I take my Pittsburgh pride seriously. I also take it on the road–everyone I meet out here in placeless backpackerland is immediately informed that I live in Pittsburgh, America’s best but least-known city. I tell anyone who will listen that I love my life there and don’t soon plan to leave, that I consider it the finest place to live on the face of the earth, and that any and all are invited to come and stay with me to discover it for themselves. I often don my “I (bike icon) PGH” shirt, attracting inquiries about its meaning–which I seize and run with, often concluding long tangents with “…and that’s why Pittsburgh is the best place on earth.”
I pull out the somewhat meaningless distinctions of Most Liveable City and the G20’s recent visit as indisputable evidence that others, too, recognize Pittsburgh’s greatness. I’ve already recruited a curious Canadian to come for Halloween and an agreeable Texan to run the half-marathon in May. I’ve promised couch space to innumerable Germans and discounts at the bookstore to a veritable army of beraggled Dutch and French (“We even have a direct Pittsburgh-Paris flight!”) I’ve bored a table of Brits to tears as I scrupulously ennumerated the economic and social benefits of living in Pittsburgh. I reeducated a pair of dumbfounded Malaysians after one said “Pittsburgh–car industry gone, right?” And, in an embarrassing loss of self-control, I severely upbraided a Philadelphia-educated Chinese man who expressed his impression of Pittsburgh as industrial and dirty.
To all, I’ve referenced the Castel for a somewhat disengenuous nod to cutting-edge cool, bike paths to prove progressive values, Salt of the Earth as good-value gastro-swank and Donatelli’s as evidence of enduring ethnic influence. In short: I’m the Johnny Appleseed of traveling yinzers, where apple seeds are my business cards and promises of a good time to be had by all.
Pittsburgh Hostel Project, get ready for an onslaught of scruffy backpackers as the word spreads! Global Pittsburgh, prepare to host that bewildered Korean beaurocrat I gave my card to on Everest. Quiet Storm, start whipping up those funky banana pancakes. And friends, dig out your favorite recipes for the most international line-up of potlucks and cookouts at Casa Anne Marie yet.
If I know this crowd, the lure of cheap living, good food and friendly vibes should be enough to put Pgh on the backpacker map. And if not, well, I guess I won’t be surprised. But I will work on my Johnny Appleseed get-up for Halloween–just in case that Canadian woman actually turns up.