Earlier in the year I asked a date about her summer vacation plans. “I’m going to Hawaii.” She said. “Where are you vacationing?”
“The opposite of Hawaii—Pittsburgh.”
It’s no Hawaii, but Pittsburgh is home, and there is no substitute. It’s where I lived until I turned 17 when I moved to San Diego with my parents in the middle of my junior year of high school.
Before moving I made a list of pros and cons. A con was moving away from all my best friends. A pro was Mexican food. It was hard making friends at two new high schools. Since then I’ve tried keeping all the ones from Pittsburgh.
Ten years later Zach and Goldsten pick me up curbside at Pittsburgh International in Zach’s four-door 8 Cylinder Honda Ridgeline and drive me straight to Mineo’s, my favorite pizza place. While savoring each bite of the oiliest, and greasiest cheese pie found anywhere, Zach forced me to look at his phone.
“Will and I send these to each other,” he said as he flipped through multiple pictures of his own poop floating in the toilet. A whole photo album.
“This, I call the corkscrew,” he said showing me a log encompassing the entire bowl.
The enormity of Zach’s bowel movements made me cringe and cry from laughter, and never want to eat next to Zach again.
I’m not on the east coast often so it was important that I make it down to Virginia to see my best friend, Brad, now a second year medical resident. I drank a large coffee and a tall glass of water, and stopped to pee in every blimpie off the Pennsylvania turnpike. I had to pee so bad in Somerset I even paid a $5.90 toll to do so. I would have rather pooped to get my money’s worth, or at least taken a picture to send to Zach.
Brad was there waiting for me outside in the muggy Virginia heat. We gave each other a hug.
“Appreciate you coming down,” he said.
Brad took me to his local pool where he suggested we challenge three ten year olds to a game of water basketball.
“Let’s do it,” I said.
As soon as I got the ball, three rascals are jumping on my back, scratching and choking me. When it was my turn to defend, I put my hands up to block a shot and one of the kids started shouting, “Rape! Rape!”
“Yo! Don’t shout that.”
Not the southern charm hospitality I expected.
Brad showed his brother, Matt and me around Charlottesville where every block someone recognized the good doctor. Even when Brad wasn’t being recognized he would still make conversation. While throwing the football around campus a female carrying a clip board asked Brad, “Are you registered to vote?”
“Yes, I am.” he said. “And you’re hot.”
This kind of confidence led Brad to invite two different females out both nights I was there, and even allowed him to order another round of drinks after the waitress yelled, “Last call, ya’ll.”
Day two at the pool it was Brad who treaded water the longest and bested us in a walking race the length of the pool. During adult swim we played basketball for an hour and acted like the kids who we played with the day before minus the rape accusations. Matt lounged with a towel covering his head, I ate nachos at the snack bar and brad swam laps for 30 minutes. Brad was more laid back outside of the water during our final night, but did pause for a serious moment. “I have to ask you both a serious question,” he said to the girls. “How many vibrators do you own?”
Probably the least serious question in the history of conversation.
Back in Pittsburgh, my dad flew in to celebrate my Grandpa’s 90th birthday over lobster tails at my Uncle Steve’s house. I don’t see my grandpa often nor do I know the next time I’ll see him so it was nice eating lobster tails with him and taking pictures with all the Steingart men, one of those pictures that you rarely get the opportunity to take.
“What was your favorite decade, grandpa?”
“Because you were making babies?”
I took a picture of grandpa holding up the lobster. When I’m 90 I want to eat a lobster with my family on Beechwood Blvd.
I took more pictures as Zach and Goldstein drove me around the city. They knew I hadn’t been in town for a while because most Pittsburghers don’t take pictures of West Mifflin and the Allegheny County Jail. I wanted to remember Pittsburgh and the places I would never want to live.
It took the entire trip to persuade Ross, the boss, to join Goldstein, Zach and me for a day of Kennywood, one of America’s great amusement parks. My Kennywood geography was still on point. I could tell you how to get from the Jack Rabbit to the Potato Patch and peer pressure you to ride the Pirate Ship. It’s waiting in line that your friends remind you how in high school you used to walk around with a cane and play the spoons. Now I’m the guy who yells “Here we go, Steelers. Here we go,” during the first big dip of Phantom’s Revenge!
During my trip I saw old friends like Tanzer and Rudkin who I did not expect to see, and Ad Roc who agreed with Zach about how when I wear my glasses I look like Rachel Maddow. Zach called me a bike (boy dike).
Before I left every friend I saw called or texted to say it was good to hang out. It was not only good to hang out, but important. As the years get away from you, it helps to remember the real reason you love Pittsburgh, apart from the sports teams and pizza. The Burgh’ is home to the Steingarts and my best, and most loyal friends. And despite how old we are, we’re basically still the same, especially Brad and Zach. Definitely Zach.