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Dysfunctional Relationship

Sorting out mixed feelings about Pittsburgh

If Pittsburgh were a girl, she'd be both breathtakingly beautiful and hopelessly annoying. You wouldn't want to leave her because she's pretty and endearingly old-fashioned, but you'd consider dumping her because she's stubborn and stuck in the past. When she's in a good mood there's no one else you'd rather be around. When she gets grumpy you'd want to strangle her. I guess maybe that's the Scott Peterson in every man ... or is it just Scottie and me?


I've known several people recently who've been faced with the choice: Should I stay or should I go?


I know an advertising guy who was quoted in the media saying he could locate anywhere, but he chooses to stay here because of Pittsburgh's unique cultural assets and charming aura. Now he's moving to D.C. I know a young black woman who was once told that if she'd just stop being so uppity she could really go somewhere in this town. She got sick and tired of that mentality and now she's moving ... to another continent.


I know a very groovy artist who's leaving town because while his works sells like hotcakes elsewhere, he is not as appreciated in his own hometown. (Ain't it always the case?) And a Pitt student originally from Iran explains to me he's transferring to Berkeley because "there's so much more culturally, socially and recreationally ... and I'm sure I could come up with more '-ally's.'"


I can't name some of these people because they don't want to publicly trash the old girl before leaving. After all, when you break up with someone, you want to get out clean and, if at all possible, without answering that pesky and dangerous question from your jilted lover: "But why?"


I was at a party held on Richard Florida's last night in Pittsburgh. Richard was a Carnegie Mellon University policy wonk who received national attention for authoring The Rise of the Creative Class, a book about how attracting artsy-fartsy and high-tech "creative" types could help Pittsburgh and other cities thrive. The fartsier, the better. Or perhaps again, that's just me.


Florida was derided by critics as some sort of fraud, long on vague vision, short on nitty-gritty specifics -- sort of the Music Man of wonks. I believed in Richard's message and was sorry to see him take a job elsewhere.


The talk at the party was of how this town just doesn't "get it." If you can't please the old white guys at the Duquesne Club and the dumbfoundingly unimaginative politicians, went the refrain, you ain't goin' nowhere here. I was in a yapping circle which included a bunch of those people who were trying to get the film industry to shoot more movies in the 'Burgh. They were hopeful that George Romero's latest "here come those nutty dead people again" sequel would be shot in Pittsburgh. Weeks later we learned they would be shooting in Toronto. Is this a sign that Pittsburgh just doesn't get it?


I felt like something weird was happening when Steve Leeper left Pittsburgh. He was the head of the Sports and Exhibition Authority, which built the stadiums and the convention center. He was born and raised here, and would gladly argue until dawn about the great potential of this city and the idiotic media and government naysayers who were screwing it up. Then he got a private-sector job in Cincinnati and got the hell out. Steve dumped the bitch and blew town.


Josh Miller, the Steelers' punter, didn't become a New England Patriot by choice. Bill Cowher fired his ass because Josh took his doctor's advice and had surgery and had to dump out of a Steelers playoff run. Miller loved the city and hoped to finish his career here. Josh was the dumpee, although at least he doesn't have to wonder why. Don't be thinking for or about yourself in Pittsburgh. Just do what you're told.


So many friends are leaving, I wonder why I stay? I once stayed in a dysfunctional relationship until the girl hit me in the head with a hockey puck. And I even stuck around for a while after that.


My new girlfriend, Pittsburgh, has nice hills, but relationships shouldn't be based purely on physicality. I guess I'll just hang unless and until I get smacked in the head. Is this a sign that I just don't get it?

Hands off Rafah protest in East Liberty
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Hands off Rafah protest in East Liberty

By Mars Johnson