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Don’t worry mes amis. At 5:25 pm EST today I will board a westbound flight and the coach will turn back into a pumpkin – I will be back to my grouchy, Texas-hatin’ self. Have no doubt, the seeds of a rant are already germinating.

But for now, here is a brief, far-from-comprehensive list of things that put a big grin on my face while I cleaned up after my Effing Tenants, did job-related paperwork, and slept on a futon mattress on the floor:

  • Sir Pizza. Twice.
  • Western PA accents – I just love them. Completely unique, omnipresent – sounds like every next-door neighbor you’ve ever had.
  • The fact that the Grandview Saloon opened their deck for us to eat on last night, even though the posted countdown stated, “43 days until deck open.”
  • That little tiny bit of snow.
  • The Pens winning. And winning. And winning.
  • Ice cream from an outdoor window when the temperature was 12 degrees.
  • People driving like I drive. No one ever yields the right-of-way in Texas.
  • Pittsburgh traffic reports on the radio.
  • Old friends.
  • Sweaters.
  • Bridges.
  • Other people smiling.

Thanks for being the same as when I left. See you soon.

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    garland_as_dorothy

    It has come to my attention that if one is called upon to make up a name for oneself, one should be smart enough to pick one that is spell-able and pronounce-able to people not currently enrolled in French I. 

    Sometimes I am too nerdy for my own good, and for that, I hope you will forgive me.

    I also hope you will indulge my brief flashes of creativity, inspired by my name revision.

    By way of explanation: if you have seen me down at Facebook, you will know how silly my profile looked when it thought my first name was “Mme.” With a little help from my friends, I found a suitable first name, and the more I thought about it, the more I liked it.

    Then last night when Robin Williams called Austin “the land of Oz,” I knew the universe (or at the very least, a hairy coked-up comic) was telling me something. 

    I’m happy to reintroduce myself, Dorothee in the Land of Oz-tin, and I hope you’ll continue to enjoy my adventures on the yellow-brick road back to Pittsburgh.

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    Why do I love the city of Pittsburgh?

    It would be easier to just say that the reasons I love Pittsburgh cannot be defined, that it’s simply the sort of nebulous, poorly-understood set of feelings that teens write poetry about. And to some degree, that’s true. Pittsburgh is my forever home, someplace so much a part of me that it is indeed sometimes difficult to pick out individual things about it that I love. Yet there are some profound bedrock truths about Pittsburgh that I can easily identify, and it is those truths that fire the love I have for the city, on this silly day of love and every day.

    To understand this, some stories of Pittsburgh need to be told.

    Two hundred years ago, the world was changing. The Industrial Revolution was beginning, and our country was new. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, not yet the Steel City, was ready. Pittsburgh said to the country, to the world, “Do not be afraid. I will carry you.” And it did. Pittsburgh took this nation on its big, burly shoulders and raised it up. It carried us forward into the new era. And in doing so, Pittsburgh sacrificed. It blackened its skies. It filled its beautiful rivers with trash. It cut short the lives of its sons – in the mines, in the mills, in the furnaces.

    Then, when it was all used up and no one needed it anymore, Pittsburgh said, “Alright. Thank you for letting me serve you.” Without a word of protest or a groan of pain, Pittsburgh packed it all away. Never asking for help, never asking for anything. It put away its past and set about the work of cleaning up. And Pittsburgh did a lovely job, restoring everything it had to destroy and stepping into a new life. It never crowed about it. Never told anyone what it went through to recover. So no one knows.

    Pittsburgh doesn’t mind when people don’t understand. When people think it is dirty and ugly. When people are so surprised to discover its beauty. We all have heard so many times, “Pittsburgh is nothing like I thought it was!” But the city does not unduly concern itself with its image. It accepts praise and it accepts criticism. Pittsburgh is busy taking care of those who call it home.

    These days, Pittsburgh grows its children and gives them wings, and they fly away. People leave and leave and leave, taking with them the strength and work ethic and love of beauty that Pittsburgh instills in them. Pittsburgh gives and gives. Now, as in the past, it selflessly pours its bounty out to the people. And it never asks for anything in return.

    What has Pittsburgh given me?

    Strength. Grace in the face of hardship. Kindness to strangers. A desire to help. My house. My marriage. My education.

    What have I given Pittsburgh? The back of my head, disappearing down the highway.

    But there is something we can give back to Pittsburgh. Our love. That is what it deserves. Our love, and our gratitude – for the people that Pittsburgh has made us and the lives it has given us.

    Pittsburgh inspires love because, in some strange anthropomorphic way, it gives love. And that’s not hard to understand at all.

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    25 Things

    Everyone on FaceBook is doing it. Bloggers are doing it. The New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, and The Washington Post have all written biting commentary about it, all while increasing the exposure and popularity of this little niblet of viral TMI.

    Now, Pittsburgh gets in on the action.

    Here are 25 semi-obscure, semi-interesting factoids about the ‘Burgh, heavily researched by me through the use of Google and things I remember people telling me one time.

    1.       In 2006, National Geographic Explorer named Pittsburgh the Best Adventure City in the US, citing the variety of outdoor activities available both in the city limits and in the surrounding area. We’ve since been overtaken by Las Vegas or something.

    2.       Half of the US population is located within 500 miles of Pittsburgh.

    3.       723 bridges, last time I checked. Eat that, Amsterdam!

    4.       We were officially stripped of our “h” by the U.S. Board of Geographic Names in 1890. It was restored in 1911.

    5.       The Tower of Power, er, Cathedral of Learning is the tallest educational building in the western hemisphere. The UT Tower is jealous. You may recall that it used to be the second tallest in the world, but last year the Cocoon Tower in Tokyo took over that spot.

    6.       Wookie the sloth at the National Aviary poops once a week.

    7.       The elementary school student who designed Mr. Yuk won a tape recorder for her winning drawing.

    8.       Roberto Clemente has more “fans” on FaceBook than A-Rod, Manny Ramirez, Barry Bonds (obviously), Joe DiMaggio, or Roger Clemens.

    9.       Pittsburghese is a recognized dialect of American English, with an extensive body of literature analyzing it.

    10.    If you by chance have ever heard that rumor that Mister Rogers was a sniper in Vietnam or any of the other absurd (or obscene) rumors about his “past,” you may rest assured that they are all false. Every year of his career is accounted for, and every year was in loving service of others.

    11.    Renaissance I mayor David L. Lawrence is the only Pittsburgh mayor ever to be elected Pennsylvania governor, and he turned out to be a big player in national politics over the years as well. He never went to college.

    12.    Had Bill Cowher chosen to remain in Pittsburgh in his retirement, I have no doubt he would have followed in the footsteps of Mayor Lawrence.

    13.    Floodwaters peaked at 46 feet during the St. Patrick’s Day flood in 1936.

    14.    The Steelers have just won their sixth Super Bowl – an NFL record (yes, I know everyone knows that, it just feels really great to say it).

    15.    The Bayer sign on Mt. Washington has been around since the 1920’s, and it has over a mile of neon tubing.

    16.    Pittsburgh’s 40 LEED certified green buildings total nearly 5 million square feet.

    17.    Coffee consumption per capita is higher in Pittsburgh than any other U.S. city. Eat that, Seattle!

    18.    The Allegheny County flag (who knew counties had flags?) was flown to the moon and back in 1971.

    19.    That often-quoted statistic that Pittsburgh has only 59 clear days per year doesn’t mean we only have 59 days of sun. It relies on a National Climatic Data Center definition of clear that doesn’t make any sense to me. I mean, Pittsburgh still isn’t San Diego, but it’s not grey all the time.

    20.    At one point in his career, Dr. Thomas Starzl averaged one scientific paper published every 7.3 days.

    21.    Two Pittsburgh movies have won Best Picture Oscars: The Deer Hunter in 1978 and Silence of the Lambs in 1991.

    22.    The Pittsburgh Left is strictly illegal. And not going anywhere.

    23.    Pittsburgh has 16 sister cities – most recently added is Da Nang, Vietnam.

    24.     Iron City Brewing Company was the original name of the local company when it started brewing Iron City in 1861; the corporate conglomerate du jour that bought the brewery out of bankruptcy in 2007 was returning it to its original name.

    25.    The Bassmaster Classic in 2005 was the first not held on a lake and the last held north of the Mason-Dixon Line.

    Tag. You’re “it.”

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    shoes

     

    [Squeezes eyes tight shut]

    There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home.

    [Opens eyes]

    *blink * blink blink*

    Crap.

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    SQUIRRELS!

    Since last week, I’ve been in my backyard shaking my fist at the ubiquitous rodents.  Here’s why:

    This is horrifying.  I think the squirrels here are some sort of ghoulish mutants.  I don’t remember squirrels eating pumpkins in Pittsburgh.  Ever.  Do they?  If you are reading this, and are so moved as to comment, please tell me – did your pumpkins get brutalized and disfigured?

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    Fun with the internet!

    Vote here in the National Aviary’s presidential election.  Penguin ’08!

    How did I not already know about the Post-Gazette’s YouTube channel?  You can see all the local “Scary Shorts” submissions, which are hilarious, I mean spooky.

    Andy’s were better.

    Today is World Zombie Day.  Of course it is.

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