Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The Fault, Dear Pittsburgh...

Last week, while I was taking a much needed blogging siesta, the Pittsburgh Region made some good ink in the MSM... well, as close to "ink" as we get nowadays... namely the the selection of Pittsburgh, once again, as America's "Most Livable City" and a brief article by CNN detailing the City's thriving arts scene. This is, of course, all old news to those of us who live here, but it will give civic boosters (including the Allegheny Conference) something to crow about for some time.

Of course, the CNN article, in a fit of either literary paradox or lazy journalism, begins with their piece with the obligatory contrast between the "Old Steel Town" and the "New Arts City". It seems like every article about Pittsburgh seems to begin with a reference to the City's industrial past, an image that the Region has tried desperately to shake. Every Pittsburgh PR piece has to begin with "We're not a Steel City anymore! Why do you keep calling us a Steel City?" oblivious to the inherent contradiction in the question.

The strange thing about Pittsburgh though is that we are obsessed with our image. We need to know how we rank, who we rank about, what we're ranking high in, and what we're ranked even higher in. (We're #1 in Ho-Ho consumption! Eat that Cleveland!).

It's a weird obsession, because for every thing that we start ranking well in, we collectively seem to feel that we're not doing well enough. The week after the Most Livable designation, the P-G runs an article about how the soot level of the air is up in the Region. We seem, no matter how well we're doing, to obsess about what we're doing wrong. It is a morbid obsession, one, in my experience, which seems unique to Pittsburgh.

We are the municipal equivalent of an anorexic high schooler: no matter how much we exercise, diet, or purge we still look into the mirror and think "we're not pretty enough." If we were an actual person, the city would be put on a healthy dose of anti-depressants.

Or perhaps we just need to take the Stuart Smalley phrase to heart: "we are good enough, smart enough, and, gosh darn it, people like us." And let's keep the obsessing to a minimum.


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