I went back to the Rocky Mountains for the first time in over a decade this past week when I had to go to Meridian, Idaho for work. Of course, it's not quite a fair assessment to say I went to the mountains - I saw them in the distance as they framed this booming metropolis that was once a sleepy little farm community immediately outside Boise. And there was no time to explore why this once sleepy town is now booming - business trips, as many of you know, are up pre-dawn, work all day, come back to the hotel and answer emails or handle fires all evening. I might like leaving home better if I actually left it for something other than work, but it's speculative at best for now.
Anyway, what I did see of Meridian I admired. It's a tremendously clean place, laid out in a grid type fashion that made navigating it a breeze. And one forgets how genuinely nice people from the northwest are. There just is no guile in their open manner. I have a theory that I've had since I was a child and noticed it with Bozemanites - there's just so few of us, and we often knew one another, at least by name, that we just learned we all better get along. And as the cities have grown larger, it just hasn't yet changed. It unfortunately probably will, but for now, the sparkle I saw in people's eyes was for real.
|Meridian from Purzuit.com|
Regardless, I couldn't wait to get out of there. I was practically giddy to pack it up Thursday evening so I could get up at 2:30 Friday morning. When we finally began the descent into Pittsburgh, low hanging rain clouds obscured the view coming in, and rain greeted us as we landed. It took nearly two hours to get home from the airport because between construction and wrecks due to the weather, the roads were a disaster. My poor driver took me on a circuitous route through parts of the city I'd actually never seen. He was frustrated by the time we finally made it all the way to my door, but I had a great time looking at new views of this city I call home. This badly laid out, impossible to navigate disaster of a place to commute. The absolute antithesis of the place I left - dirty, old, with grand homes standing right next to houses in complete disrepair, which are dotted with shops and commercial buildings, all smashed together with no real thought to zoning along winding, hilly roads.
We rolled into my driveway to discover that the landscapers hadn't come yet again, and the place looks like a jungle. Not really their fault this time - it had been raining most of the week, I learned. It rains here a lot. The humidity will cover you like a wet blanket in the heat of the summer and make you feel ten pounds heavier.
Yet I love it here completely and find all of it simply glorious and endearing. This place fits me like a glove (there's an O.J. Simpson joke in there - feel free to make it). Just like Meridian fits many of its inhabitants. As Philly does the same, and New York and LA and Bozeman. Those of us lucky enough to have found our unique version of Paradise should realize just how lucky we are.
But, and I know I've touched on this theme before, we make our own bed to a large degree. And we accept it or reject it within ourselves. In other words, we accept and embrace our surroundings because we choose to. We can learn to revel in the place that houses our family and love it for that fact alone. But, for me, this glorious hot mess of a place sure made that a lot easier to embrace.
Every place has something to commend it. And it has things to condemn it. I choose to concentrate on what is great and wonderful about my home - which starts with the Steelers, Penguins and Pirates, but hardly ends there. All the craziness and lack of planning in how it grew and developed makes it charming to me. It's organic. And real. It reflects its people - gritty and hard working.
I am not blind to its faults, however. It just makes me love it more and want to help cure them and make it even better. And it was a true test of that belief to tempt me with the mountain range that I dreamed of longingly every day I lived in Texas. If it was a test, then Pittsburgh and I just passed it with flying Black and Gold colors.
I realize I would have been a lot happier had I come to this realization 30 years ago in Austin: that any place can learn to be loved. But, hey, I'm loving that I know it now. I am a proud Yinzer. Who has to get on a flight out to Denver tomorrow morning before the sun comes up, so I better get packing.
|Courtesy of pitt.edu|