Pittsburgh re-visited

While in Pittsburgh this week, I sat in on the recording of Rustbelt Radio. My friend Jessica, who is one of the co-hosts of the program, said that by working in community radio she has become involved in many things she’d never have heard of otherwise. I understood her comment immediately: being a media-maker offers me a great reason to go to actions and events, to meet people and to learn about what’s going on wherever I’m at. If it’s deep journalism I’m working on, it also enables me to research issues with a focus that’s usually hard to maintain because of my varied interests.

I wrote last week that I was excited to be visiting two places I’d never been before (Erie and State College) to do reporting for Pennsylvania from Below. What I didn’t think too much about was the stop in Pittsburgh, which is easily the PA place I’ve traveled most often with my family. My mom grew up in Penn Hills, and we went every few years. My memories include Kennywood, the science museum, WISE brand potato chips (my mom’s favorite), and of course the Duquesne Incline.

Classic view Pittsburgh

Classic view. Pittsburgh, PA

The inclines in Pittsburgh are like trolleys that go uphill. They were used for freight or passengers, but now they’re just tourist attractions, not actual transit options. Though I didn’t ride it, I went to the Duquesne Incline Monday afternoon to take photos. It’s located on Mt. Washington (formerly “Coal Hill”), which has some of the best views of the city. I’d never really been to Pittsburgh in the fall, and I was quite surprised to discover how beautiful it is with the foliage across the many many hills. I also have a greater appreciation for the aesthetic of cities among mountains after living in Nablus.

Mitch noticed an astounding series of photos posted in the incline building. They showed Pittsburgh in the daytime during the height of industrialism—the air was black. “Pollution is not a new problem,” the aging sign above the photos read.

Unlike many of the small-town occupations, talking to people at OccupyPittsburgh didn’t give me a better sense of the local manifestations of corporate power and income inequality. It seems that it’s easier for big-city occupations to get embroiled in their internal dynamics and thus less grounded in what’s going on in the rest of the city. Nevertheless, re-visiting Pittsburgh for PA from Below did give me a chance to see the city in new ways and spark my curiosity about what else I don’t know there.

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