Before I moved to Pittsburgh, my apartment in Denver looked out onto an alley full of smelly dumpsters. And my apartment before that? Another alley. More stinky dumpsters.
In a dramatic change of scenery (and aroma), my apartment for the last three years in Pittsburgh has truly spectacular views, surely the best that I’ll ever enjoy from my home. I didn’t even see the apartment before I moved in — I just picked it out online based on some architectural floor plans and a few walks around the block on Google Street View. I lucked out. When I first walked into the apartment and saw the view, I was stunned:
From my perch on the 21st floor, I can see the Allegheny River during its last few moments before it merges with the Monongahela to become the Ohio. I can see and hear the rhythm of Pirates games happening in the ballpark below. I can hear the crack of bats and the collective roar of a home run. I can see the warm breath of husky Pittsburghers donning layers of black and yellow as they trudge through the freezing city on their way to tailgate to a Steelers game.
I can hear jazz concerts in the square below my window every Tuesday evening in the summer. I can hear the pleasant murmur of the chattering crowds emerging from a Broadway show at the Benedum Center, with its stage is just below my bedroom window. Just by cracking the window, I can hear a muffled Billy Joel playing“Piano Man” to an adoring crowd at PNC Park.
I can hear slurring and woooo-ing emanate from Saturday night revelers as bars close at 2am, their bellows softening as they reach my windows. I can hear Black Lives Matter protests as marchers snake through the city. I can hear people chanting for justice after the murder of Antwon Rose by the Pittsburgh police. I can drumming and cheering from the Pride parade. I can see small packs of furries walking to get lunch during Anthrocon, the annual nationwide furry convention, inexplicably held in during a sweltering week every July. I can see the numbers “2015” become “2016” become “2017” become “2018” as Auld Lang Syne plays and fireworks explode in the distance. The city below my window seemed to always be celebrating something.
I can see sunsets. I love the way that I can look at the white walls of my apartment and know that tonight’s sunset is particularly good based upon the relative drama of the light and shadows. Sometimes the sunsets stop me in my tracks and make me get out my camera:
I can see fireworks. My god does this city love fireworks. I’ve seen more fireworks from my apartment window in the last three years than had seen in my life up until this point. It’s an embarrassment of riches. During the summer, there’s a fantastic fireworks show right out the window every couple of weeks. I never got sick of watching them, even after watching thousands of fireworks explode from my window.
I can see it rain. It rains in Pittsburgh curiously often, comparable to Seattle or Portland, despite not being a city famous for rain. When it snows I can see the Monongahela River moving slower than normal as it struggles to remain liquid, chunks of ice floating downstream on its chilly surface. When it’s cold and rainy enough, water overflows into the city’s historic steam tunnels and I can see big plumes of steam rising all the way up to collide with the window of my apartment.
My parents were nice enough to visit me in Pittsburgh every year and they enjoyed the windowsill perch as much as I did. My mom loved it so much that I suspect she might befriend the new resident of my apartment so she can sit by the window for hours and sip a cold glass of white wine.
Ali and I spent so much time looking out at this view as our relationship evolved and strengthened. She’d curl her legs up on the windowsill and sit right up next to the glass where the view is at its most optimal and its most nerve-wracking. We’d tell each other stories and I’d tell dumb dad jokes, which she enjoys even though they’re stupid and I’m not even a dad. Our journey is probably in some part due to us looking out at the world and wanting to go explore it together.
Now I’m saying goodbye to the view. Goodbye to the view, and goodbye to a city that has really become a second home to me. Pittsburgh is the butt of a lot of jokes, but it’s such a great city. It’s weird as hell, full of truly distinct neighborhoods, and people who live here are charming, proud, and don’t seem to have a jaded bone in their bodies. It grows on you, too. Every day in Pittsburgh, I liked the city more than I did the previous day.
Purposefully pushing wonderful things into the past can awaken a specific kind of melancholy. It’s that warm sadness that emerges during the last days of something good — the last days of high school, college, a great job, or a long vacation. It’s the fear that it’s never going to be like this again, or the doubt that tells us that we might not be ready what’s next.
It’s important to say goodbye to good things sometimes. It’s time to see new views, walk on new ground, and keep moving. With a great companion by my side, I’m headed onward.