If I procrastinate any longer, my friend Todd may get his butt on a plane, come to Chicago, and whoop my ass. He gave me a 1 week grace period before commenting fervently about the “Pittsburgh post”, or rather, the lack thereof. He’s 100% right though; if I’m going to write about Cleveland, OH I almost certainly have to write about Pittsburgh and State College.
So Todd, here you go buddy. I miss ya already :).
We ended up in Pittsburgh before Snowpocalypse 2011 for two reasons, one of them being the fact that we have 3 great friends there, two of whom we hadn’t seen in years, the other one having recently completed a major health milestone and getting ready to begin another in a matter of weeks. The other reason was a result of our thriftiness and good timing: we scored amazingly cheap flights thanks to Southwest, and couldn’t resist the temptation to go.
I guess you could also throw in a third and fourth reason – we’d never been, and why not hop over to the east coast while it’s still ‘hoppable’?
Anyway, we had ourselves a fascinating time, aside from my getting over a cold the day of the flight and handing it off to Chris in the process, who endured it throughout the weekend (the man had no beer at two breweries – two breweries!). On Friday, we started off by renting a car and driving out to State College, home of Penn State and one of my very favorite guys, Todd. We’ve known Todd for almost 10 years (as long as Chris & I have known each other, since we all met in Italy). I’m happy that, despite a few moves for all of us, we’ve continued to keep in touch. I’m also happy to report that we managed to find some The (iced tea) in an Italian grocer that brought back a flood of memories, namely of Chris drinking all of Todd’s stash, along with eating the salami, but that’s a story for another time (see picture at the end of the post).
Todd showed us around Penn State, took us to Berkey Creamery and Otto’s Brewery, and then he took us to his house and forced us to watch Skins. Rewind. He and Chris forced me to watch it – Chris seemed to thoroughly enjoy it, which subsequently led me to question my feelings for him, and the fact that I’m moving across the country with him. But only for a moment – he’s just too cute to question ;).
We drove back to Pittsburgh the following morning, amidst somewhat frightening weather (we didn’t know we were about to have a blizzard in a matter of days back home that would make that drive seem like a tropical vacation…). We were escorted to downtown Pittsburgh by one of Todd’s best friends, where we proceeded to watch our alma mater get pummeled by pansy-ass Tarheels at a local bar.
Following said ass-kicking, Todd insisted on a touristy adventure, and we made our way over to one of the well-known inclines that took us up Mount Washington to catch a skyline view of Pittsburgh. Definitely a must-do for the tourist, and apparently for some of the locals as well, since it’s a form of public transit used by some of them.
Following our tourist/photography duties, we were handed off to my friend from NC, Leslie, and her husband, Daniel, who moved to Pittsburgh a little over a year ago because Leslie is a bad-ass and matched to U Pitt for her final foray into getting her PhD in psychology. Daniel is also quite the genius and has a PhD all to his own. It wasn’t long into the weekend that I realized that I, with what I thought was a lofty Master’s degree in Genetic Counseling from none other than Northwestern, was the least educated person of the entire group of 5. In fact, the Wetzels, with three Master’s degrees and a culinary degree (doesn’t that count for something?!) between the two of us, still didn’t match up to two PhDs and one pending-but-practically-complete PhD.
Of course, after a cocktail, a shared bottle of wine, and some awesome food at Salt of the Earth, I was quick to forget such matters, and by the next day, I was given the mental boost I so desperately needed, courtesy of those crazy Steelers fans and all of their crazy Steelers gear that carpeted the city of Pittsburgh.
Let there be no doubt, Todd is one of those people. He happily chirped about the upcoming game and purchased a few obligatory t-shirts from The Strip District for Pittsburgh’s own ‘spirit week’. Apparently the streets are littered with Steelers paraphernalia outside of Super Bowl craziness, and The Strip was loaded with plenty of vendors ready to make a few bucks selling terrible towels, scarves, and t-shirts. It was interesting, to say the least.
Rather than spend my time buying Steelers gear (and good thing, what with the turnout and all…), I was happy to fill up on donuts and coffee. Much to mine and Leslie’s dismay, the “banh mi lady” wasn’t there, which is probably for the best since I was then able to have room for more beer, in a church! I swear that’s the most awesome thing I’ve ever heard, or seen.
With all of that, our touring of Pittsburgh came to an end, and we spent the rest of the night becoming addicted to Tosh.0. I gotta say – Leslie beat you fair and square on that one, Todd – definitely infinitely better than Skins. Infinitely.