Pittsburgh, PA: Vibrant Culture, Arts, Rivers and No Steelmills!
The city's geography includes many famous names of great capitalists of the nineteeth century -- Andrew Carnegie, Andrew Mellon, and Henry Clay Frick. Each of these men who made gobs of money in railroads, steel and industry later became famous for their philanthropy. Today in Pittsburgh, parks, museums and monuments abound with these names on them.
Patrick ticked off some of the famous people who once called Pittsburgh home. Gene Kelley, Martha Graham, Andy Warhol, Gertrude Stein, Earl "Fatha'' Hines, George Ferris (of the wheel) and five big-time NFL quarterbacks: Dan Marino, Joe Montana, Johnny Unitas and Jim Kelly.
Clearly, this is no longer a steel town, but an economy based on medicine and science and fed by fourteen colleges and universities nearby.
"Ït's hard for us to shake that 'steel town' reputation," said McArdle. "The US Steel coke works are 16 miles down river."
"When they were building the tennis courts, they kept finding that they couldn't keep them level. Then they dug them all up and found a mysterious black goo. It turned out that decades ago, this island was a burial ground for zoo animals. So it was old rhinocerous, elephant and zebra bones that were causing all of the bumps."
Last night we got a chance to see Pittsburgh from the Allegheny River aboard the Gateway Clipper. This huge party boat has four levels and is plenty big for hundreds of PR pros and tourism board people to mix with a handful of journalists while chugging up the river.
I heard more than a few people comment on this city. "The surprising thing for me is how nice it is here," said a woman from California. "I just never knew Pittsburgh was so pretty and had so much. "
Indeed, this meeting was a coup for the one-time steel city, where nobody has heated steel for more than 20 years. Still, it's hard to shake that reputation of dirty, noisy, old city.
Charles Veley Has Seen It All--and Wants to Go BackI met a man in Pittsburgh who's been everywhere. He's Charles Veley, the "most traveled person in America." This moniker is quite a feat, since so many of the people I hang around with have serious stamps in their passports. But Veley is the real deal, and his travels put him in a different league.
No, he doesn't go on press trips. I asked him how he does all of this world traveling, and he said he was once in the software business and made enough to support himself for a long while. Most of his long stretches, checking off country after country, came between 2000 and 2006, when he was virtually on the road non-stop. These days, he says, he has three little kids and only goes to places like Hawaii with them for vacation. He has traveled over 1,250,000 miles during the 6 years of this project.
What's the Worst Place You've Ever Been?
I asked him the two questions that inevitably, he must get asked everywhere. "What was the worst?" He didn't hesitate. "Lagos, Nigeria. That was the very worst. Piles of garbage taller than a man, people living jammed in under bridges, a city built for about half a million with 16 million inhabitants. "
A Stuffed Dodo and the Legend of Iroquois Ironworkers
I visited the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in the Oakland neighborhood of Pittsburgh, which is attached to an art museum. This museum complex is most famous for its collection of dinosaurs, including a massively long Diplodocus carnegie, named in the famous industrialist's honor, which resembles a brontosaurus but is even bigger. The museum was built in 1895, and holds the world's third-largest collection of dinosaur skeletons.
There's even a glass-walled laboratory where paleontologists work throughout the day dusting off specimens and using Dremel tools to polish and clean ancient artifacts.
Not only can you find dinosaurs here, but there are also collections of many other branches of natural history including gems, minerals, animals and insects and interesting dioramas of different cultures, like the eskimos and the American Indians.
One was a long hallway where thousands of stuffed birds are mounted in cases. There is one case that shows extinct birds, such as the passenger pigeon, the Dodo, and the tiny dusky sparrow, that perished as recently as 1934.
Each of these vanished birds was presented stuffed, though the Dodo was explained to be a replica, made up based on bones, since it expired in the 1800s. It was a big bird, almost two feet tall, and couldn't fly, hence it was an easy target for hungry men.
In this same hallway, that my guide told me was once a collection for hobbyists, was a seabird called a snipe. I photographed the bird for my friend Joe who used to have a family tradition -- the snipe hunt. It was made up but little kids thought that they would really bag one.
They built most of New York's skyscrapers, fearlessly running across eight inches or less of iron rail, and many of them died when they fell off. But one Mohawk was quoted as saying they never wanted to use the safety harnesses, since it impedes their movement up there fifty stories up on a windy rail.
Advice for the Solo Traveler: Take a Seat at the BarI have some advice for solo travelers. Visit a restaurant with a long bar and sit near a corner. Last night I took this advice and walked many blocks of the center city to find The Sonoma Grille, a large, airy place on Penn Avenue in the city's Golden Triangle and theater district. As is my custom, I found a seat at the bar and then after a while left to wash my hands. This place is owned by a chef named Yves who was born in Lyon. Sounds good.
When I returned, sitting right next to me was a young lady studying a menu. Like me, it was dinner for one. I began reading the local free newsweekly, The City Paper, as she looked over the long wine list.
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