Five Signs: You’re in Pittsburgh, Pa.

Geography Essay
Photos and captions by Nathan Mattise

College (and post-college limbo) is a time for excessive sleeping, partying, *studying*…. and traveling. It’s one of the finer points of college because there are no real commitments to hold you back. So in the spirit of good roadtrip, In the Pursuit of the Trivial offers the Five Signs series. It’s a photo-documentary account from an exotic location done through the signs ready to greet every and all tourists. Today, welcome to Pittsburgh, Pa.

1. Stephen C. Foster Memorial

The University of Pittsburgh is a fine academic institution (despite being a rival). Normally the defining image of their campus has to be the big cat itself, but this small church-like building dedicated to a local legend was too quirky to pass on. Stephen Foster is the “father of American music,” born in Pittsburgh and composer of songs such as “Oh, Susanna” and “Camptown Races.” He gets a building while poor Gene Kelly, an actual Pitt alum, only gets a sign.

2. The Andy Warhol Museum

The only man who matters in Pop Art was also a Pittsburgh native. I honestly didn’t know much about Warhol outside of the iconic soup can so here are a few things of note you can learn at the museum:

  1. Warhol once made a work of art that consists of a special type of copper canvas which reacts to human urine. Basically his urine stains are hanging in a museum. He also made these works among friends whose piss colors he enjoyed.
  2. The Jackie O. arguably became the most famous, but Warhol did tons of portraits (mostly of people I’ve never heard of). I think the early Stallone was the most surprising subject.
  3. Warhol created a magazine called Interview that still publishes today.
  4. Warhol took photograph collages for Playboy and also drew lots of naked men and women (so there’s potentially an entire floor of the museum to skip if you brought small children).
  5. Warhol is technically still making art today with his kinetic art piece “Silver Clouds” still kicking today.

3. Primanti Bros. Restaurant & Bar

Primanti Bros. is home to the most delicious sandwich I’ve had to date. It’s been featured on Travel Channel’s Sandwich Paradises and also Man V. Food. The sandwich was created to accommodate delivery truckers with no time to waste. So… it’s open 24 hours a day and every sandwich comes with fries and cold slaw thrown right on top before being wrapped in Saran wrap (no utensils or plates, that’s correct).

4. Jerry’s Fine Used Records

I demanded a record player gift after spending 10 minutes in Jerry’s. It’s one of the hidden vinyl gems left in the country (according to the city’s paper but I swear they had clippings on the wall from big music mags). Check out the astonishing amount of records they have – even Lovegods in Leisure Suits.

5. No Fighting No Drugs No Weapons No Vandalism

All of the Steel City culture above is great but the modern piece de resistance of the city was located in a small club next to a strip mall (yes, where this sign hung). I was fortunate enough to attend Girl Talk’s first homecoming show since he released his critically acclaimed “Feed The Animals.” It was absolute pandemonium. As soon as Girl Talk took the stage I was swept onto it by a tidal wave of people behind me. It was non-stop motion from there. It’s incredibly hard to describe what the experience was like – part concert, part cardio work-out, part dance club, part flat-out party. People were taking shirts off, balloons (and confetti) were falling everywhere and the crowd (the most diverse concert crowd I’ve ever seen in terms of age, social identity, type of music you’d assume they listen to based on appearance, etc.) was a totally communal experience. At the end of the night Girl Talk was just another guy but for his two hour set he was the ring leader behind the most unique concert experience I’ve had to date.

And that’s it from Pittsburgh, Pa. The city’s journalistic hub was the only sign that didn’t make the cut this time around. Until next time, I’ll make sure to keep you posted on the next adventure.

(Links today from Wikipedia, Travel Channel Online, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pittsburgh Tribune and Blender)

If you want to yell at Nate for this idea because it’s dumb or he utilizes it too much, e-mail him. If you don’t think Pittsburgh, Pa. isn’t exciting enough, feel free to contact him with a better trip to share too.

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Filed under Essays, Geography

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