Posted on November 16, 2008


It is interesting how some places you live leave a deep impression while others you can barely remember. Living now so far away, I have a lot of time and opportunity to ponder home and what it means to me. To question myself when I feel homesick, what and where exactly do I miss. Of course there are the people, but that is not what I am talking about. The people have and will always be the most important thing to me, but they have a way of moving on to new places and sometimes even new friends.

During my life I have lived in a number of places, none too exotic nor attractive to the outsider. I have lived in Rockledge PA (8 years), Newtown PA (10 years), Pittsburgh PA (13 years), and Dublin OH (2 years). Wedged in there was three months each in Porter Indiana, Dortmund Germany, and Montevideo Uruguay. Each of these places has colored who I am, though none really defines me. With the possible exception of Pittsburgh, I have never pointed to a specific place on a map and moved where I would like. As with most people, other circumstances (work, family, school) have determined where I live.

To flip that question on its head, if I were to be asked where I would choose to live if given the option I am not sure that I would have a ready response. Five criteria stand out in my mind, which are often conflicting. Low cost of living, amenities within easy walking distance or at least near good public transportation, very rural with lots of land for gardening and trees, lots of job opportunity, and near to family. These criteria have remained consistent for me over many years, though the importance of each has shifted in ranking year to year.

When I stand back and think about where my home is, Pittsburgh is immediately what comes to mind. I spent many years there and had many new important events in my life. It is where I discovered who I am and made many decisions that will shape the rest of my life. Beyond all that, Pittsburgh has a soul that I have not found in many other places. It is a city that has endured so much pain over the last 25 years as the steel industry has packed up and fled to Indiana, Asia and Eastern Europe. As a result, the people are somewhat damaged, but they are extremely genuine. It is a place where you can be yourself and people will let you be. You can still get a bowl of chili and two beers for $5. You can actually afford a nice house in a good neighborhood. There is also a new hope with the each generation of students who graduate and the few who decide to stay and try to make a go of a career in the place where no one does stay. It is also a very beautiful city, completely undiscovered by the tourists, much like Dortmund Germany. I think of the buses that labor up and down the green hills with houses impossibly clinging to the sides. Clear fall Sundays with the entire city excited about the Steelers game. People sitting on hillsides all over the city to see the fireworks explode over downtown.

I never identified with the old timers who told stories of how all Pittsburghers leave the city for better opportunity, and then spend the rest of their lives trying to return. I think I am starting to understand exactly what they mean.

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