There's a certain west coast city (that I've never had the opportunity to visit) that everyone talks about like it's a mythical Valhalla for urbanists. "There is light rail transit! The housing is so dense! The natural setting is so beautiful!" Now, I don't want to rail on Portland. Like I said, I've never been there, but I have to wonder, after having spent a day now in Pittsburgh: why is Portland so admired and Pittsburgh so demeaned? It's almost exactly same size. Pittsburgh's got the light rail. It's denser then Portland (2,100 to 1640 people per square kilometer). It's got a super cool location. It's even got better universities (Carnegie Mellon is rated 23rd in the country, one worse then Berkeley and one better then Georgetown). So why doesn't anybody know that? Is it all just the way that cities market themselves? Or is it age? Do Americans prefer a newer city?
Anyways, I'm enjoying my time here. The city's got good neighborhoods. Personally I like things a little bit skeezy, which Pittsburgh definitely has down. One thing I really like is that it's the sort of place that can have total dive bars and designer clothing stores on the same block. There's a good mix of shops and people. The residential architecture is mostly little, fairly undistinguished, but nice, rowhouses.
One of the best things is the location. It's kind of perched on the sides of a bunch of littlish mountains (more then Duluth, but less then Hong Kong). So basically, people just plopped houses wherever they could find enough flat land. There are these blocks where people have a huge cliff as a back yard, which gives it a lot of character.
Oh, and I finally did find a part of town that smelled (for reference: worse then East St. Paul, better then Gary, Indiana).
Today I basically wandered around neighborhoods. I like the South Side Flats a lot and the Mexican War Streets. Downtown is pretty nice. Oakland was kind of generic. Station Square sucks. The gate for the Pirate's stadium was open, so I wondered in and looked around. It seems really nice.
I also went to the Andy Warhol museum. It was pretty impressive. Warhol's images are so common that I don't think I ever really appreciated them before. When you are right in front of them, you can't help but be struck by both the scale and coloring. Its all so vulgar but beguiling. They also had a cool exhibit of Bruce Nauman, who works entirely in neon lights. My eyes didn't go back to normal for quite a while, but it was pretty cool.
Tomorrow, I'm going to see Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater.