SAYING GOOD-BYE TO #PITTSBURGH

PNCPark

PNC Park

Nearly seven years ago, Pittsburgh took me by surprise when it grabbed my heart and squeezed.

All I knew of the city came from my college geography and history classes. At the time, I was struck by the role of rivers in the formation of cities. Pittsburgh doesn’t just have one river, but three, and during the Industrial Revolution in the United States became known for its ‘dirty’ industry. The rivers made it an attraction and strategic location and the seam of coal sitting underneath created an important industrial capital. Despite my interest in the location, I never thought about visiting, and I certainly never considered living in the Steel City.

Yet, life had other plans for me when I reconnected with a love from my teenage years. That’s the other thing I knew about the city. I knew more than forty years before that he’d left me to make a go of his life in Pittsburgh. After I graduated from college, I headed south to Florida. And that was my connection to Pittsburgh until 2009.

Fort Pitt TunnelWhen we reconnected, I visited Pittsburgh for the first time. Once my husband drove me through the Fort Pitt Tunnel, and I came out on the other side into the magical land of the three rivers, I was a goner. I became more familiar with the downtown of the city than my husband, who’d lived in the north hills and only came downtown occasionally.the view

I shopped in the Strip district every month, stocking up on seafood, freshly roasted coffee beans, cheese, stuffed grape leaves,  and craft beers brewed nearby. Walking down Penn Avenue that cuts right through the heart of the Strip, dodging vendors’ tables piled high with Steelers, Pirates, and Penguins gear and indulging in impulse purchases of scarves and hats, put me in mind of a Moroccan or Chilean market.

For years, I’d denied my sports-dominated childhood. I grew up with four older brothers–athletes all–where I existed as the physically ungifted girl. But that all changed when I moved to the ‘Burgh. I went back to my roots, except this time instead of cheering for the Lions, Tigers, and Red Wings, I’d become a fan of all things gold and black.

Go Steelers!

Go Steelers!

There is nothing quite as exciting as attending a Steelers game at Heinz Field and watching the ketchup bottle spill the red stuff whenever the home team made it to the end zone. The coolness of entering Consul Energy Center gripped me and kept me cool while the Penguins melted the ice, playing stellar hockey and entertaining the fans with the likes of Crosby and Malkin. I never really liked hockey until these boys made it impossible to sit back and ignore.

But nothing made me more of a fan of Pittsburgh than going to PNC Park and watching those Pirates grow into a team that could be a contender. My husband took me to my first game in the spring of 2010 on a Friday night. Along with maybe one hundred other fans, we had our choice of seats to watch a lackluster team. Except for two new players: Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker. I felt a rush of adrenaline when either one of them came to the plate. Within two years, the Pirates rose from laughing stock to winning team. It’s been a pleasure to watch them play and revel in their victories. This past year, thirty thousand fans often packed the house of Friday nights.

PNC Park

PNC Park

Last month, we left Pittsburgh physically. We’ve been in the process of leaving for six months, but in December it became official. Each thing I did in those final weeks became poignant with the thought I may never pass this way again.

Seven years ago, I’d never imagine the sadness I felt about leaving.

The move is positive, but as with most things in life, change is still a form of loss. I will mourn the loss of Pittsburgh in my life, but will be forever grateful for the home it provided me in the past six years as my husband and I began our life together. I will always view the Steel City with the soft chewy center as the place of my honeymoon that never ended. Steelers Fans

Thank you, Yinzers. I will always be a fan, and you will always be a part of my heart.

Heinz Field

Heinz Field from the Allegheny River

Raccoon Lake in western Pennsylvania

Raccoon Lake in western Pennsylvania

The abundant garden

Our abundant garden

 

And always the bridges of steel

And always the bridges of steel

A BASEBALL LOVE STORY – THIRD BASE

Hello – a Happy July to you all. We moved into the new digs this past week, but head back to Pittsburgh in a few days. I hate to leave but I still love the Steel City and plan on enjoying my last few weeks living there to the fullest.

Third Base_low resolution for webIn between all the moves, I still managed to finish my new romance, Third Base. It’s set in Pittsburgh, where I’ve created a winning Pittsburgh Pirates team with ace third baseman Tomas Vegas who hails from Puerto Rico. He falls in love with Adriana Moretti, a young, beautiful, and successful widow whose Italian family keeps a close watch on all of her romantic entanglements. Tomas must also deal with his super model ex-girlfriend whose not taken kindly to being dumped by the rising All Star. Lots of fun times in the Steel City this summer!

Third Base will be a part of the Score One For Love box set, which comes out later this summer and is filled with sports love stories by nine other authors.

Purchase Links:

Amazon

Nook

Kobo

Apple

PromoThirdBase jpg

Falling in Love Twice

two loves – the man and the city

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

I fell in love twice several years ago. The first time I fell in love with my husband. The second time I fell in love with the city he called home for more than three decades:  Pittsburgh.

“You’re moving where?” family and friends asked. Even strangers asked me why I would move from Florida, the Sunshine State, to the cold north. I still am asked that question.

Each time I answer that love brought me here – twice. Pittsburgh remains a well-kept secret from most of the country, except for those of us who know about its not-so-secret charms.

How did this second love affair begin? Perhaps it began in a geography class in Michigan, my first year in college in 1974. That’s when I learned about the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers converging to form the mighty Ohio, giving Pittsburgh a starring role in the Industrial Revolution of this country.

The idea of water creating our urban centers left an impression. Then I never thought much about Pittsburgh until 2009, when love brought a renaissance to my world.

Downtown

Probably the first surprise was the landscape of the Pittsburgh area. When I drove into the city from the airport, I marveled at the hills and the valley below created by the three rivers of Pittsburgh. There are particular vistas all around the city and its environs that allow me to believe anything is possible.

I lived in Florida for nearly thirty years, having moved there from Michigan in 1980. Many of the residents come from somewhere else. Finding a native Floridian resembles the search for that old needle in the haystack.

When I first came to Pittsburgh, I noticed a difference right away. Most people I met and still meet were born and raised in the Pittsburgh area. Although they might think of moving somewhere else, they really do not intend to leave. I’ve learned those who do leave tend to return.

Soon after I moved to the Steel City, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported folks volunteered to paint planters downtown to freshen up for spring. No wonder Pittsburgh could reinvent itself after U.S. Steel left town. The people – not institutions – made it possible because they love this place, which uniquely exists as the western East, the eastern West, the southern North and the northern South of the United States.

Places of green still exist here because the hills make some sections uninhabitable, both surprising and delighting me. I am an urban country girl, and I have always wanted it both ways. Here I’ve found that balance in both my surroundings and in my personal life.

I love the hills, but I love the architecture of the churches, commercial buildings, and homes as well. Studying those structures is a lesson in American history all by itself. The bridges are also a wonder of engineering and architecture. Pittsburgh has more bridges than any other city in the world.

Ohio River bridge 25 miles west of downtown Pittsburgh

My love affair intensified after a visit to the Heinz History Center. I found myself curiously emotional as I learned about the city and its inhabitants. I never realized so many influential folks from Pittsburgh played an important role in my life. Dr. Benjamin Spock taught me I would not spoil my child by picking her up when she cried, and Mr. Rogers visited our neighborhood every day to reinforce the concepts of friendship and citizenship in my young daughter.

Rachel Carson, whose environmental writing helped develop awareness of DDT and the pollutants in the air, inspires me in my writing and life. Nellie Bly broke through glass ceilings allowing me privileges unknown to the women of her generation.

Stephen Foster immortalized the place I lived in Florida for nearly three decades through song. He never visited “way down upon the Suwannee River,” but he called Pittsburgh home.

Although I did not know it at the time, Pittsburgh and its inhabitants served as the backdrop to my life, from the ketchup I poured on my burgers to the polio shot I received as a child. No wonder I fell hard for this place of steel with its soft edges and open arms.

My surprise at falling in love with Pittsburgh is exemplified in the surprise that comes whenever I approach the downtown area from my home 45 minutes west of the city. Within one mile of the center of Pittsburgh, there is no view of a skyline, only the hillside and then the sign announcing the Fort Pitt Tunnel.

Approaching Fort Pitt Tunnel on I-376

The tunnel is a mile long cutting through the rock of the hillside. The tunnel’s lights guide the way when suddenly daylight is seen at the end.

light at the end of Fort Pitt Tunnel

Suddenly, the car bursts out into the sunshine and I’m crossing the Monongahela River and there is the surprise and delight of a city in its Renaissance – Pittsburgh in all it glory with the Ohio to the left and the Allegheny straight ahead, and a distinctive skyline of steel and glass. That’s all it took for me to fall in love with my new city.

Pittsburgh skyline

Pittsburgh also provides the backdrop for my new marriage. As I traverse the city and experience the Strip District and its glorious markets, cruise the three rivers and cheer the Penguins, Steelers, and Pirates, I am certain my decisions to marry and to move here are victories for love both times.

Heinz Field – home of the Steelers

Note: This was originally published in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette on May 5, 2010 in the “Raves” guest column as “Raves: She first fell hard for a Pittsburgher, then for his city.” It’s published under my former name, Patricia Behnke, three months before our wedding.