So Inclined

Pittsburgh, if you didn’t know, is a triangle. Well, DOWNTOWN Pittsburgh is anyway. This was very confusing to a young man from the country trying to navigate from The Boulevard of The Allies back to his North Side apartment in 2002. I would get lost constantly, never being able to shake the notion that the streets were a grid. I would soon learn that this is Pittsburgh, the streets are not a fucking grid, most of them are one way and many of them aren’t for cars anyway.

A few years after moving to the city, I retrieved my car. I would spend hours and hours just driving aimlessly with friends, singing Reel Big Fish and Dispatch at the top of our lungs, and slowly, slowly learning my way around the city. Like a slime mold working it’s way across a map of the United States, I learned my way through the confusing tangle of one way streets and quasi alleys that Downtown Pittsburgh had to offer. Unsurprisingly, I found myself on Mount Washington a time or two. Specifically, Grandview.

Grandview is aptly named scenery porn. From high atop Mt Washington, you can see the entirety of Downtown Pittsburgh and much of the North Shore. The Pittsburgh skyline is an amazing thing to behold, but to see it from that perspective is another animal entirely. Seeing the city, which I had been getting lost in consistently at that point, all spread out in front of my like the most beautiful lego set in the world, was breathtaking. I sat and stared, feeling the low hum the city produced, watching cars streak across the bridges and skirt along the edges of the river, peering at the impossibly tall buildings full of glittering lights, it was a revelatory experience. It still is.

One of my favorite memories about Grandview was going up around 10 at night with my friend Jay. We found a bench with a nice view and just smoked and talked all night long. We watched the sun set and eventually rise as we talked about our lives and our futures with all the city of Pittsburgh dancing in front of us. I will never forget that night. There was another time when, after a shoot or a party or who knows what, I was up with my longtime collaborator and friend Mike Sorg. I gestured to the beautiful city and said “ Sorg, someday all this will be ours” or something similar and full of bravado. Years later, Sorg told me he remembered that night and he was inspired. That meant a lot to me. I love that my words, combined with the incredible view, inspired one of the hardest working people I know.

I’ll miss Grandview. I’ll miss going up and sitting and watching the world turn in front of me. I’ll miss watching things slow as the night grows deeper and the people retreat to their homes, only to return to breathe life into the city again. I’ll miss the hum of the city, the rumble that comes from cars and trucks and people, all living their lives in unison. I’ll miss listening to Pittsburgh breathe and there is no better place to do that than from Mount Washington.

Exile

I moved recently. Up until April I was a proud resident of Pittsburgh’s lovely North Shore, just a few short paces from the behemoth known as Heinz Field. I lived there for 5 years, which is the longest I’ve stayed put since moving to Pittsburgh in 2002. I lived on the North Side then too, in The Art Institutes shabby dorms, before bopping around the surrounding areas, only to land back there once more. In that time, I’ve experienced some amazing things in the city that I’ve been proud to call home. I want to share some of that with you now, starting with:

 

Lin’s Asian Fusion

For a short period of time, I lived on The South Side. My apartment, shared with a friend and her tiny, anxiety ridden dog, was right behind the Double Wide Grill (awesome cornbread, dog friendly, not much else.) It was a nice apartment, if a bit cramped. It was summer and the Double Wide’s dumpsters rested directly across from our front door. You can imagine the smells.

It was a strange time in my life. I had recently started working for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and had returned to the city after living in Irwin for a year or so. I was reentering society and was constantly exhausted and stressed. I was sick almost all the time. I had 2 steady comforts at the time: Parks and Recreation and Lin’s Asian Fusion.

I love Chinese food. Unabashedly, I absolutely love the stuff. I know it’s Americanized and inauthentic. I don’t care. I love it. I also love Thai food of all shapes and sizes. Lin’s had me covered. I strongly believe that Lin’s is the best Chinese place in the all of Pittsburgh. Their prices are reasonable, their portions are generous and the food, sweet Lord, the food.

The true test of any deliciously apocryphal Chinese place is their General Tso’s chicken. It’s the bellwether, the go-to dish. They made a fucking documentary about it. If a place can’t get the Tso’s right, There is very little hope for anything else on the menu. To that end, Lin’s has it covered. Their Tso’s is wonderfully made; light and crispy, not too fatty, flavorful and tangy with just a hint of spice, with lightly steamed broccoli and a perfect mound of white rice. It’s there, it’s reliable and it is waiting for you.

The hits don’t stop with the Tso’s. I have, and this is no exaggeration, never had a bad meal at Lin’s. I’ve tried much of their menu. Every variation on chicken they come up with is magnificent. The beef and broccoli, the seafood, and anything involving tofu is a winner. The Mandarin Tofu is an incredible concoction involving pineapples, roasted peppers, sesame seeds and dark and ancient flavor magics.

The noodles. THE NOODLES.

I once ordered their Pad Thai every night for a week and was pleased every single time. Their Cantonese Egg Noodles are heavenly, the Ho Fun is excellent and the Udon delightful. Always flavorful and always cooked to perfection.

The service is always friendly and professional and for a short time, they referred to me as Batman. Once they found out my real name was Bruce, it only reinforced things, much to my enjoyment.

Of all the places I will miss during my exile from the city, Lin’s is very, very high on that list.

Tiny Giants

I’ve been on a big They Might Be Giants kick lately, my interest renewed by stumbling on some live stuff. Live TMBG videos is a long, long YouTube hole to go down, but a great way to spend an evening. There’s a live version of Ana Ng that is magnificent, especially when chased with Careful What You Pack, as it is on the At Large album. Basically, everything on At Large is a delight, even The Mesopotamians, which I never liked.

Most people only know They Might Be Giants for the Tiny Toon Adventures video version of Istanbul (Not Constantinople), Particle Man and maybe the Homestar Runnerized Experimental Film, but they’ve been consistently producing excellent music ever since. Take the dive, you wont regret it.

Side note: I’ve only just now got the joke in the naming of Tiny Toons. It’s both upsetting and awesome.