The American Experience, Part 2: Pittsburgh, Not My City

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The first stop of our American Adventure was Pittsburgh. We should have known something was up from the first impressions we received on the way there.

Right off the bat, we were seated just a hop, skip, and a jump away from what must have been the most loathsome person I have ever had the displeasure of encountering. This caricature of a moron spoke at the top of his lungs the entire flight, spewing unoriginal and idiotic nonsense from start to finish.

And I honestly think he was holding back!

One flight attendant quickly judged this fella as unsavory, and complained to him about his behavior repeatedly throughout the flight. Now, to be fair, I think she handled the situation quite poorly (and awkwardly). She gave him a whole lot of attention, which this toddler-like buffoon seemed to feed off of.

The C-Word

In addition, they had one of the most bizarre interactions I’ve ever witnessed. The flight attendant and one of her buddies repeatedly chastised this doofus for his use of the “C-word”. Now I understand that this word doesn’t bother some folk as much as it does the typical American. However, in the good ole US of A, when a dude starts tossing around the C-word freely, people can get quite upset. And I sympathized with these poor women who were just trying to make their job less unpleasant.

However… apparently the flight attendants were referring to a very different “C-word” than the one I and most people refer to. In this scenario, our moron friend had used the word “crash”, and was admonished for saying a word that is apparently forbidden on this airline, at least when these ladies were working. I shook my head in disbelief. And I couldn’t help but think of this scene from Meet the Parents:

Ah, what a perfect introduction to beautiful, metallic Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh Traffic

The flight experience was enhanced by the next hour in which we moved at a snail’s pace to get to our destination through awful Pittsburgh traffic. A bit over three years ago I took a road trip from Kansas to New York. On this glorious drive, I had the most pleasant ride for approximately twelve straight hours. That is until I hit Pittsburgh. And now I was reminded of that lovely experience.

Travel tip #1: If you do have to spend some time in Pittsburgh, I recommend avoiding rush hour or any time anywhere near rush hour. That is, of course, unless you enjoy just endlessly sitting in a motionless vehicle.

Pittsburgh People

The best part of Pittsburgh was without a doubt the people. Our hosts were lovely and super generous. The people in the synagogue were friendly and kind. And the kosher pizza was mediocre… but at least it existed. And, of course, the wedding was amazing.

But that kind of ends the positive story of Pittsburgh. The heart and soul of Pittsburgh’s Jewish Community was a street called Murray, in the (hysterically named) neighborhood of Squirrel Hill. The street is actually quite interesting, and every time we walked down it, we noticed some type of fascinating store we didn’t see the previous time. Like it was hidden in some Harry Potter-esque alternate reality.

We assumed if one street in the middle of the Jewish area was a point of interest, the city must be loaded with fun things to do and see.

But boy were we wrong.

The Mighty Incline

When you ask people from Pittsburgh what there is to do, the question is usually followed by a long pause. They’re collecting their thoughts on how to politely and creatively say “not much” or “really nothing at all”.

We took a journey on one of Pittsburgh’s famous inclines. An incline is a glorified elevator on a slant with lots of windows so you can get a solid look of an admittedly attractive view. But don’t forget to bring exact change, because apparently Pittsburgh is still trapped in the 1940s.


And 30 seconds later, the most famous attraction in Pittsburgh was over.

When we got off the incline, I asked some nice passerby if there were anything interesting to see or do in the area. He giggled. We should have taken it as a sign. We then set out to explore some of the other points of interest in Pittsburgh, only to discover that just about everything was closed on Mondays.


Travel tip #2: If you’ve only got one day to explore Pittsburgh, don’t go on a Monday.

A Whole Lot of Nothing

It was actually quite a nice day. We were left with lots of hours and only one thing remaining we wanted to and could explore, so we decided to take a long walk in the hopes of discovering some hidden gems somewhere in the city. Instead, we saw a whole lot of nothing. Every time we came to a new area or turned a corner, more nothing.


We had a couple of Uber rides during the trip. I tried to push for information about what to do in this town. That infamous pause, the longest I’ve ever experienced with this question, speaks volumes about Pittsburgh. Most wanted to praise their choice of where to live. They just struggled so much to do so.

I tried to push for information about what to do in this town. That infamous pause, the longest I've ever experienced with this question, speaks volumes about Pittsburgh. Click To Tweet

The Cathedral of Learning

We eventually made it to the Cathedral of Learning. This was a beautiful, castle-like building serving as an active section of the University of Pittsburgh. The novelty was the classrooms, each one dedicated to the portrayal of what a classroom used to look like in various different countries.


I can say this about the Cathedral of Learning: It was fine. Architecture and the like are really not my cup of tea. But it was quaint and, like so many other things in my life, it was fun to explore with Devorah. However, it’s likely a far better experience during the weekend, when you can see all of the different classrooms or even go on a tour.

As a former teacher, I couldn’t imagine teaching in one of these rooms though. They looked terribly uncomfortable and distracting. But hey, I’m sure someone is into it.


Pittsburgh, Not My City

And, for the most part, that was Pittsburgh. Yup. Not my favorite city. So happy we were there for the wedding and to see old friends. Happy to meet up with them in New York in future years. 🙂

Travel tip #3: If you’re taking a trip in the States, and you don’t have any real reason to visit Pittsburgh, you can skip it.

Travel tip #4: If you’re going to a city like Pittsburgh, bring along a Devorah. Despite the disappointment of a lackluster city, we still managed to enjoy the experience and have a whole lot of fun together. The right travel partner really matters!

And now, it was time for our big return to New York. But first: Road trip! (to be continued)

1 thought on “The American Experience, Part 2: Pittsburgh, Not My City”

  1. Pittsburgh has much more to offer than you were able to take advantage of. This time of year is limiting,because of weather. During spring and summer the city comes to life with downton festivals, outdoor free concerts and plenty of river activities. I agree with not visiting Pittsburgh in the winter, but don’t take it off your list! Community is wonderful there, and cultural life abounds!

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