Pittsburgh driving is an art. It requires speed, determination, trickery, and agility. And a heck of a lot of confidence.
My commute to work involves a lot of two-lane roads through Ohio farmland and the wildest ride I have is when the stoplight is red. So me trying to tackle Pittsburgh traffic promised to be a disaster.
I left my hometown around 9:15 a.m., missing the morning rush hour. Despite this, before I even entered the city, an accident almost materialized before me when a car made a left turn as soon as the light turned green, sending all the cars in front of me into a lurching stop. Sighing in relief that nothing bad happened, I followed my GPS to the Mattress Factory with little trouble.
Now, I knew getting out of the city, would be a nightmare, but I didn’t want to get to my next destination too early, so I left Pittsburgh around 5 p.m. I followed the signs to interstate 376. Those signs told me to get in the right two lanes. Okay, I thought. I can do that. I got into the far right lane. Once I approached the bridge to the Fort Pitt Tunnels, another sign bid, “376 Left Two Lanes.” Um, what? Surprisingly, this took a lot less time than I anticipated. I had my turn signal on for a while, but no one was letting me in. Finally, I just sort of bullied my way in front of a red car. The lady in that car didn’t even appear to be paying me any attention. But I managed to get in without causing a wreck (I credit Blessed Mother and my guardian angel with that one), and zoomed through the tunnel. As soon as I popped out the other end, it hit me that I survived the first half of Pittsburgh rush hour traffic. After that, getting down 376 was a little slow, but easy.
Now I feel like I can drive anywhere. Thanks, Pittsburgh, for having such irritating traffic because now I feel invincible!
The glass castle that’s not really a castle.
Me running through the PPG Place fountain.
So, yesterday was my first day trip into the Burgh!
I saw the city before it saw me, peeking around the hills as I drove down Ohio River Boulevard. I was on my way to the North Side to visit the Mattress Factory, which actually has nothing to do with mattresses. It’s a contemporary art museum, which to my astonishment, few of my Pittsburgh friends knew about. A college friend of mine from the city told me I should go since it’s his favorite museum. I did my research and found out that Tuesdays are half-price day and since I’m still a student, I got that discount, too. So that was pretty cool (and a relief to my bank account).
So, donning my Pittsburgh Pirates T-shirt to blend in, I stepped into the Mattress Factory. My conclusion: I don’t understand modern art. I guess a bunch of rusty car parts covered in salt and suspended from the ceiling has meaning for some, but not for me.
Not to say that it wasn’t worthwhile. It totally was. My favorite exhibit was the Infinity Dots Mirror Room, created by a Japanese woman. Before you enter the exhibit, you must remove your shoes or cover them. The room was blacklit and the polka dots on the floor shone green under them. There were panels of mirrors that made me believe I was walking into a maze (and almost went smack into one of the mirrors – it wasn’t a maze). That in itself was worth seeing.
One of the best exhibits was in the house a few doors down. The artist wove a net of black yarn all around the house, trapping everyday objects in the yarn, such as chairs, books, a sewing machine, a bed, and a wedding dress. It was supposed to be symbolic of memories. I really liked that.
Since my time at the Mattress Factory took a lot less time than I expected, I walked to the Andy Warhol Museum, also on the North Side. I’ve seen the Campbell’s soup can and the Marilyn Monroe before, but I never went to the museum. I was actually kind of confused about what made this guy so special, so I asked one of the docents. She said that he was the first to use screen printing for art rather than commercial purposes. She said he was a bit impatient (sounds like I’m in good company), so the screen printing was useful for making art quickly. Heck, it worked for him since now he has a whole museum dedicated to his work!
Art doesn’t have to be something you can hang on your wall, In fact, I think the best piece of art I saw that day was the city itself. I never realized just how walkable of a city Pittsburgh is. But I walked from the Mattress Factory to dahntahn with no trouble. I let myself get lost in the city, but there was one place that tugged at me: the PPG Place.
If you’ve never seen the building that houses Pittsburgh Plate Glass, the best way to describe it is a glass castle. There’s a fountain in the middle of the square. At first, I wasn’t going to play in it because I was by myself. But then I asked a security guard to watch my stuff. He happily did, and when I returned soaking wet and grinning like a crazy person, he commented, “You sure look like you were having fun.” He told me that he recently moved back to Pittsburgh after living 28 years in northern Maine. He doesn’t regret moving back.
And yesterday, neither did I.
After I left PPG Place, I let myself get lost along the Allegheny River (honestly, I can never remember which river is which). But as I wandered along, all I could think was “This is a beautiful city.”
Wonder what else this city has in store for me?
Before I wander into the great unknown that is Pittsburgh, I think I need to brush up on my Pittsburghese.
In my post yesterday, I briefly touched on the language that exists in Pittsburgh. Since I really only used the word yinz (you guys) to annoy my Ohio friends, I think I need a crash course on how to speak like a local:
Picksburgh = Pittsburgh (NEVER forget the h at the end!)
Stillers = Steelers
Jeet jet? = Did you eat yet?
Dahntahn = Downtown
Ahr = hour
Arn = Iron
Baffroom = Bathroom
Red up = To clean
Brights = High beams (I actually do use this term, but I didn’t know it wasn’t universal)
Buggy = shopping cart (again, I thought this was what everyone called it)
Clicker = remote control
Gum band = rubber band
Gian’ Iggle = Giant Eagle grocery store
Worsh = wash
Slippy = Slippery (another one I use)
Ovaderr = over there
Sheep’s leg = Wipe your nose (this exists?!)
Wutzername = What’s her name?
Yagottabekiddin = You have got to be kidding
You kids are driving me to Dixmont = You kids are driving me crazy (Wow, that bad? Am I really annoying you that much that you need an insane asylum?)
Okay. So today I’m just going to march dahntahn and be all, “Yinz know where the baffroom is?” “I think I left my brights on. Man, my car needs worshed.” “Jeet jet?” “At least it ain’t slippy out.” “Be there in about an ahr.”
It actually kind of hurts my vocal chords to talk like that.
Three years outside of Picksburgh, and yinz’d think it wouldn’t be enough to lose the accent of my youth, but I guess the question remains: did I even have an accent in the first place? I must have. Why else would I still say “buggy,” “brights,” and “slippy” unless I learned them during childhood?
For the record, Yinzers are not unintelligent, as I am going to prove. Pittsburgh has an abundance of museums and culture. We just have our own way of saying things.
“Yinz wanna go dahntahn ‘n watch a Stillers?”
Tranlation: Do you want to go downtown and watch the Steelers?
No, as a matter of fact, I do not. I always joke I was born into the wrong part of the world. Pittsburgh bleeds black and gold, so I guess I do, too, by default. But I was never a huge football fan. The Steelers mean nothing to me. I never know the Penguins are in the playoffs until someone tells me. And I only go to Pirates games for the Pierogi Race.
In my opinion, the true wonders of Pittsburgh are overshadowed by the incessant chatter about sports. Unfortunately, to talk sports is to talk the language.
So, now I’m back in the Burgh, speaking the sports language of “How do yinz think them Stillers are gonna do this year?”
Ha, no. I’m speaking a new language, the language of a person determined to understand what’s so great about this city. What makes it home to so many? What’s so special about it?
My name is Adrienne Savoldi, and I am tackling Pittsburgh.