Pittsburgh is not the Pitts

Our family’s trip to Pittsburgh for Jeung Hwa and Andrew’s October 4, 2014 wedding proved to be other-worldly on several levels. My first exposure to Tami’s “file” was upstaged by the almost famous sandwich, the schizophrenic Garmin, a $12.50 Manhattan and the girl in the blue dress.

Thursday arrival: Expecting Pittsburgh to be a rusty and dilapidated old steel town, what a pleasant surprise to find a fully transformed and vibrant community steeped in history. Pennsylvania must be loaded with rock judging from the multitude of stone buildings and homes seen everywhere. Built on the convergence of three rivers (Ohio, Monongahela and Allegheny), city streets and freeways twisted and turned in a dizzying maelstrom of sights and sounds. More about the circuitous travel later.

This was my first introduction to Kent E Boy’s Deluxe Driving Service and Tami Girl’s Make-The-Most-0f-Your-Time Tour Guide Service. Both are highly recommended and much appreciated. We jumped in right way, first visiting The Strip. The foreign feel of the outdoor street bazaar offered everything for the hard core shopper and pure heaven for the devoted people watcher. It only took a few more minutes to find Primanti Brothers, highlighted in Tami’s “file” as a go-to lunch destination.

famous sandwichTheir “almost famous sandwich,” was developed by three brothers in the 1930’s to serve the mobile population of truckers, miners and quarry workers who ate on the run. It’s made up of two slices of thick white bread filled with your choice of meat (I had pastrami), sour kraut, lettuce and tomato, onion, if requested and stacked with three or four rows of French fries right in the middle of the sandwich. The counter man plunked it down on our table, sort-of wrapped in waxed paper. At least four inches high, I nibbled around the edges until it was small enough for a bite; the other half went home for supper.


Kent scoped-out every bar near our hotel, seeking the just-right place to watch the Packer game. The sports bar atmosphere is not my thing, so what a pleasant surprise when the chosen bar was quiet (we were the only ones watching a football game). There Kent pursued his dream of shepherding my induction into the Football Fan Hall of Fame. I guess I’m an anomaly in this hard core football family; so I began learning key phrases (“what’s the spread,” “coughed up the ball,” “shoestring tackle,” “shaken up on the play,” “momentum is a fickle woman”). Mark, Kate’s boyfriend, gave the best explanation of “sacking” and the “line of scrimmage.” Leave it to an engineer. The $12.50 I paid for one Manhattan was well worth it since we were able to talk and hear each other. Good job Kent E Boy!

Friday: Seeing and riding the Monongahela Incline (one of two remaining from the original 15 built in 1870’s) was our history lesson of the day. It was also the first adventure in conquering the circuitous routes necessary to get from one place to another in this town built on three rivers. Our drive from hotel to rehearsal dinner, hotel to wedding and hotel to reception each had some eerie similar qualities. Karleen’s Garmin changed its mind mid-ride, throwing her meticulously planned route into disarray. Once it called the same bridge by three different names. It said turn left but the intersection had a soft left and a hard left. Which one? Taking the wrong one put us on a freeway going in the opposite direction of our destination. We became accustomed to leaving extra early since no telling how long the drive would be!

But the real mystery was why did we have so much trouble getting to the chapel but could so easily get from the chapel back to our hotel? Gay (Andrew’s mother) told how she, a Pittsburgh native, could see exactly where she wanted to go but spent 45 minutes going around and around to get there.

Oops! Almost forgot. There was a wedding! Friday night rehearsal dinner at a neighborhood Italian restaurant. Great food. We felt honored to be included and appreciated the introductions and speeches by family and members of the wedding.

Saturday’s wedding ceremony was held at the Heinz Memorial Chapel on the University of Pittsburgh campus. We finally got parked thanks to that very nice policeman. The chapel does two weddings each Saturday with a nine month wait list and can only be booked by alumni, employees and donors. This was so special. The architecture intricate; the stained glass windows unique; the acoustics sublime making the wedding march majestic. Andrew memorized his vows. Jeung Hwa read hers.

Family 4Saturday night reception at the Children’s Museum also at University of Pittsburgh began with hoers devours delivered by wait staff and an open bar; a violinist strolling the room (on a dare, I asked him to play Margeuritaville, he declined); dinner started with soup, salad, one of three choices of entre and ended with wedding cake. This was a totally classy event. Black tie was a nice touch.

But when the DJ started, I was transported back to Wisconsin for a regular down home wedding. All the usual stuff: throwing the bouquet, getting the garter, special dances with parents. The young folks went wild with multiple versions of Macarena-type line dancing. I could tell they’d done this before. They were having a really good time.

But I was concerned about the girl in the blue dress. She was a sturdy girl whose hemline was far too revealing. When she raced at Nascar speed from her table to the dance floor in bare feet I was worried; would anyone survive a potential crash? Maybe the all night open bar wasn’t the best idea.

All in all, it was a wonderful trip. In spite of our travel travails (half our flight was cancelled the night before departure), we came out good. I was impressed by the different navigation methods worked out by Kent and Tami and Karleen and Paul. A stellar job of knowing who does what and knowing where each person’s strengths lie. That’s a good thing.

My thanks to family who hauled me around like an a-list celebrity. And best wishes to Andrew and Jeung Hwa who weren’t “sacked,” though there was “a flag on the play” as they “marched down the field” demonstrating “a nice hold” and making good use of Andrew’s “home town advantage.”

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