Wednesday, August 01, 2007

An Abundance of Riches

I went up to Pittsburgh last weekend, on a trip that was planned at 10:30 on Thursday night and began at noon on Friday. Normally I'm not much of a seat-of-my-pants kind of person, but James pointed out that sometimes the seat of your pants is the only thing you can really count on. So to speak.

I had a funeral and a graduation party to attend, both in one day, which was a little surreal but not bad (several hours intervened), and took me to two parts of Allegheny County I'd never seen before (Moon Township and McKees Rocks). I also got to spend some time with James, though he had to work on Saturday, and see his family, and I stopped and spent the night at my parents' place on my way back to Charlottesville, which was great. Well worth the many hours in the car, even with an hour of mostly sitting still in a cloud of exhaust because a car broke down in the middle of I-66 right after road work had caused four lanes to merge into two.

It's funny how many of the things I feel about Pittsburgh resemble my first impressions of Charlottesville when I started coming down here to visit Jeff in 1997. Both cities are much more than they appear to be: full of hidden treasures, impossible to explore thoroughly, and beautiful in disarming ways. Both have a plethora of restaurants worth visiting, and places to buy cheap, fresh food. I especially love Pittsburgh for its unpretentiousness (which makes the isolated pockets of high-society snobbery more amusing than alienating), which most of Charlottesville does still have, despite the influx of yuppies after having been named America's #1 City a few years ago.

Both cities have bizarre and unpredictable weather. My first January in Charlottesville, there was a week of ice storms. It was unseasonably cold, and everything just froze solid. Then the temperature rose over thirty degrees in a matter of hours, and as we drove on the back roads in Ivy, I could see the ice and snow sublimating, and great clouds of steam rose from the asphalt. There followed a week of sixty-degree days, when even with most of the students gone for break, the Corner was absolutely packed, and people were picnicking on the grass everywhere I looked. And I recently read a line about Pittsburgh's weather that brought it all back to me: a blogger mentioned that on a typical day in February, she would leave the house in a coat, hat, gloves, scarf and sunglasses. Pittsburgh is where I learned that if the temperature is below ten degrees, you can tell because your nose hair freezes. I also learned to clear a windshield of snow and ice in less than a minute (most of the time). The summers are usually stiflingly hot, and they stay that way into the night because of the way the city hangs onto the heat. But Pittsburgh also has long, glorious autumns. And, truth be told, I miss the cold down here.

Interview season is coming up, and I'll have to make some decisions about where I'd like to work next summer, as well as where I'd like to settle after law school. This is really hard. On the one hand, I'm kind of afraid to go to a new city—what if I fall in love with it, too, and have to add another entry to my list of places I miss when I'm not there? But on the other hand, what great town might be out there, perfect for me, just waiting for me to discover it?

As I narrow down the choices, I'll have fall classes to think about, friends returning from their summer jobs all over the place, and (woohoo!) the beginning of football season, which will find me, I'm sure, drinking Yuengling in a Charlottesville bar and rooting for the Steelers.


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