I have come to realize, now that I am back in the ‘Burgh, what a very positive experience it is to live elsewhere for awhile. Like Rumspringa for Western Pennsylvanians, a stint in the Diaspora gives one the chance to choose, one way or the other, and that is a very powerful transforming opportunity.

For me, anyway, I feel as though I’m seeing everything familiar with new eyes, because I’ve chosen it. I know what color the grass is on the other side of the fence (green), and I decided to come back to this side.

I decided.

There actually is a lot of power in that. Power to make Pittsburgh a better place for the people who haven’t chosen it yet. When you put yourself behind something because you chose it, not just because it’s what you’ve always known, you’re invested in it in new ways. When you choose, you’re making a stand. And you want the things you stand for to be strong and succeed.

Sometimes it can be a tough choice. Living away is different. Living away in the West is very different. And living away in one of America’s darlings of growth and youthfulness (Austin, Charlotte, Portland…) is very, very different. Just like you sort of suspect, if you’ve never lived outside the area, that it would be. And no matter what I say, or what these guys say, or these guys, or this guy, there’s no way to know if you will find it different/good or different/bad.

Not without seeing it for yourself.

So. I think you should go see it. I do.

I’m telling you, maybe you should go away for awhile. In the hopes that by leaving, you will become one of the (hopefully) legions of diasporans who are choosing to return. Bringing with them the lessons of elsewhere, and the fire to keep making Pittsburgh worthy of the choice we made.


Do not ask me how I came to have these photos. It is strictly confidential, just between you and me and the whole internet. But is this COOL or what:



And then it gets rowdy:




No cherished sterling silver trophies were harmed during the making of this post.


Got an email from Mrs. PF today, still in exile in Oz-tin:

A friend’s facebook post that I thought you might appreciate more than most:

“Pittsburgh, do you seriously need to dominate in everything? Maybe other cities would like to win every sporting championship or host the G8 [sic] summit or be a center of biotechnology, health care, banking, and education or be largely unaffected by the recession or have such an awesome real estate market that your pizza guy has more square footage than the national archives…y’all just getting greedy”

This friend does not, apparently, live in Cleveland. I asked. He lives in Italy.


Ha ha.

[crickets chirping]



Tuesday night I watched the Buccos play on FSN Pittsburgh and I saw the promotional ad with Nate McLouth that concludes with him saying earnestly into the camera, “I’m a Pirate.” 

Twenty-four hours later, that was a lie.

Pittsburgh’s newest explant motivated me out of my “what is the meaning of my blog?” funk, because it’s clear that the culture surrounding the flow of people into and out of Pittsburgh still needs voices. The diaspora has many good minds helping to analyze it – Jim Russell, Mike Madison, and Bill Toland, for example – who actually understand the civic and economic underpinnings of migration. And then there’s me. Head and heart, I guess. I don’t really get it, but I know how my experience feels. 

And I know how sort of outraged I feel when something happens that subtracts from Pittsburgh, especially when the top headline on the Pirates’ website proclaims, “Trade is history.”  It is? I’ve barely absorbed its implications at all. One rainout and a win later and now we’re in the next chapter? And you don’t even want to see ESPN’s headline. The prophecy of SI’s big write-off fulfilled, I find myself in a familiar position when it comes to the Bucs – looking stupid for my optimism. Jack Wilson’s out with a stomach bug, I don’t feel so well myself.

But as a side effect, I am reminded that I still have a reason to be here. My experience of living away adds something to the city, and makes it just a bit less likely that the overall optimism about Pittsburgh will end up looking as stupid as any specific hope for any specific Pirate all-star.

Godspeed, Nate. 

And all of you who are Out of the ‘Burgh.

Good morning

It almost seems like it was all a dream. Like I just woke up from a 3 year dream in which I lived in Texas to find myself driving through the Fort Pitt Tunnel in a thunderstorm. So much more is the same than is different, most of all how I feel. It’s as if the last 3 years just fell away and left the same simple girl who walked to her neighborhood bar for wings and beer and the Stanley Cup playoffs, and all was right with the world.

Yesterday evening I manufactured a reason to drive around town, listening to the music I listened to the last time I lived here, and it truly felt as if no time had passed at all. When you leave a place, it is frozen in that moment for you – how painful it must be to return to a beloved place and find that it has left behind that home of memory and is all but unrecognizable. I don’t think that can ever happen to Pittsburgh. Even when it’s different, it’s the same.

And I realize something else. I’m not sure who I am now, in the context of this blog. I had this whole identity centered on being far away, and being back sort of takes the wind out of those sails. Sure, I can probably get some more mileage out of the whole, “Wow, everything looks the same except that new Qdoba near my house!” thing, but the fact is that I never really wanted to say too much about me and my actual life experiences. I planned to talk more about what it means to be part of the diaspora, how to remember and honor the place where you come from. I don’t want to become a metaphor – the enthusiastic, outward-focused, cheerleading, all-too-brief O’Connor era gives way to the selfish, childish, mind-numbingly unhelpful Ravenstahl era. No one wants to read an index of all the banal stuff I do now that I’m back in Pittsburgh, any more than they want to read someone’s name on garbage cans.

But I don’t know yet how I’m going to keep this blog from becoming a garbage can. I don’t know where I fit. Who am I, now that I’m no longer Out of the ‘Burgh?


Toto, we’re home. Home! And this is my room, and you’re all here. And I’m not gonna leave here ever, ever again, because I love you all, and – oh, Auntie Em – there’s no place like home!