I'm hanging out at The Bartram on Pittsburgh's famous - and sometimes infamous - Carson St. I've got a latte and a bear claw and I'm caffeinating up to a point where I'm primed to write after a long work week. Writing time is so limited and precious.
This place is OK. Positives are lots of tables available, right across the street from a parking garage, as parking is near impossible on Carson Street, and a nice mixed age crowd. Negatives are only one, maybe two outlets to keep the laptop juiced, the latte doesn't come up to the top of the cup (skimpy) and the bear claw was probably fresh yesterday. No one offered to warm it up and the person waiting on me is either (1) tired and hungover; (2) overworked; (3) suffering extreme job burnout; or (4) all of the above. I know that feeling, so I cut him some Saturday morning slack and offer a smile and tip. His tip jar is full so he must be really good at his job.
I was aiming for Black Forge Coffee House in Allentown this morning but when I got there there was, literally, no parking. Lots of parked police cars but no spots for writers looking to hangout like me. I headed to Carson Street to try Delanie's Coffee but, again, no parking spots in site for blocks and blocks. So, here I am.
Carson Street is cool. Very hip and fresh with lots of bars, restaurants, shops, and renovated row houses, lined up and lovely around the corner from older churches and clubs heralding the history of immigration to this city - Ukrainian catholic churches, Polish and Hungarian clubs sitting as stalwart hubs around working class homes that have not yet given up and succumbed to gentrification. Retro sits next to Classic in a city that holds onto its pride, its history, its brick streets and bridges, allowing growth to integrate with history rather than destroy. It's had a lot of issues with crime too, made more than one top story for the news hour.
Someone could read this and say "your city could do better". We could. Growth can displace people on the margins, trying to get by, in the process. And we could be doing worse, as other cities show. It's the trying and the belief and the pride - the roots of being a Western Pennsylvania - that count.