Archive for August, 2009
So, we’re inching closer to a big event here in Pittsburgh that you might have heard about, if you haven’t been walking around with your head tightly wrapped in layers of black soundproof acoustic foam. Yes, the G20 is coming up next month, and in addition to threatening to turn my twelve minute commute into a four hour one, it’s polarizing ‘Burgh-watchers everywhere.
For example, this Wall Street Journal blogger answers his own question, “Why Pittsburgh?,” by likening the summit’s host city to L’Aquila, the Italian city that hosted the G8 earlier this summer. The town of less than 100,000 inhabitants was chosen for the G8 as a show of sympathy and solidarity after it was devastated by an earthquake in April – the idea being, apparently, that the summit would bring in jobs and publicity that would help L’Aquila recover. Well, uh, thanks for that… but I can’t help but point out that some job loss in a cool overall economy is not exactly comparable to a natural disaster than killed over 300 people.
On the other hand, the columnist for the Huffington Post (never shy about kicking folks when they’re down) picked up the refrain of decline and renewal that Pittsburghers have been singing for decades.
From inside the city, the Eds and Meds at CMU, Pitt, and UPMC are excited to show the G20’ers what we’re made of in the 21st century, inviting summit attendees to tour their facilities in Oakland and see the labs and classrooms that have replaced coke ovens as the workplaces of many locals. And the Pittsburgh G-20 Resistance Project objects to everything the G20 stands for and is not afraid to say so in the most incomprehensible and opaque way possible (their goals are to “lay the groundwork, provide an information clearing house, create & distribute publicity and educational materials, build momentum for the mobilization, engage in local, regional and national outreach, and develop an action framework.” Oookaay.)
And if that’s not weird and conflicted enough for you, there’s this, from a blog so thoroughly creepy I’m not crediting it:
So, I don’t really know what to say about the G20. I’m willing to imagine that it could do some good things for Pittsburgh if global bigwigs think we’re as great as I do, but I kind of think it’s bringing a lot of the wrong kind of attention our way.
Plus, my commute.
Pittsburgh needs Oprah. It needs Oprah to tell it that it’s really and truly good enough to stand up with all those flashier cities that it feels so inferior to. And maybe to buy it a car, or whatever. Because Pittsburgh has a self-esteem problem, and I never noticed it until I had to start telling people that I just moved from Austin.
By now, I’ve developed a standard response to the inevitable gushing of a Pittsburgher who has heard such wonderful things about Austin and was it just wonderful to live there? I’ve developed an even more extensive standard response to the Pittsburgher who reacts to the news that I moved deliberately, on purpose, to Pittsburgh from Austin in the same way that I might react if someone informed me that they have given up eating Roland’s hot lobster rolls in favor of eating dust bunnies.
My response consists of discussing the traffic and crowding problems in Austin, the general sense of smug ennui there, and the fact that I never could have bought such an unbelievably awesome turn-of-the-century Victorian row house there – because 1) it wouldn’t even exist there, and 2) mere mortals can’t afford property there. It consists of extolling the incredible beauty of the city of Pittsburgh, and its wonderful sense of history and identity, and its down-to-earth authenticity that is okay with me being both a compassionate and sensitive servant of humanity and a beer-swilling psychotic sports fan freak. I wrap it up by just shrugging and saying I guess I wasn’t hip enough for Austin, which is the only lie in the whole spiel and inevitably the only part accepted as truth.
I don’t like the underlying principle that this phenomenon seems to suggest – that Pittsburgh’s image problem comes just as much from its own apparent self-loathing as it does from bad PR. The bad PR problem we can overcome, and to some degree we are, if the steady stream of love from the New York Times is any indication. But all the good press in the world can’t save the city from its bad self-image.
Pittsburgh, you need an Aha! moment.
(Note: The above link is brought to you by me googling “Oprah catch phrase.” Perhaps I shouldn’t write about a celebrity if I know absolutely nothing about her. Oh well, what’s done is done.)
Burgh Blog archives are back up???!! This makes me one happy, lazy blogger.
Also, I would like to just state for the record that it’s not completely laziness that has led to this being the first post in like 2 months. My whole brain has also been sucked into my extremely interesting but brain-sucking new job, which also does not allow access to WordPress, during the 12 hours a day I’m there. But mostly, laziness.
It’s not like I haven’t had anything to say. I can’t freaking shut up about how mad as hell and not-gonna-take-it-anymore I am about the fact that after the big fire sale, the Buccos’ entire payroll is less than their luxury tax payout. I just haven’t been able to plant myself in front of a keyboard long enough to rant adequately about anything.