A reader stands up for her hometown's hills and strengths
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My goodness, Nancy Payton, your Local Dispatch essay on Feb. 20 ("Peculiar Pittsburgh is worth searching for the right home") made me laugh and remember how my own mother hated Pittsburgh and how much I love it.
Mom moved here from Long Island, N.Y., in 1960. Where Long Island enjoyed months and months of sunshine and warmer weather, Mom had a hard time enduring Pittsburgh's never-ending overcast days and long wait for spring.
The rolling hills only made her homesick for the flat, open spaces of East Meadow, N.Y. Having worked on Wall Street, she was unimpressed by the dirty, smoggy city of Pittsburgh that greeted her. The underutilized rivers held no charm for her, only making her ache for her summers spent on the immaculate, white sands of Jones Beach.
She often complained about our neighborhood streets in Castle Shannon being "too narrow, and no sidewalks!" Poor Mom has never warmed up to the place I love and call home. She and Dad are now happily making plans to move to a Florida retirement community.
Nancy, you and my mother share the same dislike of the hills here, and that's a shame, because my best memories are full of hills: sledding on St. Francis Academy's slopes during those long, dreary winters; riding down Blossom Hill on my cherry-pink bike with the white banana seat and no helmet; rolling down the side hill of our house with my brothers and friends until we were dizzy; taking a deep breath behind the wheel before heading down Crane Avenue's impossibly big hill with my high school driving instructor, Mr. Garbark.
For the latter, I'd push on the brake with all my might as we were stopped, inclined downward, waiting until the light turned green. I was proud also of learning how to drive uphill in the snow (start and stay at the same speed, slow and steady).
And I love Pittsburgh's homes -- such a diversity of old and new construction. That "Pittsburgh toilet" you dislike so much in the basement was a godsend to us when my children would come in from playing in the backyard with mud up to their ankles.
You complained about driving an hour to go 20 miles? Geez, Nancy, how do they drive in Philly? I used to drive out to a job in Sewickley from my home in the South Hills in 40 minutes during rush hour, and my husband does the same to his job in the East Hills.
And while it's true that people in the South Hills can't imagine living in the North Hills, and vice versa, it's hardly the Hatfields and McCoys, proven by the number of families who travel over the rivers and through the woods during the holidays to be together. Walk into any Steelers bar around the country and the north-south rivalry fades away into conversations about the people you both know, worked with or are related to, because Pittsburgh is just that way.
If you are committed, Nancy, then start embracing the things that make this a wonderful place to live instead of focusing on how we do things differently from where you lived before. I promise you no one around here wants to hear how Pittsburgh is lacking -- we've been on the receiving end of that for years -- and we're just now believing we live in the Most Livable City.
We're proud of our new sporting venues, our river trails, the reclamation of the riverside and the rivers themselves, the explosion of new restaurants and nightlife, the corporations that choose to call Pittsburgh home and employ us by the thousands.
Yes, we love and live and die for the holy trinity -- Steelers, Pirates and Penguins -- and maybe we're not as quick to boo as Philly fans, but we don't need cheerleaders to make a football game more exciting.
Lastly, I hope you'll take the time to volunteer for something, because that's where you'll find the real Pittsburgh. We are a generous city -- generous with our time and our talents and our money, and we volunteer where our hearts are. We hear about a neighbor's troubles and voila -- there's a meal or a ride to the doctor, or your neighbor digging you out after a snowstorm.
And I am very sure, no matter where you choose to live -- with or without stairs, a two-car garage, central air or a private backyard -- you'll find that Pittsburgh is more than the house you live in.
First Published February 27, 2013 12:00 am