Pittsburgh is and always will be my home city. I’m back for an long trip over the holidays and in between some east coast conferences, and it’s been a wonderful trip. The grey skies and wintry weather are a welcome break from the monotony of LA sunshine (it’s nice but…not for me).
Walking down Penn Ave.
When visiting Pittsburgh, I stay at my family’s house in Friendship, a neighborhood on the east end of the city off of a main street, Penn Ave. I work from Catapult Pgh, a coworking spacing I helped kick start back in 2012, that resides in the thick of Pittsburgh’s hippest neighborhood, Lawrenceville. It’s about a 30 minute walk, mostly down Penn Ave., from the house to Catapult, and that’s possibly been my favorite part of this trip so far.
Penn Ave. is also known as the ‘Penn Ave. Arts District’ and there are many new creative spaces popping up, and still many spaces available. It’s quite inspiring. I’ve noticed that – unlike New York or LA – new places (restaurants and art studios alike) in Pittsburgh often stay open rather than close after 1-3 years, something quite common in big cities. That’s not surprising given the difference in cost of living, but it does make me wonder if more innovation and creativity happens in smaller cities simply due to the ability to experiment without the overwhelming pressure of increasing rent.
Thinking about death in the Allegheny Cemetery
One of my favorite activities when back home, apart from pour overs and work time at Constellation Coffee, is to go for an exploratory run in the Allegheny Cemetery, a huge and historic cemetery off of Penn Ave.
I was feeling particularly contemplative during this run, and was struck by how aligned everything was – dead trees, dead people, grey headstones, grey skies…green grass? I stepped in a lot of goose shit when venturing off the road to inspect various headstones. As you can see in this photo, the raw quantity of goose shit means that was inevitable:
This made me think about digestion. Isn’t living kind of like digesting a body, in the same way the goose digested whatever they ate? Dead bodies are a lot like poop. Not in a negative way, but like, the poop was once food with lots of nutrients, and the dead body was once a person with lots of life. Now, they are both dead and in the cemetery…and one of them on my shoes.
On a less morbid note, let’s talk about cookies.
Eating cookies in Lawrenceville
Cookies are in my top three favorite foods, no doubt about it. Every year, the most magical event occurs around the holiday season in Lawrenceville: the annual “Joy of Cookies” Cookie Tour, where a bunch – by bunch I mean, like, 30 – of businesses literally put out free cookies. There are even pamphlets with a map of all the participating businesses, and people go from store to store just eating cookies (well, shopping, too – I think that’s the point). I don’t think I could come up with an event better than this if I tried. Needless to say, I took a 45 minute break from work and walked all down Butler street, stopping into various establishments, eating cookies.
At Gerbe Glass, there was a big bulldog named Tank. Here’s Tank watching as I consume a few doughy, misshapen yet very tasty green cookies:
At NatuRoll Creamery, I decided to bend the rules a bit. A sign specified “Please take only two cookies” but as you can see in this photo, there was many more than two kinds of cookies. I figured that, by breaking the cookies into pieces, I could take two total cookies while still tasting four or five different kinds.
At Stateside Vodka, I washed my cookies back with some, well, vodka. Apparently Stateside vodka contains three electrolytes to, presumably, help with hangovers. I’m not really a vodka drinker, but this is intriguing. I made small talk with the person working behind the counter who said he usually works through about half a bottle and has no hangover. Huh.
When are you going to move back to Pittsburgh, Lara?
Hmm…that’s a great question! Today’s answer is in approximately five years.
I haven’t gotten big city living out of my system quite yet. Well, Los Angeles is definitely out of my system; when I say “big city living” I mean New York City, specifically. I’ll be moving back in March, and I’m equally excited to be back in New York and to be about 3,000 miles closer to Pittsburgh.