By happiest of coincidences, I had the opportunity to write a love letter to Pittsburgh on the same weekend my buddies from New York came to town to whoop it up and watch the Steelers play the New England Patriots.
National Geographic Traveler named Pittsburgh one of the top must-visit places in the world, and one of just four cities (the others being London, Belfast and Dresden). That's heady praise for a city that ought to be getting used to it.
So I'm re-running the story I posted from their 2010 visit and moving on to what will amount to a re-run of last year's festivities.
The Pittsburgh story should run Monday or Tuesday on msnbc.com and I'll re-post it here.
Enjoy your Sunday!
I was reminded again this weekend that one of these days I really should get around to running for mayor of Pittsburgh.
Really, I can’t imagine anyone doing a better job of showing off the city.
I do it all the time, but this past weekend’s always my Pittsburghpalooza. It’s when I have about a dozen buddies come to town to watch a Steeler game.
They’re true New Yorkers. They love the Big Apple, as do I. But to a man (and a woman or two), they rave about Pittsburgh, its restaurants, its views, its teams and all it has to offer.
One of them, a New York limo driver to A-list stars, says if he ever wins the lottery, he’s not moving to the Caribbean. He’s moving to Pittsburgh.
He means it.
And, ahem, that’s mostly because of me. I know the city well enough to entertain them by taking them places only the most convivial locals know.
Over the past 10 years, they’ve made friends with bartenders at Penn Brewery, Roland’s, Jack’s, the Original Oyster House and dozens of dives too notorious for decent folk to patronize.
We’ve dined at LeMont, Monterrey Bay, Vincent’s Pizza, Jo-Jo’s, Sonoma Grill and on Saturday had a wonderful meal at Six Penn Kitchen, one of the city’s best.
They’ve relaxed by the out-of-the-way shower fountain that runs beneath the convention center, enjoyed river jaunts on the Gateway Clipper and drank in the magnificent view of the Golden Triangle from atop Mt. Washington.
As mayor, I’d have key to the city advantages and a wider reach to promote the city I love.
I’m sure in one term, I could have people around the world talking about Pittsburgh like they do Paris.
First off, I’d need to get Pittsburghers as excited about the city as I am. Right now, they are not. They take it for granted.
Here’s what I’d do to change that and get everyone on the same page. I understand some of this might be extreme, but it would benefit city business establishments, tax revenues and city psyches. Alas, even Pittsburgh has its share of fun-resistant people. They need to be dragged into the party for their own good.
Feel free to apply these to your own home cities. Most of them can work anywhere.
- Randomly close the bridges and city exits for 48 hours every couple of months. This is what corporate types call team building. It did wonders for the Chilean miners and none of them had access to great restaurants, taverns, entertainment and lodging. Lock people in the city for 48 hours and employees who flee for the suburbs every night would be forced to take advantage of the recreational opportunities available downtown.
- Turn the West End Bridge into the famous “Coathanger” bridge over Sydney Harbor. No pedestrians ever go near the most scenic bridge in the city. Crossing the Ohio River and looking directly back at the Golden Triangle, the soaring West End Bridge resembles the famous Australian landmark that’s a magnet for BridgeClimb tourists. It would be an easy engineering feat to construct stairs over the arch and would provide one of the most dynamic tourist vistas in all America. Heck, put a restaurant on top of the bridge while you’re at it.
- Mandatory 35 hour work weeks. This isn’t to ensure underemployed people work more. It’s to ensure over-employed big shots work less. People who work 60 or more hours a week are often our most affluent. We don’t need these people working late and going home exhausted. We need them in the bars buying drinks for underemployed guys like me.
- Declare eminent domain on Bob Nutting’s office and throw him the hell out of it. There is no greater civic shame than the sad and enduring state of the Pittsburgh Pirates. The city’s crown jewel is lovely PNC Park, a baseball diamond so luscious it’s become a top spot for picky brides seeking elegant wedding venues. A competitive Pirate team and sell out crowds televised nationwide would do more for the city’s image than four dozen conventions.
- Student discounts at every restaurant every Friday. Pittsburgh’s home to many great university’s, including Pitt, Carnegie Mellon, Duquesne and Point Park (where I’ve been flattered to teach kids about commas). Students from all over the country come to these schools. We need to ensure they graduate and stay.
- Mandatory shifts at Primanti’s for everyone. It’s our landmark restaurant, the one with the sandwiches with the fries and slaw right on the bun. It’s perfectly Pittsburgh. If everyone had to work at least one shift there, they’d understand the essence of the city and people who call it home. Plus, guaranteed, it’d be a lot of fun.
- Trash collection contests. Every city could benefit from a program that required residents to pick up the trash they stumble over on the sidewalks. Have attendants at handy collection sites dispense restaurant coupons for people who pick up the most trash.
- Balance the budget by auctioning off the opportunity to do chores for Mario Lemieux. Guaranteed, there a lot of guys in town who’d be willing to pay $100 to brag they got to take Mario’s trash out to the curb.
- Homeless guy “Survivor.” Every single office of big shots must adopt a homeless person and make a project of turning their lives around with the goal of finding him or her a job and place to live. The office squad that succeeds in conducting the most remarkable transformation in six months gets free weekends at one of our city’s fine hotels.
- Anyone taking public transportation must take turns leading the other passengers in song. City buses and subways are unnecessarily grim. It wouldn’t be so if everyone had to sing a couple of stanzas of their favorite tunes.
- When he’s not running the Pittsburgh Steelers, Mike Tomlin runs everything else. There’s no more charismatic motivator than Coach Tomlin. I’d like to see how PennDOT construction workers fared after one weekend of exposure to the carrot and stick Tomlin so deftly applies to the Steelers.
Plus, with Tomlin running Pittsburgh, I’d be free to do what I do best.
Go out and just enjoy it.