people who live in Pittsburgh are called "Pittsburghers," which i find endlessly amusing. so much less dignified than, say, oh, i don't know, "Pittsburghians," maybe? maybe they don't want to be dignified, and if so, kudos to them. i'd like a Pittsburgher with cheese, please. yes, i just made myself giggle out loud.
so today was slightly more fun, for several reasons. one, is that i think i finally started to figure out the layout of this place. directionally, it's really confusing, b/c the downtown is just a big triangle, and a crooked one at that, and all the surrounding neighborhoods go around it in a circle, so there is no straight North, South, East, or West. everything is just marginally one direction. and it's very confusing. but today i discovered the South Side, which is where i would absolutely live if i were to ever move here for whatever reason. imagine the Drag in Austin, except lined on both sides, going on about 4 times as long, and all the stores being local and quirky. tons of bookstores, record stores, clothing stores, quaint cafes, and not a chain among them, except i saw one Starbucks. it runs along the river on the north side, and sits at the bottom of the South Hills on the south side, which is a residential area built into the side of a very steep mountain. it's stunningly gorgeous. i found what must the be the coziest bookstore ever, called Eljay's Books. it even beats out the one Mandy, Victor, Collier, and I found in New Orleans. it was very library-like and dark, but just thousands of books, and the owner was blaring this great bluegrass music and singing along with it at the top of his lungs (she was the prettiest girl i ever saw/ down in the Arkansas!), which just made me beam from ear to ear for a couple of reasons. i had to buy something from this guy, so i bought an Annie Proulx novel called Postcards, and a collection of Andre dubus short stories that everyone in the world has read except for me. both for only about 8 bucks.
i also did the Dusquene (prounounced "duh-keen") Incline today. i went into the ticket booth, run by this fiery-red haired middle-aged woman who was one of the sweetest ladies i ever met. when i walked in, she said, "just you, are you alone?" i said "Yes," and she replied, "well, you're not alone, but by yourself." i almost cried. it was maybe the most thoughtful thing a stranger has ever said to me. and precisely what i needed to hear.
so i spent a lot of time on the South Side, mostly, today, but also did the Strip, which was incredibly boring. but my feet were aching, and i was really hot and tired. i stopped in this very trendy bar (think 6th St) called dejAVu ("Meet. Dance. Socialize." is their motto) to have a beer and just relax my feet, which are absoultely killing me at the moment. i got my beer from the bar and walked away, totally forgetting to pay for it. after i'd sat down a few minutes, i realized and got back up to go pay for it, and the bartender, some cute-ish sorority-looking girl was all, "i was wondering about that. i was keeping an eye on you." it made me feel sort of shitty, but she grinned at me as she said it, to let me know that she knew i wouldn't walk away. some 60's song was playing on the jukebox, and this guy she was talking to turned around and asked me if i knew who sang it. i said no, and the girl said, "too bad, because you'd be a lot cooler if you did." i said, "i never claimed to be cool." they both laughed. as my card was going through, the girl went to check on the artist of the song and came back and said it was some group called Jive Five. then i said, "now i'm cool because i didn't know." both of them thought that was hysterical.
i can honestly say that Pittsburghers (chuckle) seem to be very nice people. i haven't had one bad experience with anyone. on the contrary, it seems everyone has gone out of their way to be helpful and accomodating. last night as i was taking the bus home, i was the last person on it, and the bus driver even went several blocks out of his way to drop me off closer to the bridge, so i wouldn't have to walk as far downtown since it was getting dark. it was the end of his route, and he just did it to be nice. i thought that was incredibly sweet.
one thing i've learned about traveling alone is that it forces you to interact with your environment in a much more direct way than traveling with someone else does. you have to talk to people, and rely on strangers for advice, or directions, or just to be kind. it also makes you much more observant, i think, of what's going on around you, and where you are, than you might otherwise be. it almost makes you more porous, i think (is that the correct word?), of your environment. since you have to be more alert, and figure everything out on your own, and be more trusting of your instincts, you get more of an honest feel of things. i'm really glad i took this trip. i'm ready to get home, and i think i've done about all i can do here, but i don't regret coming at all. Pittsburgh is quiet, it seems. just sort of laidback, unpretentious, not much going on. it feels more southern than northern to me. and it's reminded me a lot of Austin, but just doesn't measure up. that's the best thing about traveling: if you love where you come from, which i do, traveling gives you a renewed love and appreciation for your home. i can't wait to get back to Texas.