As I might have mentioned before, this was my first AnthroCon, and my first trip to Pittsburgh. Someone at some point expressed condolences that I was in Pittsburgh at all, but I found it lovely! The weather—is this seriously summer weather anywhere?—was in the 80′s during the day and the 70′s (with breeze!) at night, with a low humidity that made the air supremely breathable. The buildings downtown were gorgeous… I think I took more pictures of buildings than anything else! We went out of the city to see some relatives of friends, and I swear some of the houses look like Thomas Kincaide paintings… beautiful Colonial things on broad sloped lawns complete with lacy trees and foliage completely different than what I’m used to seeing. Even the flowers on the side of the highway were different: this soft purple felt, so unexpected, with occasional mad stands of bright orange tiger lilies.
No, I thought Pittsburgh was quite agreeable. It had its issues, but all cities do. I am glad I had the chance to see it.
I spent a lot of time walking around downtown, either going to eat or heading to and from the con hotel. The first restaurant we went to was an accident; I was so ravenous on Friday that my mood had crashed off the rails of my blood sugar roller coaster. I don’t know how my friends put up with me until I got something into my stomach, but they were troopers about it. But anyway, the closest thing to the convention center in the direction we walked that also wasn’t all sandwiches (no bread for jaguars!) was the Sharp Edge Bistro.
Food… excellent. Really superlative. The dessert was insane; I don’t like chocolate pudding, but the thing they served me was more like a mousse and it tasted like real chocolate, not chocolate flavoring, with a cocoa-sooty aftertaste. And they had an amazing range of beers, including a daily “mystery brew” that not even the waitresses know the name of.
Folks, the mystery brew is serious bsns. Saturday’s was so good I tried to get the name of it out of them and they refused to tell me even when I said I was going out of town the next day…! I had to check their twitter to find out it was Penn Chocolate Meltdown. Nom, people. Om nom nom. (Friday’s mystery brew was Magic Hat IPA, which was a little hoppy for me. This inspired a lot of jokes at the table, my favorite of which was the friend alongside drinking it and declaring immediately, “Wow, hoptacular.”)
Friday night we drove out of downtown to go to a sushi place, which will be primarily remembered forever for serving us the most astonishing tempura vegetable dish; it consisted of one broccoli floret and… a potato. An entire white potato, cut into thick slices. I have had many things at a Japanese restaurant, but tempura potatoes… that didn’t really work for me. Or any of us. Several of us even ate more than one in an attempt to make sense of them. No go. >.>
Saturday I ate in the Omni’s hotel restaurant, which I will applaud for having gluten-free options both in the menu and in the breakfast buffet (!). There was an entire table of gluten-free baked goods, so labeled. I didn’t eat lunch, but that evening was the one we drove out of town, allowing me a glimpse of the flora and the strange elevation differences. I am continually amazed how these mountain towns are laid out, with the buildings that seem like one story until you drive around their corners and discover a lower story exposed by an abrupt downslope. The houses are designed thus, too, with decks that are cut away over partial elevation changes… so strange for buildings to design with a sense for up-and-down as a matter of course, when the sky itself, the ultimate “up”, is less visible. That lack of horizon always makes me feel a little anxious. I wonder how people find one another with all the roads so twisty and so hidden, and how ambulances get anywhere quickly, and it makes me feel a little like I’m in a box. A beautiful box, but there is ambivalence, always.
And yet I was glad to go. Even if it makes me anxious, I love to look at different places, and live with the anxiety. It teaches me patience with the unknown, and I get to see beautiful things, and meet wonderful people. We were visiting with relations on Saturday night, but I remember stepping out of the restaurant and looking up at the abbreviated Pennsylvania sky and thinking how precious that swatch of deep, dark blue was when surrounded on every side. You could fall up that narrow corridor until you reached the moon.
Sunday morning we went walking in a different direction and ended up in the Strip district. Our original destination was a well-known restaurant, which was so full we tried our fallback, which was also too full, so we ended up at Peace, Love, and Little Donuts, which indeed did have… little donuts. Their chocolate-frosted donuts had some of the best chocolate donut frosting I’ve had, though I’m used to far less crispy donuts (it’s a style thing). The Strip District also had a Penzeys, a famous spice store I’ve never had a chance to enter. Four of us vanished into that place and none of us went out empty-handed. Talk about amazing smells! I bought two different types of true-cinnamon and some Mexican vanilla beans to make extract from.
(There is also apparently a church that doubles as… a club? In the Strip District? We passed it while walking, but it was closed.)
It turns out the hotel is .5 miles from the convention center. This I learned the hard way, because I am not used to walking on slopes. The downtown nearest me is flat as a board, and relatively new in compare; it does not have Pittsburgh’s constant grade changes, and the uneven pavers/sidewalks; it seemed like every block there was a different surface on the sidewalk. I was in a surprising amount of pain by Friday night, and my ankle actually rolled several times while trying to navigate the terrain changes. I noticed with embarrassment at one point that I had come to a halt to wait for the crosswalk signal and that I actually started to stumble because one foot was lower than the other and I didn’t realize it because… you know… when you stand in one place your body isn’t usually listing to one side. But there were sublime moments: walking back to the hotel in a night cool enough to raise goosebumps, I stepped over a grating leading to some vent that blew deliciously hot air up my aching feet, and the contrast between the cool air on my shoulders and that warm, humid draft… amazing. And also at night, a gate that had been closed during the day was open—like a mysterious dream—on a short alley that led to two doors with colonial-style pediments, and past that alley over the back of its stone fence, a spotlit church steeple made of lacework stone… it looked like a place to play Vampire, because it looked like a place out of stories.
So that was Pittsburgh, and even if I hadn’t enjoyed the con, which I did, I would have been glad to go.
Mirrored from MCAH Online.