Friday, July 2, 2010

Meet Yinz in Da Burgh: Pittsburgh

 Standing on the promenade of Mt. Washington, overlooking his city of Pittsburgh, BK pointed toward the shimmering downtown skyline and the rivers below. “You can take a boat all the way from here to New Orleans,” he said proudly, as he pointed to the riverboats that stream through the Y-formation where the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers converge and form the Ohio River.
 Originally from New Jersey, BK has been a thirty-year resident of the Steel City and is an enthusiastic promoter of the city to out-of-towners. He showed us around on my first visit to Pittsburgh last year. I was really impressed with this attractive city with its diverse neighborhoods and incredibly, its 446 bridges. I think people who live in Pittsburgh like to keep it a secret that this is now rated one of the best American cities to live in. But their secret has been out for a while as the city consistently ranks high in the livability ratings of magazines like Forbes, etc. The Economist ranked Pittsburgh the No. 1 city in the U.S. to live in last year and the 29th worldwide.

“Most people think when they come to Pittsburgh that they’re going to see soot, smoke and steel mills. They don’t know how beautiful the city has become with the Pittsburgh Renaissance.” The Pittsburgh Renaissance began in the 1970s when the steel mills closed and the city began redeveloping tracts of industrial land. BK noted that “the days when men had to change their shirts at noon because of the soot are long gone.”
A highlight for me was visiting the Phipps Conservatory, a must-see attraction for plant lovers and gardeners. This amazing botanical garden dazzles with its designated “rooms,” each devoted to some particular botanical treat: a butterfly forest, a palm court, an orchid room, a tropical fruit and spice room and an Amazon rainforest room.

I was delighted to find Kaya, where I ate one of the best Caribbean meals I’ve had in North America. Located in the hip Strip District, where old industrial warehouses have been converted into restaurants, nightclubs and the site of several outdoor markets, Kaya’s island cuisine takes its inspiration from the Caribbean, the Hawaiian Islands, the South Pacific and South America. From Jerk Wings, to Tuna Poke, Kaya is island fusion at its best!
And then there’s the unique “Pittsburghese.” I’m used to people telling me that I “talk funny.” So I was glad to find a city where they revel in their own completely distinct dialect and pronunciations! Dahntahn (Downtown), Da-Boat-a-ya (the both of you), Da Burgh (Pittsburgh), Yinz (you all/ people from Pittsburgh), Meet yinz at cordada four (meet you at quarter to 4), sammitch (sandwich), Ahia (Ohio), City Chicken (veal and pork cubes breaded and fried), Kennywood's Open (Your fly is unzipped).
 We stayed in the Oakland neighborhood, location of the vast University of Pittsburgh Medical Center complex and several universities. Jonas Salk developed the polio vaccine in a mid-rise office building here now called the Salk Hall Annex, which is nestled among several UPMC hospitals. UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh are the largest employers in the city with approximately 60,000 employees. UPMC is a first class medical facility that draws patients from across the world.
The Cathedral of Learning tower, a gothic 42-storey building, constructed in the 1920’s, stands as a beacon in the University of Pittsburgh campus. It is the tallest educational building in the world where classes are still held.  Nearby, were the campus of the Carnegie Mellon University and the Museums that carry the name of one of Pittsburgh’s richest and most well known benefactors, Andrew Carnegie. Andrew Carnegie was a poor immigrant from Scotland. He arrived in Pittsburgh and amassed a great fortune in the steel industry that he bestowed for the benefit of the City of Pittsburgh and his fellow citizens. The Carnegie Museum of Natural History and the Carnegie Museum of Art are located in Oakland adjacent to the well regarded university that bears his name.

I’ll be in Pittsburgh for the next three weeks, taking advantage of the great medical care at UPMC. Blog postings will resume asap. See you Yinzers soon :-).


  1. I so much loved reading this post. From the start to the end, you had me asking myself so what did she do next and now what?......its so amazingly written and very different than the way normally blog posts are. Thank you for sharing your wonderful experiences of Pittsburgh. Would love to hear more from you!

  2. Hello!

    I hope you don’t mind me reaching out. I’m producing a film on Haiti's agricultural crisis and the grassroots sustainable ag-based recovery movement emerging there. I believe strongly that Haiti is an amazing test-case of the failed paradigms of the past, and we are making this film both to promote a new path for Haiti, as well as leverage this "teachable moment" for the world.

    We're on Kickstarter, and we've produced an Intro Video which I think your audience would find appealing. The video is at An embeddable version from Vimeo is available at: I would also love your guys’ feedback on the project if you have any.

    Thank you,

  3. Hi Josh,
    Your film project looks very interesting and I wish you the best in covering this important aspect of Haiti's sustainability efforts going forward.

  4. Hi Barkha,
    Thanks for your kind words on this posting. Much appreciated,