Old town, yet new.
Driving the roads here in Pittsburgh, PA brings an interesting set of sensations to my mind. It feels like Indianapolis, where I grew up. Overgrown trees and shrubs line the old roads, too narrow for our supersized cars which zip around corners and along perfectly-engineered limestone rock retaining walls blackened by exhaust fumes from the millions of passersby on their way to important meetings, flights, school, or home.
Yet, the most-obvious difference about this town and my hometown are the hills. HILLS, HILLS, HILLS! Steep and precarious, they cut through this countryside in a daunting way that surely any less-determined people would be turned away from–but not here. 446 bridges span ravines, crevasses, rivers and streams in this town (amazing images), and many of them are a testament to this steel-towns spirit, which seems to whisper,
“Go ahead. Throw anything in my path. I will go around it, over it or through it. Nothing can keep me from my destiny.”
This town feels like its going somewhere, on purpose. Surely, it will be somewhere important when they arrive.
Like my hometown of Indianapolis, the city feels shiny and upward-reaching if not trying to hide its obvious lack of real housing or the urban lifestyle that comes with walking cities like Boston or New York, where working in-town also means you need to live there, too.
While I stayed in Pittsburgh, visiting Carnegie Mellon university, I was impressed by this city. The gritty feel of the town, yet also the nearly fierce friendliness of the people. Open, real and honest about who they were and what they were living for. The hotel I stayed in services many local hospitals, and I watched couples two-and-a-half times my age carefully, dutifully walking the halls with their spouses, one of them obviously in town (long term) for treatments, or there to support suffering family members. Yet, there was no sadness I could detect in their voices. There was appreciation for what life brings. There was care for one-another. There was love. There was determination. I thought I was somewhere caught between the hospitality of the South, the friendliness of the midwest and the grit of Chicago-style do-it-iveness.
And something about this city reminds me of something almost distant or forgotten–something that runs deep inside me–a reverence for the things I love about America, and a respect for the entrepreneurs, the engineers and the back-breaking labor it took to build America from a wilderness into the greatest nation the world has ever known.
A nation which is in crisis today.
A nation which is on the move toward greatness again, if we can.
And, as I drove the streets of this city, I could almost hear in my mind the music now being heard around the world resonating from another city, also built on steel and blood and sweat and smarts:
Go, Pittsburgh. I’m rooting for you.