Your Assistance is Requested

Today’s post is the debut essay from a new Eleventh Stack blogger, Aisha. Please give her a warm Pittsburgh welcome in the comments section.

In late August, I moved to Pittsburgh from Indiana (the state, not the town, which is a distinction I’ve never had to make before). I am mostly thrilled to be here. The thing keeping me from being completely thrilled? The hills. They’re gorgeous to look at, but I’ve spent the majority of my life on flat land so driving on them is like being on a roller coaster ride where I’m the one in charge of making sure I don’t die.

Northern Indiana: it’s flat and very easy to drive around on.
(Photo taken on a very cold morning
from author’s balcony.)

Some of the things I’ve learned in my brief time in Pittsburgh:

One of the advantages of being a librarian is that I have my own personal librarian: me. One of the disadvantages of being a librarian is that my non-librarian friends and family also have their own personal librarian: me. I have been known to yell, “I’m at home! I’m not a librarian at home!” But whenever I need information, I just say, “Self, find it.” (Yes, even if I’m at home.)

Here are some books my own personal librarian found that may help me get used to my new home:

And now, dear reader, is when I ask for your help. What are the quintessential Pittsburgh experiences I should be having? What are your recommendations for things to do or see or eat? Is there a book that perfectly captures Pittsburgh? What’s your favorite CLP program to attend? Is someone willing to teach me how to parallel park?



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30 responses to “Your Assistance is Requested

  1. 1) Go shopping in the Strip district really early on a Saturday morning. So much to see / do / taste!!

    2) Next time they have a show, go see Frankly Scarlett – I think you would enjoy them!

    3) Smoke Taqueria in Homestead – a 61C will take you there – you MUST have one of their tacos! Cash only, but they have an ATM

    I could go on forever, so somebody please jump in here. Welcome to Pittsburgh!

    Leigh Anne

  2. Karen

    I, too, hail from a flat, mid-western state and found driving Pittsburgh’s hills to be a challenge. A bigger challenge was learning how to interpret directions, such as “at the top of the hill turn left.” Makes perfect sense now, was a real stumbling block back when I first arrived. I recommend Out of This Furnace, by Thomas Bell. I learned so much about Pittsburgh’s history and the steel mills. Welcome to Pittsburgh!

    • Thanks for the welcome, Karen! I was trying to explain to someone how to get to my apartment and I was using phrases like, “right over the bridge” or “turn at the stop sign by the mail box”. So I guess I fit in perfectly.
      I will put “Out of This Furnace” on my to-read list.

      • Daniel

        Out of this Furnace, while educational, is incredibly dry, boring, and rather mediocre when it comes to writing. I’d recommend skipping it.
        Welcome to Pittsburgh! You work at a library, so you’ve already seen the coolest thing Pittsburgh has to offer, but our museums are kind of incredible as well. I’d also recommend enjoying our parks: take a walk through Schenley, Frick, etc.

  3. lizzy

    Great that you made it to the Moth storyslams already! They are fabulous. Of course do the museums, Phipps, Zoo, Aviary (only national one) and History Center. Great hiking and biking trails if that is your thing…watch for maple festivals this time of year. Eat: India Garden, Alma, Zenith Diner, Sausilido. Welcome!

    • Yes, I love the StorySLAMs! I went again this week. That will be a monthly thing for me, I think. I’m afraid of birds, but the Aviary sounds interesting. I drive by Alma most days and have been intending to check out it, but now that I have your recommendation, I will.

  4. Eleanor "Serene" Mendicino

    Welcome to the “Burgh” — I live downtown and invite you to check out the O’Reilly for live theatre — they offer a $20 Tuesday admission. The shows at the Cabaret Theatre are fun and there is not a bad seat in the place — you can come early and have a snack/drinks before and during the show. Now I’m going to tell you one of the best kept secrets in town — Andy’s bar in the Fairmont Hotel has live music (mostly jazz/standards) every Tues – Sat and all you need to do is come and enjoy and perhaps buy a drink or snack. Serene

  5. You are livin’ the dream! (And I’m stuck here on flat land, jealous.) <3

  6. Gail

    Go on the Rivers of Steel tour of the Carrie Furnace. See the murals at St. Nicholas Croatian Catholic Church in Millvale.

  7. Maria

    I’m new here myself (from flat Michigan)! I’ve been here a little over two years and I’m STILL not used to driving (or even walking) these hilly streets. And, when a road is closed, watch out! I’m lost all over again. Good luck to you!

    • I get lost getting out of bed so I’m used to that. I got lost a lot when I came to interview for this job and everyone I asked for help was so nice. That kindness had a definite influence on my decision to move here.

  8. playing with maps is fun, but for really learning a city and figuring out where things are, nothing beats going out and getting lost.

  9. Holly A.

    My suggestions: Read Perks of Being a Wallflower and anything by John Edgar Wideman or Albert French, eat pizza at Mineo’s or Lucci’s, check out some fireworks (as a Pittsburgher you are now required to love them),and find the West End Overlook. Welcome!

  10. Pick up Annie Dillard’s An American Childhood! I used to live right down the street from her childhood home, and I love the warm image she paints of the East End.
    For an over-the-top but super fun brunch, make sure to visit the Grand Concourse. And autumn walks through Frick Park or Schenley Park to admire the changing leaves are not to be missed!

  11. ceecee

    1. Learn the bike routes around the city. They give you views that being in a car will not give you. Bike Pittsburgh has a pretty kickin’ map to help get you started.

    2. Have breakfast at Pamela’s, Square Cafe or that place in the Strip that eludes me. Go on a weekend for the craziness of Pittsburghers and their breakfast. Go on a weekday to experience the actual restaurant. ;)

    3. Get lost in a city or county Park. My favorites are Schenley and Frick…but I live in Squirrel Hill so I might be a bit biased.

    4. Eat to Carmi’s in the North Side. Excellent Southern food in the Steel City.

    5. If you like crowds, go to Light Up Night in November or First Night on New Year’s Eve.

    Welcome to the city. :)

  12. Marian

    If you haven’t been up to Mt. Washington yet, it is a must stop for any new resident or visitor. Ride one of the two remaining Inclines; the Monogahela Incline was the first one in operation. 17 inclines made navigating Pittsburgh’s hills easier in the late 1800’s. The Duquesne Incline has a museum and gift shop. The view of the city is breathtaking from Grandview Avenue. The Mt. Washington Branch Library is located on Grandview Avenue right across from one of the overlooks.

  13. Diana

    Reblogged this on pinknoyze and commented:
    Pittsburgh rules !!! Librarians rule !!! Great comments ! Welcome !!!

  14. Welcome Aisha! There are a few business in Pittsburgh that I don’t think could happen elsewhere, places that would be prohibitively expensive to run in a bigger city, but wouldn’t have enough interested people to support them in a smaller city. Enjoy these while they last:
    -Jerry’s Records in Squirrel Hill — If you don’t listen to records yet, turn right at the top of the stairs and buy a turntable from Vince.
    -Kraynick’s Bike Shop in Garfield — Old bike parts piled high with just barely enough room to walk through. Recommended to check out even if you aren’t into bikes.
    -Arsenal Lanes in Lawrenceville
    -Game’n’at in South Side — Pay-by-the-hour classic arcade games and pinball.

    • I do need to head to Jerry’s Records because when I was on my way to interview for this job, I got lost and stumbled upon an outside sale they were having. Someone from the store gave me directions and I swore that if I got the job, I would come back and buy something. So I have to keep my promise. Thanks for reminding me!

  15. Rebekah

    Welcome Aisha! There is SO much to do, see, eat, etc. in Pittsburgh- your list is going to be long. Some of my faves:

    1. Walking on Chatham College’s campus in Squirrel Hill- it’s a much more “traditional” campus than some of our more urban colleges/universities and the fall foliage is beautiful.
    2. Dining: Toast! Kitchen and Wine Bar on Baum Boulevard (if you want a fancy night out on the town); Sharp Edge (several locations, great selection of Belgians and other beers on tap); Round Corner Cantina in Lawrenceville (yummy tacos and beer cocktails); Meat and Potatoes (downtown in Theater Square- billed as a gastropub- mussels, interesting flatbreads, great cocktails); People’s Indian Restaurant on Penn Avenue (best lunch buffet hands down)
    3. Music and Theater: Quantum Theatre (a site-specific company); Pittsburgh Symphony; Pittsburgh Opera; Manchester Craftsman Guild (great jazz series); Carnegie Library in Homestead’s Music Hall (awesome music series); Little E’s jazz club downtown

    • I sometimes take walks on my lunch hour and I’ve made it to the entrance of Chatham, but not inside. Now I’ll have to keep going. I love music and theater so I’ll look into the places you mention. You’re right; my list is very long!

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