SoCal Gal Makes a Pitt Stop
Would a So-Cal gal come to Pittsburgh for college? Doubtful, I thought, when my sister-in-law, Cindy, who at 70-plus is raising her granddaughter, called to say they’d be coming here from La Jolla, Ca., for college visits.
Always up for a challenge, though, our extended family signed on to recruit Sidney, a straight-A student and lacrosse powerhouse, to Pitt or Carnegie Mellon. "Sid" wanted to do “touristy” things, so we all did, and in the process rediscovered the allure of our hometown.
Unbelievably, we enjoyed San Diego weather all week. On day one, we shot out of the Fort Pitt Tunnel just like in the movies to the Golden Triangle framed by an azure sky and cotton ball clouds. First event was a narrated Gateway Clipper cruise followed by an incline ride and pictures on Mt. Washington. Maybe sounds corny, but it wasn’t.
Sid was charmed by the Native American history of the three rivers and how the colors of the Mon and the Allegheny blend at the head of the Ohio. I focused on the skyline, especially along the Allegheny. On one side: the verdigris-topped Koppers building where my dad once worked; the Gulf Building I loved as a kid when it forecast the weather in solid or flashing colors; the once ground-breaking Gateway Center, which has withstood the test of time; PPG’s breath-taking crystal palace, and our unconventional convention center. On the other side: the Carnegie
Science Center; our storied ball parks; the veterans memorials; pilgrims at the Mister Rogers’ statue; the shining Alcoa building, Allegheny General Hospital (where I was born back in the days when it was a tall building), and, just as the boat turned around, the historic H. J. Heinz company, where my grandparents met while employed there in 1920.
The Duquesne Incline ride was fake-scary, as always. “You know, one of the inclines got stuck last week and the riders had to be rescued,”(that was true), we teased Sid, as she peeked down and paled at the steep plane. (And although I don’t like being a “senior,” I did like riding for free.)
Topping that was tough, but we tried. We did a drive-by of her grandma’s childhood Mt. Lebanon haunts. We toured the Frick mansion and visited the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, where Sid loved the dinosaurs (she had never seen one). We shopped Shadyside and explored downtown Pittsburgh. We dined at The Frick Café, Ruth’s Chris, Soba, the Porch at Schenley and the new French bistro, Frances. Thinking she might be homesick for Mexican food, we stopped at Mad Mex for margaritas and nachos, which the San Diegans surprisingly declared “good.” We missed Kennywood, which was on everyone’s list, but we ran out of time…
…Because, not to forget, the purpose of the trip was college visits—and I was pleased to be invited to go along. The Pitt and CMU tours were enlightening (and exhausting), reminding me how lucky we are to have two such highly regarded institutions co-existing as Oakland neighbors. Sid recognized their various strengths and differences and liked them both.
Sid also has visited Duke, UNC, Wake Forest, Kenyon and Virginia, plus California schools such as Stanford, Berkley, Cal Poly and Southern Cal. Her Pittsburgh family hopes she’ll end up here—after all, she did say, “It’s not a bad idea to spend your undergrad years somewhere other than California. You can always go home.” But we know she’ll be fine wherever she ends up. Having lost her mother to cancer before entering middle school, Sid is a survivor—a serious, confident young woman who with the help of her loving grandma makes good decisions.
Me? I would choose CMU (where my dad wanted me to go in the first place) because it has a spectacular Dale Chihuly chandelier hanging at the grand entrance to the Cohon Center. Considering that I enrolled at Miami University (Ohio) intending to pursue journalism only to find the school did not offer that major, a beautiful chandelier is a good enough reason for me. (And my life turned out just fine, as I believe Sid’s will, whatever her choice.)
Thanks to our SoCal family for showing us Pittsburgh. Good luck to all rising seniors embarking on the college search!