I <3 _____ [you are here]

(source: Liz Your Best Life)

 

This is a late Valentine’s to PLACE.

 

I finished Everywhere is the New New York a long while ago, and neglected to mention it here. So many great essays on hometowns and adopted cities, the good the bad and the foetid. But I think my current favourite was this, by Tyler Crumrine:

 

Are you sad? That’s fine. People get sad. Celebrities get sad. Politicians get sad. Sometimes I even get sad. But do you really want to live in a city that rubs it in your face? Where people are always smiling, and looking you in the eyes, and making you feel like YOU’RE the one with the problem? No. You want to wallow. You want to lash out. You want to swaddle yourself in a blanket of sadness so thick you can sit back and say, “It’s not my fault. This is the natural state of things. How else am I supposed to feel? I mean look at this place.”

 

That’s where Pittsburgh comes in. We understand you here, sad sack. In Pittsburgh, there’s no pressure. In Pittsburgh, we feel you. In Pittsburgh, you can recover as slowly and as bitterly as you want.

 

There’s no Broadway or Disney World here. No sir. Just bridges. And not even well-kept bridges. Just long, lonely ones built from the sweat and tears of steel workers. The kind that are perfect for standing on and brooding.

 

I feel like I should visit Pittsburgh, properly this time. The last time, it was a stop on the Greyhound bus trip to New Mexico. The NRA were in town, and a couple of emo teens got on the bus with a huge gun, hidden in a towel. They were arrested in Columbus, I think. What we saw of Pittsburgh was what surrounded the bus station. It looked pinched, a bit grim. Old buildings that could be beautiful, if you squinted or the sun hit them just right. A little like Glasgow – so I probably should give it another try.

 

Ask me on any given day, and I’d have a new favourite from this collection. It’s rich, funny, personal, grim, kind. You can buy a copy of Everywhere is the New New York, if there any left, here. I’d love to see this as a world wide series – a chapbook or an essay collection, bound in maps. It’s fantastic to see a light shone on all these small (and not so small) places. To see what gleams and what little beasties crawl out.

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