Friday, September 18, 2009

From one yinzer to another

I was going to title this "The Diaspora Strikes Back" but I thought it deserved a more first person tone.  I may rant a bit here, but in truth it takes an awful lot to get me really perturbed.   I see the latest Pittsburgh coverage in the Wall Street Journal.  Some sort of article or commentary:  Dreaming of Pittsburgh: On the eve of the G-20 summit, a native son finds a city moving toward the future but longing for its past.

For a moment I thought that it was a decent counterbalance to a lot of the hype that is the general theme of the coverage we are getting from the national and international media of late.  It was a passing thought. I just don't have the time to untwist some of the false premises and misused logic (or maybe it's the misused premises and false logic?) wrapped up in all of that.  Make no mistake, I know our warts and what really gets me is that I think most of the negative factoids thrown in there come from me pretty directly in one form or another.  I almost sense a null space reader.

It really is amazing that some folks just can't seem to accept the slightest thought that there is anything at all positive going on in Pittsburgh or that anything at all has really changed in the last 30 years.  Some of the most negative nabobs are here, but the most negative folks I have encountered are actually a set of the vast diaspora who moved away and seem to have taken their need to move away very personally .  I really wonder if the comments expressed stem from a Pittsburgh past as much as a Pittsburgh present. So while I do think it is best for all take some of the univerally positive press with a grain of salt, to just portray it all as an illusion begets another form of bafflegab altogether.


Anonymous melstin said...

From the article:
PNC Park you'll see more Roberto Clemente jerseys than those of any active Pirate

There's maybe a reason nobody knows the names of any current Pirates.

Saturday, September 19, 2009 9:26:00 AM  
Anonymous MH said...

melstin was me. I typed your turning test into the wrong box.

Saturday, September 19, 2009 9:26:00 AM  
Blogger n'at said...

The bitter flora of diaspora... yawn. The author should have parse the article down to the X's and O's of the region's economy, and left out the soap box rantings from a fella this city will never ever win back; Metanoia: not likely.

The character and charm of those unpretentious, sleepy european towns are the same qualities the diaspora indiscriminately thumb their noses at when it's their "hometown."

When it's Koblenz, it's kitschy; when it's Pittsburgh, it's a loss of American ingenuity and spirit by the least forward-thinking people on the planet.

Saturday, September 19, 2009 2:55:00 PM  
Anonymous MH said...

Like with smelly cheese. If the French have it, it's culture. When I do it, it's because the Velveeta was kept too long.

Saturday, September 19, 2009 3:20:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

Hey, I've been to Koblenz... the Mosel Valley is an amazingly beautiful place.

But that is a far more eloquent way to deconstruct the nabobism. MH as well, in his own way, I suppose.

Saturday, September 19, 2009 5:00:00 PM  
Anonymous MH said...

I think I did good by avoiding making a joke on the byline.

Anyway, I just learned where Islay's main store used to be, so though I don't qualify as a one of the biomed whiz kids at Pitt, I hardly count as Yinzer. I do enjoy the 'used to be' names though. Especially when the new name is long, colorless, and incorrect (i.e. Regional Enterprise Tower).

Saturday, September 19, 2009 7:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My real problem with the article is this line:
And yet, on the whole—discounting the robotics lab rats at CMU and biomed whiz kids at Pitt—your average Pittsburghers are among the least forward-thinking people on the planet.

The people of Pittsburgh's two great universities will shape the city heavily in its future. O'nan does a very sneaky trick here, immediately bracketing "educated" Pittsburgh to direct his formidable talents against what he views as repugnant, Stillers-obsessed "yinzer" Pittsburgh.

Saturday, September 19, 2009 9:30:00 PM  
Anonymous johnny g said...

Good to hear that you had the same reaction to this piece. Frankly, I was expecting a nice counterbalance piece myself when I began to read it yesterday morning. As my wife knows, I rarely get mouth-foaming mad at a newspaper piece, but the overworked cliches left me both super-angry and speechless. Pittsburgh is the "least international city" in the United States? Ever been to Indianapolis or Columbus? Clemente jerseys at PNC Park? Sure, there are many Bay or Wilson jerseys, but no more Cemente than Stargell--or Schmidt, Carlton, or Tug McGraw jerseys in Citizens Bank Park in Philly. About the only part this guy got right was the angst still present about work. As a transplant, I love the fact that Pittsburghers appreciate and still believe in hard work. It gives the city a great character that even this guy can't obscure.

Sunday, September 20, 2009 12:05:00 PM  
Blogger smallstreams said...

Nice article, I think. What I take away from the article is that many of us still have fear a future we're still not sure about. I do see crotchety xenophobes and cosmopolitan bio-researchers in Pgh, but O'Nan doesn't mention a number of huge alt-culture that gives the region its flavor.

I think our culture of work is changing, too. We're going to be mucking about much more than when we kept the recipe for steel in our back pocket. The future, thank God, will be much stranger than the past.

What really struck me, though, was that "protestor" was spelled with an "o", like I thought it should be spelled. Then a couple of paragraphs later it's spelled "protester". Gee, thanks, WSJ. First you overestimate downtown area, now this. Must be a Rupert Murdoch thing.

Sunday, September 20, 2009 3:00:00 PM  
OpenID bwcleary said...

The piece works best when it's investigating the nostalgia fixation, which is still a very real problem in the city. There's a danger in idolizing Pittsburgh's past -- living conditions were abhorrent(as everyone and their mother has already noted), and the economy had stagnated due to one-industry dominance as early as 1900. Contrary to popular belief, Pittsburgh is a late bloomer, rather than a dying city. It's finally taking its place as a multi-faceted city with a diversified economy. The best days probably are ahead.

As everyone has already said, the piece degenerates when it starts railing against the boorishness of Yinzers ("Boy, we haven't heard that before, and is that authentic Pittsburghese you just wrote there?"). It's clumsy and stupid, especially for Mr. O'Nan, who is normally such a delicate novelist.

Sunday, September 20, 2009 3:13:00 PM  
Anonymous MH said...

I do see crotchety xenophobes and cosmopolitan bio-researchers in Pgh

Given the international nature of the workforce, you probably won't see many bio-researchers who are xenophobes, but 'crotchety' and 'cosmopolitan' are hardly mutually exclusive categories. Pitt could also hire plenty of people who are non-xenophobic but somehow boorish or reactionary in other areas. Just to create more of a town-gown balance.

Sunday, September 20, 2009 3:23:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

Note to self: Do not let MH work in Pitt's HR dept. 

and as curious as the article itself it, the WSJ also has a few comments (fewer than here!) online as well.  I like this sentence from the very first comment:

Pittsburgh is one of the most politically corrupt and morally bankrupt citys in America.

Don't we all wish that were true?  The country must have a lot fewer problems that I imagined.

Sunday, September 20, 2009 10:05:00 PM  
Anonymous MH said...

Speaking of jobs I'm not allowed to do and the Pirates, today the priest (St. Paul's) made a joke about the Pirates being the worst team in baseball. Once clergy are using you as a cliche for sucking, you'd better just sell the team.

Sunday, September 20, 2009 10:45:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

Fr. Andrew I bet?

Sunday, September 20, 2009 10:52:00 PM  
Anonymous MH said...

This was a young guy. Just to be clear, he didn't use the word 'suck' at any point. I'm paraphrasing.

Sunday, September 20, 2009 11:01:00 PM  
Blogger Infinonymous said...

Pittsburgh is corrupt (a bit more than most cities, I believe, but not in New Orleans/small town Texas territory) and bankrupt (no-bout-a-doubt-it insolvent); I believe it would be difficult to dispute either point. I do not believe it to be a moral slouch, however, in any way.

Sunday, September 20, 2009 11:12:00 PM  
Blogger Jim Russell said...

Interesting rebuttal to O'Nan from Brookings:

In case the link doesn't wrap correctly:

Tuesday, September 22, 2009 1:20:00 PM  
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