your co-worker's clothes, or maybe even days, as though the smoking break had only just occurred?
All of this and more is the Downtown with which I have fallen in love, an ardor renewed every workday as its crowded bridges and highway ramps welcome me and every evening as I exchange goodbyes with the gaudy signs atop the skyscrapers. ("Au revoir, BNY Mellon!" "Arrivederci, Highmark!" "Toodle-loo, K&L Gates, and give my warm adios if you see her to old Ariba, wherever she may have alighted!")
That, friends and partners from the partnership, is my Downtown, with which I am only more enthralled for the free bus and subway rides within it. (Take that, Manhattan!)
Now, where are my prizes?
Gary Rotstein: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1255.