Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Washington Post fantasizes about the Washington Post having sex with the Washington Post

Because having two knuckleheads throw together a completely meaningless, nonsensical list simply for the sake of doing it wasn't enough, here comes the good old Wall Street Post to try and justify why what is in is in, and why what is out is out.

And because the newspaper business is thriving and the Post has money to burn, instead of having the geniuses who wrote the list write their explanations of the list, they've brought on a third person, in this case, self-proclaimed Pittsburgh native and FTC-proclaimed turncoat Maura Judkis to interview them about why Pittsburgh is It and Portland is Not It. Is there a greater declaration of self-importance than having one of your writers interview two of your other writers for a story to appear in your own publication?

This year’s List has spoken, and writers Dan Zak and Monica Hesse have laid their anointed hands upon my hometown for 2012. Pittsburgh, Pa., is cool now. Sorry, Portland hipsters!

I can't emphasize enough how uncomfortable I am with the Washington Post, in general, and these two know-nothing reporters, specifically, being the arbiters of cool. A casual Googling of these two reveals some telling information. Dan Zak was born and raised in Buffalo. Buffalo is like Cleveland if it were perpetually buried under eight feet of snow. Buffalo sucks. Monica Hesse is obviously lying about her age to someone, and writes the kind of trash typically reserved for the Friday edition of a college newspaper. Think about someone whose idea of what it means to be a writer is completely defined by their unwavering obsession with "Sex and the City" -- a little vapid girl's feckless fantasy about what being a writer is actually like, disconnected from anything in reality, then multiply that times fucking infinity. That's Monica Hesse.

Portland, Ore., is the land of microbreweries, indie bands, bicyclists and rose gardens. 

True! No other city has those things! Not San Diego or San Francisco or Denver or Minneapolis or Seattle or Chicago or Milwaukee or Boston get the point.

Pittsburgh is often reviled by outsiders for its abrasive-sounding accent and rabid football fans.

Everyone hates a winner. Except Green Bay. It's impossible to hate Green Bay. It's also impossible to hate Milwaukee.

Portland has Portlandia, the hit comedy sketch show, while Pittsburgh just subs in as other cities in movies.

Why did Listmakers Hesse and Zak bestow their blessings upon the latter?

“Portland has overextended its welcome as the destination for hipsters who want to find themselves, while frolicking in beautiful scenery and reasonable rents,” says Hesse.

Totally agree. Hipsters love frolicking in reasonable rents.
Matt: Hey, Monica. Would you like an extra preposition for this sentence?
Monica: No, I'm good.
Matt: You sure? I think you might really need one.
Monica: Look, Matt. I'm 28. I'm an adult woman. I don't need a man giving me prepositions or correcting dangling modifiers.
Matt: I'm just saying, you know, that copy desk, when they get a hold of this, are going to laugh at you real, real hard if, you know, they're doing their jobs at all. Because this is obviously a prepared quote and you're trying to be funny, but...

Has Portland overextended its welcome? No. Portland is fine. They have free public transportation, for fucks sake. It's the hipsters who have overextended their welcome. Not Portland. The way Monica says it, Portland has overextended its welcome as a destination for hipsters, making it sound as though Portland has done something wrong. Shouldn't we be more concerned with the hipsters? Have they not overextended their welcome? This is very simple. If Portland and hipsters have to part ways, I'm fine with that. If the hipsters have to choose somewhere new to go because Portland is "so over," then that's fine. But under no terms am I okay with Pittsburgh being thought of as the new Portland, being called the new Portland or, worst, becoming the new Portland. 

Portland is a great place for hipsters because it keeps them tucked away in a secure corner of the west coast, away from our town. The nearest hipster colony to here is in Brooklyn, and even that's six-plus hours by car. Pittsburgh is the greatest city in the world just the way it is. There's great balance here between the old and the new, the progressive and the moronically reserved. For every drunken yinzer who calls sports talk show to ask about Hines Ward, there's someone making stunningly beautiful art. For every Mayor Dudeface, there's a Bill Peduto. For every pothole, there's a street whose name is clearly marked in blue and white. For everything vaguely negative, change-resistant, or cloaked in mindless deference to the way things used to be, there's something positive, forward-thinking and hopeful. These forces fight little battles all the time, and if either of them won out, the balance responsible for making Pittsburgh so great would be ruined. This is why we have so much vacant riverfront space, but that's okay.

“Pittsburgh is reasonable-rents, nice scenery, nice downtown, and the people are, in general, just far less insufferable.”

The authors of Free Tank Carter would like to cordially invite Monica Hesse to go have sexual intercourse with herself and die of car accident cancer. "Far less insufferable"? You can't say that we're nice or that we're friendly? We're actually both. As a native Pittsburgher, one of my favorite things is encountering people who are visiting from out-of-town. Baseball, football and hockey fans who make the trip to Pittsburgh to see their teams play are always fun to encounter. I'm always curious to hear what they think of the park/stadium/arena, the the town and the people. How's their experience been so far? What have they seen? Have they tried the local brews? I'll tell them that Primanti's is overrated, but Pamela's is worth the wait. I'll send them to Kelly's and the Round Corner Cantina, and recommend they take a morning stroll through the Strip District or spend a few hours in those two culture-packed blocks of Oakland between Carnegie Library and Craig Street. I've engaged in these conversations even with Mets and Patriots fans. I know I'm not the only person who does this. We're a very welcoming people, and we love it when you come to town and enjoy what we have to offer.

Less insufferable? Have you seen how people in your area drive? Have you read your own writing? Fuck you.

As a born-and-raised Pittsburgher, I’ll go a step further. Portland, with its elaborate facial hair and abundance of strip clubs, represents irony. Pittsburgh, with its working-class pragmatism, is the opposite: earnest and straightforward. It’s a place where people drink cheap beer and wave their Terrible Towels without self-consciousness. Hipsters take faux working-class attributes —brusque beardsPabst Blue Ribbon and occupations such as butchery — and integrate them into their lives with an ironic wink and a superiority complex. In Pittsburgh, you can find all of the above, only without the derision and affectation.

First of all, irony is dead. Generation Y has killed it. Our grandparents saved the world from the Nazis, our parents ruined the world with overuse, and our generation's lone contribution has been to kill the abstract concept of irony. That said, I agree with Judkis' point about Pittsburgh, but it's not as though we're totally without affectation. I'm just sick and fucking tired of hearing how "blue-collar" and "working-class" a town this is. Don't you have to have blue-collar jobs to be a blue-collar town? Our jobs are all in health care, sustainability and natural gas. That's it, that's the list. When was the last time you saw a mill worker walking around? We're not a blue-collar town anymore. We're a white-collar town, we just don't have any money.

What's often said about New York or Los Angeles is that they're not places, they're "states of mind" or "non-places." They're ideas; modes of thought. One of the things that makes Pittsburgh so great is that it's simultaneously very real (as in a drive past the Heinz Field parking lot at 8 a.m. on game day to see people already outside grilling and drinking in the snow, and what that says about us) and very ethereal (as in the Pittsburgh of Michael Chabon's stories, Annie Dillard's memoir and August Wilson's plays, and what they say about us).

Look, I love it when Pittsburgh gets good PR, and I'm glad the esteemed Washington Post thinks we're so great. But the Portland comparison makes me nervous. Please, by all means, come and visit. Avail yourself of what we have to offer. Unless you're looking to establish New Portlandia here or your name is Monica Hesse, we're glad to have you. But please, respect the balance. This is not Portland. If you make it Portland, I will kill you.


Anonymous said...

The guy from The Mentalist also starred in a television show set entirely in Pittsburgh.

I am on season 2, its not bad.

Hank said...

Line I wish I wrote: "We're not a blue-collar town anymore. We're a white-collar town, we just don't have any money.

Alan said...

I would be perfectly happy for the blue and white signs to win their battle against the potholes. I don't think it would upset the balance.