Stuff I Write, Stuff I Like

Stuff I Like: Pittsburgh the Movie, Homing Pigeons, Braddock PA, Something Gritty,Something Real

In Uncategorized on May 10, 2013 at 3:39 am

On a recent visit, I drove my friend Frank through Pittsburgh’s Electric Valley and into Braddock. Frank’s from New York City. He teaches in the Bronx. Frank knows rough.

In Pittsburgh, we drove beneath the George Westinghouse Bridge and past the Edgar Thompson Steel Works. Off in the distance, we could see the tracks of Kennywood’s roller coasters rising up like lost sea monsters. We drove down Braddock Avenue, past an urban garden, past a playground that Levis Jeans built in exchange for putting the town in commercials. We drove past Bell’s Market where there was a sale on salami and headcheese and wingdings.


“I love it here,” Frank, who hadn’t been talking much, finally said. “It’s gritty. It’s real.”

It’s also beautiful. And tough. Even Hollywood knows.

Pittsburgh, for me, is a hard place to describe. Maybe it’s like that for all writers who try to describe the place they were born into, the place that is so entwined with their own DNA it’s impossible to separate.

“What’s Pittsburgh about your writing?” an interviewer asked me once.

I couldn’t answer. There isn’t a single thing I can think of that’s not Pittsburgh about my writing, about me. I’m not sure how to explain that.

When I was living away from Pittsburgh, in New York where I met Frank, I was talking to a guy in a bar. He asked where I was from, and I told him.

“You Pittsburgh people,” he said. “You’re homing pigeons. You go away and you go right back. You’ll see.”

Thirteen years ago, I did see. I came right back. Now I have rooted myself and my family so deeply here I doubt any of us will ever be away for long. I’m grateful for that.

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