Why I moved to Downtown Pittsburgh
One evening this summer I was angry at the city of Pittsburgh. It was silly, my reason for fuming. The Buccos were bombing their chance at magic #82 in the 6th
inning, and I had no place to go to buy wine or ice cream or even a bagel at that hour. I suppose you could call these Pittsburgh People Problems. #yinzerwoes since everything has a hashtag these days.
I’ve been living here a little over two months, which has been equal parts familiar and unsettling. I’m a native (we can count Mercer, PA, can’t we?), and I’m a New Yorker. If you spend nearly a decade in that crazy, beautiful metropolis, you earn that title.
“You’re moving to Pittsburgh
?” I must have answered that question at least a hundred times earlier this year—in bars, after yoga classes, over dinners, during parties—always taking into consideration the particular inflection the asker placed on Pittsburgh
, as if to imply why on earth?
Fair enough. I had adventured through my twenties in Manhattan. I had settled into a life in Brooklyn. I had plenty of great friends and fun things to do. And I had my dream job. Four years, and a boatload of confidence, patience, and practice, and I was bonafide yoga teacher and a writer. Hell, I was the author of a book.
I had crafted a life in New York City that I could pick up and move to anywhere, and by 2012, I craved change and a little less chaos. Chicago? DC? Denver? Miami?
All stellar cities—each with a decent yoga scene and a publishing industry with a pulse—my so-called ‘short list.’ Every day a different city was at the top. What comes next after NYU, magazines, New York City, and Brooklyn? Nothing. Anything.
In March, I flew out to visit my best friend in Arizona who was adjusting to an entirely new life and her first year as a resident (yes, like Greys). Krystal and I have been best friends since our college days in Ohio. She is my person, and her life has often been my inspiration for how to get my own shit together. Post namastes,
following one very hot and sweaty yoga class in Phoenix, I looked over at her and said, “Pittsburgh.” She nodded. “Yes, Jan. Pittsburgh.” We rolled up our mats, went to Trader Joes, and just like that Pittsburgh moved to the top. Permanently.
I began answering people in all sorts of ways. It’s close to my family. I just love it there. Sports! I’ve been reading about how it’s one of the best cities for thirty-somethings. Outdoor activities! Cost of living. Pittsburgh has the kind of medical scene that will be receptive to my yoga and brain injury stuff. Why not?
The ‘Burgh' is where my adventures began. Frigid cold Steeler games with my dad and Pa, where all they did was lose, but ply a little girl with chicken fingers and hot chocolate and she will always show up. Shopping with my mom at the downtown Kaufmann’s. Dinners at Station Square, or Max’s, or at the other end of the incline. My mega crush on Andy Van Slyke and the Buccos of 1992. The summer of 1996, when I got to know Shadyside and Squirrel Hill all too well (a story for a later date, unless you’d like to read a book called He Never Liked Cake
I moved away for college, but brought my Ohio friends back to experience ice-skating in Market Square, The Clarks, the Southside, the Andy Warhol Museum, and ball games. At NYU I wrote “The Allure of Pittsburgh,” a travel piece that had my classmates, all of whom wrote about far-flung great walls and Alps and deserts, counting bridges and drooling over Primanti's. Can you bleed black and gold? Eh, maybe.
So here I am, back in the Pittsburgh groove.
When I had pictured life here, I had envisioned a place on the North Shore or in the Strip. Maybe Shadyside. Or everyone had told me how much I’d love Lawrenceville. They say it’s a lot like Brooklyn.
But I was moving to Pittsburgh,
not the Brooklyn of Pittsburgh.
I guess that’s how I ended up right smack-dab downtown in a shiny new PMC Property Group building with the Pirates in my back yard.
The only conundrum is that this new neighborhood of mine—The Cultural District—is quiet. “Where are all the people?” my mother asks me. Since when did she get used to the incessant buzz of my New York neighborhoods? In the off-work, the no-home-game hours, I don’t know where they go either. Yet, I love it here, just as much as I loved my cultured, delicious, half-hipster neighborhood of Cobble Hill and my colorful, energized, exciting Manhattan streets.
Here, I have space enough to do yoga in my living room. Here I’m teaching it all over the city, which impresses my maintenance man, a friendly guy who comes to fix my trippy breaker box on occasion. Until me, he didn’t believe yoga teacher
was a profession. And here, I’m writing from ten stories up, looking out my huge windows, past the PPG spires and down the Mon. A girl can’t complain.
I’m here, because I feel this neighborhood is on the verge.
Downtown and I, we’re at the beginning. We’re new on the ‘Burgh scene, and we’ve got tons of potential. We have our yoga studio, our farmer’s market and our late-night ice cream shop (thank you, Dream Cream). And the folks at Meat & Potatoes are opening a bourbon joint any day now on Sixth, and Tacos and tequila are coming next year.
Photographs copyright Brian Cohen