It already feels like we’ve been on the road for a week. However, as soon as we emerged from the Fort Pitt tunnel into Pittsburgh’s sunshine-filled downtown we had a good feeling about our first full day of interviews and documentation. Though everything went smoothly, some expectations have already been flipped and we have gotten a full range of the opinions of Pittsburghians (Pittsburghers? mmm...). Here are some highlights and observations:
- People can’t seem to agree on what Pittsburgh is. Is it corrupt? A “big small town”? An easy and comfortable place to live? A post-industrial city? A still-industrial city waiting to rebuild its industrial core? From our initial interviews with folks such as Eric Stern from Brillobox and Emil Lester at City Cafe, this became very clear.
- Pittsburgh has a strange superiority/inferiority complex. It is constantly reaching for its former glory, yet is too proud to accept “outside” help. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh tries very hard to distinguish itself from its Midwestern neighbors.
- We checked out the aptly themed exhibit "Pittsburgh: A History of Innovation" at the Heinz History Center, where we saw Mr. Roger’s shoes! AND HIS CARDIGAN!
- Where did all these kids come from?! Pittsburgh seems to be teeming with young people—and the cafes, bars, and coffeeshops that accompany them. This was particularly noticeable when we drove through the Southside and climbed Mt. Washington (in the train) for the spectacular views.
Tomorrow, we’ll be checking out some of the industrial towns nearby, such as Braddock and Turtle Creek, that have not seen the rebirth that Pittsburgh has. I’m sure we’ll have some interesting urban-turned-rural decay to post tomorrow…