Fun and Exciting New Ways to Park!

On a recent trip home to New York City I made the mistake of – gasp – bringing my car! Big mistake. Driving to Manhattan is basically impossible, because once you get there, there is nowhere to stow your vehicle. You will spend hours searching for a parking space. You will waste long mornings moving your car from one side of the street to the other to comply with street cleaning schedules. Or, you will spend hundreds of dollars on a garage. Forget about having a car if you actually live in the city on a permanent basis. I can’t even imagine.

Luckily for residents of (and visitors to) Pittsburgh, parking here is not nearly so complicated. In most neighborhoods there are plenty of spots available. Street cleaning generally takes place only once a month. But the really fun thing about parking here is observing all the interesting ways that other Pittsburghers have parked. The general consensus of the natives seems to be that if a spot is not available it’s no problem, because one can be created.

Let’s take a look at several common reasons why parking spaces may not be available, and examine the ways that industrious Pittsburghers overcome these impediments:

1. Problem – Street is too narrow to park. Solution – just borrow a little space from the sidewalk. Go ahead, drive right up on the curb. Problem solved.

2. Problem – Street is really too narrow. Solution – See above, but park entirely on the sidewalk. Who said pedestrians have the right of way?

3. Problem – There is a parking spot on the left side of the street but my vehicle, since we are in America, is traveling down the right side of the street. Solution – Simply cross over from the right side to the left side and park. Do not bother to make a U turn so that your car is facing in the proper direction. Do not bother to yield to oncoming traffic.

4. Problem – All the parking spaces on the right and left sides of the street appear to be full. Or, they are marked by pesky meters. Solution – Be a pioneer! Simply create a new parking settlement in the middle of the street.

5. Problem – I have a great parking space but need to take my car on a jaunt. Solution – Not a problem at all. As anyone knows, a parking space can be reserved indefinitely simply by filling it with any common household item.

Let’s face it, parking can be a total pain. But in Pittsburgh, not so much. Almost any parking-related problem has an ingenious solution. And those of us not bold enough to try the solutions ourselves can still be amused by the ingenuity of others.

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The Peculiar Case of The City In Which It Is Cheaper To Buy Than To Rent

Have you always had a hankering to own your own home but didn’t think you could afford it? Have you been paying rent instead, assuming it was cheaper than paying for a mortgage? Well, you might want to start paying attention to Pittsburgh, one of two cities in the United States where it is actually cheaper to buy than to rent. That’s right, in Pittsburgh the monthly expenses associated with owning a home can actually be less than the monthly expense of renting.

Why is this the case? As discussed elsewhere on this site, compared to other major metropolitan areas, the average price of a home in Pittsburgh is quite low. There are great houses to be had for very reasonable amounts of money. Combine that with a strong rental market, low interest rates and government incentives such as the $8,000 first-time home buyer federal tax credit and voila! A home buyer’s paradise is born!

Obviously, this does not mean that everyone should rush out and buy a home. There are many things to consider and many factors to weigh. Home ownership involves a lot of expenses that renting does not – insurance, taxes, maintenance and repairs, to name a few, and these must be factored into any decision. At the same time, home ownership can involve a lot of benefits that renting does not. Assuming you are content to stay put for a reasonable amount of time, real estate can be a good investment. You might wind up seeing a return on your money that you would not see if you were renting. There are less tangible benefits as well. As an owner, you can feel free to customize your home in any way you see fit. Maybe you want to paint your home in custom colors, upgrade a kitchen, or do some landscaping. These activities might be prohibited by a landlord, or might not be worth the time and expense when the property does not belong to you. But when the home is yours, you have free reign to let your home-making juices flow.

The bottom line is this: In most cities the cost of owning a home is more than the cost of renting. Consequently, home ownership is an option only for people who have a bit “extra” to spend each month. Pittsburgh is one of a mere handful of cities where owing a home is a truly viable option for a wide range of people, including those with more modest monthly budgets.

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The Sandwiches Here Have French Fries On Them!

Generally when I write a post I include, you know, some words. I like my posts to be at least a paragraph or two. But really, what else is there to say? THE SANDWICHES HERE HAVE FRENCH FRIES ON THEM. This is news that should be shouted from the rooftops. And in a smaller voice it should be shouted: AND COLESLAW!

OK, to elaborate, Pittsburgh is home to a famous and extremely beloved restaurant chain called Primanti Brothers. Since 1933 Primanti’s has been serving up their signature item – a huge sandwich consisting of a filling such as grilled meat, fish, or egg, topped with vinegar based cole slaw, tomato, and french fries, and enclosed within two fluffy, fresh slices of Italian bread. Whether dining in or eating out, the sandwich is expertly wrapped in white deli paper. When you unwrap it it’s just like Christmas. If Christmas were topped with french fries.

To eat a Primanti Brothers sandwich is to take a bite of Pittsburgh history. The sandwich was invented during the Great Depression and legend has it that its original purpose was to feed the blue collar workers in Pittsburgh who needed a filling lunch but who lacked the time and utensils to eat a meal consisting of different components. Joe Primanti created the sandwich and along with his brothers, opened the first Primanti’s shop on Smallman and 18th, in Pittsburgh’s Strip District. You can still eat there today.

Because it is a Pittsburgh tradition, and open late, Primanti’s can be a bit of a scene. If you are visiting from out of town, or are a newcomer, you should definitely make a point of checking it out. Stop in on any evening, sit down at the long counter, and enjoy the pleasant bustle. You will find customers lined up and busy chefs cooking up food and assembling sandwiches at a breakneck speed.

The impact of Primanti Brothers can not be overstated. Even outside of Pittsburgh, you fill find menus featuring a “pittsburgh-style sandwich”. That is, a sandwich topped with fries and maybe slaw. And within Pittsburgh I have encountered various non-sandwich foods topped with fries. Foods that do not normally involve fries. Such as Pizza.

A sandwich topped with french fries. Just one more answer to the question, “Why Pittsburgh?”

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Pittsburghese: Of Yinzers, Gumbands, Jaggers, N’at

Always had a hankering to visit the Galapagos Islands but can’t afford the trip? Here’s a viable alternative: Come to Pittsburgh.

According to this 2006 New York Times article, our fair city is the “Galapagos Islands of American Dialect”. You might not hear the bark of the sea lion, the squawk of the red-footed booby, or the harumph of the giant tortoise, but you will hear some of the most unusual speech found anywhere in the United States. In fact, the way Pittsburghers talk is unique enough to warrant its own name – “Pittsburghese”, its own entry in Wikipedia, and the ongoing interest of researchers at institutions such as Carnegie Mellon University.

For Pittsburghers, Pittsburghese is without doubt a popular topic of conversation. Ask a group of locals for some examples and they will enthusiastically oblige you. People here take pride in the way they speak. There is no stigma associated with talking like a native, which is very refreshing and is typical of the way the city views itself. People from Pittsburgh are proud to be from Pittsburgh. And they have reason to be! Peculiar speech sounds can be found in many populations within the United States but in general, they are not restricted to one small geographic location. Usually, they can be found over a large area or region. But there is one peculiar pronunciation that truly seems to be found only in the Pittsburgh metropolitan area. Meet the /aw/ monophthongization. Put in layman’s terms, people here pronounced “ow” as “ah”. No one in Pittsburgh ever goes downtown. They go dahntahn! And that’s a place you will only find in Pittsburgh, PA.

Here are some other examples of Pittsburghese:

Phonology

• Cot sounds like caught, not sounds like naught.

• Feel sounds like fill, fool sounds like full.

• Towel and tile sound the same.

Vocabulary

• Gumband – rubber band.

• Jag – to prick or stab.

• Jagger – a small, pointy object such as a thorn.

• Nebby – nosey.

• Redd up – to tidy or clean up.

• Slippy – slippery.

• Yinz – second person plural pronoun – “you ones”.

• Yinzer – speaker of Pittsburghese.

• N’at – along with some other stuff. Reduction of “and that”.

Why do Pittsburghers talk the way they do? No one can say for sure. It might have something to do with the fact that Pittsburgh is a city of many distinct neighborhoods, each settled by a different immigrant population. It is believed, for instance, that “yinz” came about as Irish-speaking immigrants learned English. In Irish, there is a distinction between the singular and plural form of “you”, but in English there is no such distinction. “You went dahntahn” could just as easily refer to one person as it could one hundred people. To make up for their lost second-person plural, the new speakers of English said “you ones”. Over time, this became you’uns and then youns and then yunz and then yinz. Incidentally, the same thing happened in the South (y’all) and in New Jersey (yous).

The most fun thing about Pittsburghese, and about dialects in general, is that they shouldn’t exist at all. Different ways of speaking make it harder for us to communicate with one another, not easier. And yet they persist. And it’s a good thing, or we would have one less answer to the question of “Why Pittsburgh?”

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You Can’t Beat the Value of Pittsburgh Real Estate

According to the National Association of Realtors, the median sales price of existing single-family homes in Pittsburgh is less than $119,000. Compare that to a national median of almost $200,000. For further comparison, consider the median prices in a sampling of other cities such as Philadelphia ($231,000), Chicago ($246,000), and Boston ($361,000). It soon becomes clear that compared to other major metropolitan areas offering amenities similar to those found in Pittsburgh (more of which later), real estate here is a steal. In fact, according to cnnmoney.com, real estate in the Pittsburgh area is undervalued by as much as 15% when compared to the rest of the country.

But the price of a home is not the only thing to consider, even if you are getting very good value for your money. You also want to be satisfied that you are making a good investment, something that can be tricky given the current uncertain state of the real estate market. Luckily for those considering investing in a home in Pittsburgh, the real estate market here is fairly strong or at the very least, stable. According to ABC news and Forbes, as of 2009 Pittsburgh sits near the top of the list of the country’s strongest real estate markets. Ironically, the reason for Pittsburgh’s current stability might lie in the fact that it wasn’t a beneficiary of the real estate “boom” experienced by many cities over the past few years. Real estate values here did not explode the way they did in some cities during the dawn of the new millennium, but by the same token, they are now avoiding the “bust” which is the flip side of most “booms”.

Another reason for the stability of the local real estate market is that Pittsburgh is experiencing growth in industries such as education, health care, and technology. This growth results in new jobs, which results in greater demand for housing.

While Pittsburgh real estate appears to be a good value and a good investment, there is also something less tangible to be considered when contemplating living in, and buying property in, a particular city. Specifically, it’s important that the neighborhoods and types of homes available suit your desires and needs. Luckily for anyone interested in Pittsburgh, there is such a wide variety of neighborhoods and homes available that it would be impossible to not find something you like.

Pittsburgh is made up of approximately 90 neighborhoods – yes I said 90 – and each one offers a unique mood and style. From transitional to well-established, from bohemian to posh, from hipster to prepster, from bustling to tranquil, Pittsburgh has it all. In terms of types of homes, again, you will find all types. The city offers a high percentage of older construction, which means you will find a lot of beautiful restorations. It is not unusual to find churches and warehouses, along with more traditional houses and buildings, that are in excess of a hundred years old and which have been turned into beautiful, modern living spaces. Older construction also means that bargains can be found if fixing up properties is something that gets your creative juices flowing. For those who prefer more contemporary construction, the demand for housing in Pittsburgh means that many modern condos and houses are available both in the city and in surrounding areas.

In conclusion, Pittsburgh is a great place in which to live and buy real estate for the simple reason that it offers great value. You can get a lot for your money, you are reasonably assured that you are making a good investment, and it is a safe bet that you will be able to find a home that appeals to you and meets your needs.

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