The years surrounding the collapse are captured in our third book, “Pittsburgh: The Story of an American City,” by Stefan Lorant. The fifth, 1999 edition of this coffee-table book, which was first published in 1964, was shown to me by our own Ben McGrath. It seems that, years ago, he and Matt Dellinger and a couple other newbie New Yorker staffers liked to take road trips to Pittsburgh, where they observed the phenomenon of “Pittsburgh legs,” which, Ben told me, were illustrated in Lorant’s book. I envisioned a sort of wobbly, knock-kneed condition resulting from stumbling drunkenly up and down hills. But no. Pp. 488-489 contain a spread of blonds in miniskirts, with the caption: “ ‘Pittsburgh girls have the most beautiful legs in the world,’ says a Frenchman, says an Italian, says a Turk, says a German, says a Hungarian. Nevertheless—it is the truth.”This is all a long-winded way of introducing my adventures on the South Side Slopes a few weekends ago when I participated in the annual Pittsburgh StepTrek, an "urban hike" that snaked around and up and down the stairs and hills and roads of a neighborhood I had yet to explore. Needless to say, I was quite excited. It was a perfect Indian summer Saturday morning, and I was ready to put my Pittsburgh legs to work.
The first staircase of the day. Many more follow. Get ready for lots of pictures of staircases. (You've been warned.)
There were two routes prepared by the South Side Slopes Neighborhood Association, a black route and a gold route (how appropriate). I took the black route first and started following the black arrows around the neighborhood. One of the first things that caught my eye was this street that came to an abrupt stop and a ramp at the end. To the right of the ramp was an abandoned house, and it looked like someone was maybe squatting in it.
One of my favorite parts of walking throughout the South Side Slopes was turning a corner and seeing the Pittsburgh skyline pop out from between houses or above the trees. Here you can see the Steel Building lurking in the background, reminding you that even though you're somewhere on the slopes, you're still in Pittsburgh. (Of course, the Steelers decorations adorning the many porches is a good reminder too.)
Imagine walking out your front door and seeing this every morning. That's someone's life and I'm insanely jealous.
Along the routes there were a few open houses to check out. I stopped into one right and it broke my heart. Beautiful inside, the house also had THREE porches, all of which overlooked the skyline - unobstructed views at that. The photo below was taken from the master bedroom's doorway to the top-level porch. With a sliding glass door installed, I imagined waking up every morning, rolling over in bed and seeing the city. And then I immediately texted my dad to ask for $290,000. (He called, a little worried as to why I would need $290,000 out of the blue. Dads. They are great.)
Seriously, this needs to be mine one day.Soon my trek on the Black Route would come to an end, but not before I found this odd little creature hanging out on one of the staircases. The Gold Route was up next, which will be recounted in a post coming next Wednesday. But for now, it's time for me to head out and trek up and down the hills and stairs of my own neighborhood. Gotta keep those Pittsburgh legs moving.
The owner of the home was sitting on the front porch, and I asked him when I was getting ready to be on my way why on earth he was moving from the world's most perfect home. He told me he didn't want to leave, but his family had outgrown the house and there was nothing they could do but relocate. My heart broke for him. And as I walked away, my heart broke for me.