Thursday, September 17, 2009


As of September 13th, I’ve officially been out of California for three years. Three years. Sometimes it seems like it’s been much longer than that and other times, it feels like I moved out here only yesterday. Though I’ve become greatly tired of this town and nearly all things that it does not have to offer, I know that I wouldn’t have grown and learned so much had I never moved out here.

Three years in this town has left me with a bittersweet taste for it –more bitter than sweet. Year one was scary and exciting and different from what I considered “normal.” Year two was one that enabled me to really learn more about the people in my life; the ones I could live without and the ones I couldn’t; the ones who disappointed me like I expected they would; the ones who turned out to be full of it and the ones who turned out to be liars; the ones who were too negative to talk to too often, if ever; the ones who were more uplifting than I could ever be. Simply put, year two was a challenging year for various reasons.

I was doing okay this past year, ready to go home, but okay –until my brother and cousin came out here and pointed out all of the things I’d mentally suppressed over the past couple of years: “Why does everyone drive the same speed?” “Why is no one ever in a hurry?” “Why does everyone smoke?” “The radio stations suck.” Etc., etc. Since they asked and said these things, my road rage (which I picked up out here) has been horrible and my tolerance for most things “Pittsburgh” has gone completely out the window.

With each passing day I’m over “it” more and more: I’m over the fact that most people I’ve come across consider bar-hopping every weekend to be rather enjoyable and have NO desire to do anything else. I’m over the fact that people don’t realize how little they actually do due to the bar-hopping issue. I’m over the way my lungs collapse almost every time I step out of my car because of the insane amount of smokers. I’m over the underwhelming desire of people to step outside of the city to see the rest of the world –not even for a vacation (no, West Virginia, DC, Ohio, and Maryland do not count). It wouldn’t be so bad if these were “older” people or people who have already experienced other parts of the world and what it has to offer; people who have done things outside of bars and have realized that they simply prefer the bar scene to everything else. No, these are people who have never done anything, never seen anything, and have no desire whatsoever to do so. I’m over it all.

I still find it mind boggling that once again, Pittsburgh is the number one city in the country to live in. Yes, there are many wonderful museums and a few lounges and galleries spread throughout town. Yes, there are countless bars. No, violence doesn’t seem as bad out here as it is in many other places. Yes, the Steelers and Penguins are here and both won their respective championships. Yes, the skyline is beautiful and the bridges boast their own mystique. But uhhh, what else? Dang near everyone smokes cigarettes and/or is grossly overweight. Once you’ve seen the museums a time or two, the novelty disappears. It seems like public schools are closing left and right each year and the city is tailored to two groups of people –one more so than the other. You can hike, camp, and fish nearby, but if you want to do something other than those three things, you’re in for a good little drive. But apparently, it’s the best city in the U.S. to live –go figure. I suppose if I were raised inhaling cigarette smoke and puffing a few myself, bar hopping, drinking beer while watching the Steelers and Pens games, and hiking or camping on occasion, I’d love this place. However, as someone who has not lived in a bubble her entire life, this town is for the birds.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a HUGE Steelers fan and always have been and I didn’t start watching hockey until I got out here, and I was excited when they won the Cup. I still find the skyline and the drive into the city to be breathtaking. I often have my moments (frustrated as I might be) when I’m driving around town and am stunned by the beauty that the city (well, the trees) has to offer. I’m still taken aback by the bright green leaves of spring and the colors of the fall and the purity of a fresh winter snowfall. I still find it crazy wonderful when it starts storming like mad completely out of the blue for a quick few minutes. I love the crispness of early fall mornings that give way to pleasantly warm and sunny days that return to cool and crisp evenings upon nightfall. I’m still amused when I step outside on sunny winter days and am slapped in the face by the cold because I forgot for a quick moment, that though the sun is out, it’s still winter.

Though the entire year has been one of prayer, growth and realizations, I’d say the past few months have been the culmination of my evolution out here. The months have been ones of unexpected firsts, further realizing who I can live without speaking to or seeing regularly and those who I hope to never have to –well, anytime soon anyway. Since meeting and working with many wonderful people at fantastic jobs, I’ve finally begun to get a grasp on the direction of the next phase of my life and how I’m going to get there. I’ve got a short while left in this town and though I’m anxious to go, I’m grateful for what I’ve learned about myself and others to this point in my life. The next few sure to be stressful months are going to be long, but quick, and full of anticipation, frustration, and much thought and I welcome it.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Refresher -Year Two

Eyes Wide Shut: Year Two, September 2008

September 13th marked the two year ‘anniversary’ away from what I thought I knew and would always miss and I must say, that my outlook on year two in Pittsburgh differs quite a bit from that first year here. Sites and seasons are no longer new and I no longer consider myself to be a stranger caught in the rapture of such naiveté. Instead, I can wholly say that this past year was one abounding with submission, frustration, anger, sorrow, confusion, and wishful acceptance and what I’ve realized, is that I have absolutely nothing to say about this past year.

Refresher -Year One

In a day or so or maybe later today, I’ll be posting my blog about my third year in Pittsburgh. So that you know what the past couple of years were like, I figured I’d refresh you on years one and two:

My Year in the Hole: Year One, September 2007

September 13th marked the one year "anniversary" of my leaving California for a world virtually unknown to me …

Fall 2006 –First Impressions:

I've learned the true definition of a Steelers fan: One who would literally die for the Pittsburgh Steelers and that 99.99% of all Pittsburgher's are Steelers fans who considers the mere mention of another team to be pure blasphemy –you'd dare not wear another teams insignia; that the same people that have yet to learn that the earth is in fact round, can tell you that Franco Harris, Lynn Swan, Terry Bradshaw (in two different Super Bowls), and Hines Ward were the MVP's in Super Bowls IX, X, XIII, XIV, and XL; that tailgating does not begin one, two, three or more hours before a particular game, but that it begins 20 minutes after the last game of the previous season; that even when the 2006 MLB All-Star Game was in Pittsburgh, the only sports memorabilia of any kind to be found anywhere, were Steelers items; that it is in fact possible to bleed black and gold -I've seen it ... on two separate occasions; that during football season, and every other day of the year for that matter, I often feel unworthy of declaring myself a "Steelers fan;" that if Jerome Bettis says anything –at all, it's as if his words were taken directly from the Bible; that …

For the fist time that I could remember, I actually had to wear some sort of jacket once October hit. I was so used to it still being a "warm" 80o at that time of the year. Ha. I guess that's why so many of my family and friends in Cali do not own any form of outerwear –it's simply not needed.

Fact –unable to be disputed: That in the fall, day or night, but especially at night, the Pittsburgh Skyline is, by far, one of the most breathtaking visions I have ever seen. Ever. Period.

Fall! Oh my gosh! A stunning rainbow of leaves on the trees … on the ground … on my car! I actually have to wear a jacket! And those Steelers games –sixth row! Pshhh, just plain tight!!! Oh my gosh, I'm glad that I moved out here! …

Winter 2006/ 2007 –What the Hell?:

Everyone in Pittsburgh smokes. EVERYONE. Okay, save 3% of the city's population. In restaurants, right outside of all buildings, walking around –I thought smoking was banned in and around most places! I guess that's a Cali thing. Beats me. I swear they'd sell the "world's best: cigs and coffee" as a special at diners if it were possible.

I am now willing to state under oath that fall, winter, spring, and summer are actually seasons and that there are really places in which temperatures do in fact fall below 60o on a winter night. I never thought the day would come when I could honestly say that for a good part of the year, I was looking forward to the temperature rising back up to 10o, but after a few occasions of 10 below with a wind chill of 15 below, I've learned that you never know until you know. What I'll never understand, is how in below zero weather, everyone STILL smokes! That, I just don't get. I mean, the cold makes it hard enough to breathe anyway, is the added smoke in the lungs really that necessary? Geeze, my asthmatic behind cain't hardly breathe on a nice sunny day as is. I don't know. I'll get a headache thinking about this anymore, so let me move on …

Fact –still unable to be disputed: That in the winter, day or night, but especially at night, the Pittsburgh Skyline is, by far, one of the most breathtaking visions I have ever seen. Ever.

Ugh, this darn snow! Bare trees. Bare … everything! Cold ass weather. Dang depressing is what it is. Why. the. hell did I move to frikkin Pittsburgh, Pensyl-damn-vania?! Geeze, I couldn't just visit, could I? Ol' non-thinkin', spontaneous ass …

Spring 2007 –Epiphany:

After months of studying, I finally learned that a parkway is not a freeway. It's a parkway.
A parkway is not a freeway.
A parkway is not a freeway.
A parkway is not a freeway.
A park…

Whoever said that phones could in any way suffice for having an actual sit-down conversation with someone is CRAZY!! No way in hell that my talking to my twin every day makes up for seeing him even once a month. NO WAY. There's no way that talking to my cousins once a day, week, or month makes up for our monthly bowling and Denny's sessions. No way. There's no way that chatting with my sister and friends, whenever we're able to "catch" one another, is the same as hanging out and talking or chillin' 'til all hours of the night. No.way.

From the time I first returned (after six plus years) to Pittsburgh in June of '06, before my actual move here, I found it wonderfully rare to instantly become "best friends" with someone I hadn't seen in thirteen years and never even really knew then. I find it a blessing still, to be able to be stuck in a beautiful but foreign land with them for ten consecutive days for the full 24 hours of each day and be able to emerge with my sanity intact; to be ready to do it all over again at a moments (and few months pays) notice; to come back closer than ever; to be able to have a cousin that's more like a sister.

Don't get me wrong, I miss my twin, my other siblings, parents, and numerous other west coast relatives and friends so much more than words can ever convey, but I'm beyond glad to have at least one person where I am now that is like all of them rolled into one. Well, except for the twin –he's in a category all his own.

Fact –even still unable to be disputed: That in the spring, day or night, but especially at night, the Pittsburgh Skyline is, by far, one of the most breathtaking visions I have ever seen. Period.

Ahhh, goodness, flowers! Still snowing for whatever reason, but it's nice to see nature coming back to life. My allergies are KICKING MY ASS! Eh, comes with the territory, I guess. The snow's gone! It's starting to warm up! It's a clear 70o today –dangit I want to go to the beach! I've never missed the beach so much in my life! I don't know what was wrong with me –only going a few times a year. Ha, the things you take for granted ...

Summer 2007 –Lessons Learned:

It's crazy to me how alike my Pittsburgh relatives and I are (well, some of them, anyway) and how similar my mom is to her sister, whom she didn't really grow up with and seldom sees now. Genetics are just crazy to me. Plain crazy.

Okay, Pittsburgh to New York City is NOT as close as I once thought. Well, okay, that's the wrong thing to say. Let me rephrase; the drive from Pittsburgh to New York City (and back) is in no way comparable to the drive from Los Angeles to oh say, Sacramento/San Francisco/whatever. I mean, good gracious, time-wise? Sure, they're about the same. But the scenic route or lack of any kind of decent scenery makes the drive to NYC seem so much longer than it actually is. Granted my NASCAR driver of a cousin does make for excellent company on any road-trip, but WOWSERS. I guess I won't be driving to Connecticut anytime soon. Geeze, I don't even want to imagine that drive. Sorry, Sleaze. Hmm, perhaps a fall drive would be better –I've got to think about that one.

All summer long, I was trying to figure out which of the four seasons was the worst one. Well actually, which of the three seasons: winter, spring, and summer were worse –fall is hands down the best. Now, one would think that winter, with all of it's snow and black ice and sub-zero days would be the worse, but uhhh, I'm not so sure. This spring, my allergies were at an all-time … horrible. And this summer, what with the 90o and 90% humidity with an instant thunderstorm thrown in the mix days, my asthma killed me. I tell ya, I've never used my inhaler so much in my life! I mean, common sense says to "wear a jacket if it's raining," especially since umbrellas don't always work with that "sideways" rain. But when it's that dang hot and humid, what do you do?! Wear a jacket and just be remarkably hot? Stay inside? I don't know. So yeah, I'm still trying to figure out what was worse: Icy roads, a depressing landscape, and stupid cold weather, but no allergy or breathing issues? Dry roads, blooming flowers and trees, and suitable temperatures, but ultra bad allergies? Or the ultra clear skies and warm weather, but hardly being able to breathe? I don't know. I just don't know. Screw it –I'll just call it a three-way tie.

My whirlwind week home for the annual family beach trip (and because it'd been forever since my last visit) was GREAT! Exhausting, but great. I can't tell you how refreshing it was to see people with natural tans. I'd almost forgotten what they looked like. I'm so used to seeing so many spray-on, salon going orange folks out here, that the permanently tanned Californians were, simply put, visually pleasant. Orange/Oompa-Loompa-ness? No, thank you. I'll just be pasty-pale until my return to the west coast…

Fact –bona fide: That in the summer, day or night, but especially at night, the Pittsburgh Skyline is, by far, one of the most breathtaking visions I have ever seen. Come out here and try to say otherwise. Humph, not possible.

Dangit! I'm missing everything back in Cali! Mom's graduation … niece's graduation … cousin's wedding … Awww, I'm depressed. I am NOT missing the beach trip though! Not a chance in hell I am missing that. Ugh, why am I out here?! Cain't dang breathe …

Fall 2007 –Full Circle:

As I stated earlier, I have officially been in Pittsburgh for a full year now. Some days I regret my decision to leave. Some days I'm glad I left while I had the freedom to do so. Some days I find myself yearning to see and talk to my twin in person. Some days the phone is just fine. Some days I miss summer year-round. Some days I enjoy falling leaves, a fresh snowfall, new growth, and even humidity.

I've gotten to know so many details about my mother's side of the family and where she came from and I feel that as a result, in a sense, I've gotten to know my mother. I've met a multitude of cousins that I never even knew existed and as one of my brother's puts it: "It's like [I] have twice as many relatives now" and though I rarely talk to most of them for various reasons, it's still nice to know that they're out there and that I now know what they look and sound like –even if I never see them again …

If nothing else, I can say that my time here is "an experience:" All four seasons –that alone was worth the move; a new "best friend;" finally, truly appreciating where I came from –my family that I didn't fully cherish and their eternal support, my smoggy and grossly congested, yet magnificent, natural surroundings, and my life in general …

Fact –a year later: That in the fall, day or night …

The next time I decide to up and do anything even remotely this darn random again, Bisha better do her job …