The Bearded Iris

A Recalcitrant Wife and Mother Tells All

You CAN go home again, if your hometown ROCKS.

I was born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Even went to college there at Carnegie Mellon University. History major, with an undeclared minor in beer drinking, table dancing, and Greek mating habits. Or so it would seem.

But in my early twenties I hightailed it out of The Steel City in search of more. Drove ‘cross country all by myself in a beat up old Suzuki Samurai with nothing but a CB radio by my side and a .38 caliber pistol in my fanny pack. That was 1994, and the fanny pack was probably the most normal part of that scenario. (Shaking my head in disbelief.)

I ended up in the Bay Area of California. That’s where Highway 80 ended or I probably would have kept on going. My good friend Buster let me crash on his living room floor in Rockridge for a few weeks. (Um, more like 8. Great guy. Changed my life.)

That’s where I met The Gatekeeper.

Yeah, it's from my Mom's scrapbook. How'd ya know? Nice hand placement, dude.

Good thing, too… because I sure do love that man. And we make really purdy babies.

But let me tell you something. Leaving Pittsburgh may have been the dumbest thing I’ve ever done.

I frickin’ love that city.

Sometimes you don’t realize how much you love something until you see it with fresh eyes.

Last weekend I took my eight year old daughter Mini-Me to Pittsburgh for our first ever Girl’s Weekend.

It. Was. Awesome.

Of course, my Mom is the first one to remind me that I enjoyed my family so much this trip precisely BECAUSE I don’t see them very often. I suspect she’s got a point there.

Crazy family aside, oh how it pains me to no longer have regular access to these:

Yes. Look at THAT! All hail Primanti Bros., I say. Where else can you get pastrami, cheese, tomato, cole slaw, and FRIES, in between two thick slices of fresh local Italian bread? The first time you eat this, you will think you have died and gone to heaven. It’s especially good with an Iron City Beer. But don’t just take my word for it. This “sammich” has been in National Geographic Magazine, on Man v. Food, and the History Channel’s “Best Sandwiches in America” show, among others. It’s THAT famous and THAT good.

There are a vajillion other reasons I love and miss Pittsburgh, but for the sake of brevity, let me pick just two more to share (for now).

This is Dreaming Ant. Located in Bloomfield, it is Pittsburgh’s last remaining DVD rental store.

Nestled in the back of the Crazy Mocha Coffee shop on Liberty Avenue and Taylor Street, Dreaming Ant specializes in independent films and documentaries, and prides itself on being all about “film-geek satisfaction.” I guess I’m a bit of a film-geek, because there really is something so completely satisfying about browsing and choosing DVDs in person in an artsy environment and with the astute recommendations of other like minded film-geeks. It’s a personal experience most of us don’t get anymore in today’s digital, faceless, queue-and-stream world.

So go get a cup of coffee and browse the myriad eclectic titles. It won’t take long for you to realize that the regular patrons of this place are as special as the movies you can find there. Victor, you are one crazy mo-frankie. It was an honor to meet you and to witness first hand that the word “jag off” is alive and well in Pittsburgh. For those of you who do not speak Pittsburghese, jag off means “asshole.” Don’t be a jag off; become a member at Dreaming Ant and tell ’em Iris sentcha.

Which brings me to another thing I love and miss about the Burgh: the accent/dialect. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you might need to hear it for yourself:

Holy moly, that’s good stuff. I know, because I can speak it fluently, n’at, and I ain’t no jag off.

Earlier this week at the Pittsburgh International Airport everywhere I looked was merchandise celebrating the sounds of the Burgh. Hells yeah, it’s ABAHT time, n’at. Fuck all yinz bitches who put me DAHN in high school because you couldn’t tell if I was sayin’ TOWEL or TILE. Being a Pittsburgher is something to be PRAHD of. And not just because Hines Ward won the Mirror Ball Trophy on Dancing with the Stars, n’at.

Get it? Got it? Good. In summary, Pittsburgh rocks. Go there. Meet good people, eat good food, watch good movies. And never carry a gun in a fanny pack. That’s just stupid.

Nostalgically yours,

-Iris

© Copyright 2011, The Bearded Iris.


38 Comments

  1. Hello there! Just a quick comment to say that I have discovered your blog today and I have been laughing so much I may have wet my pants. I think you have become my all-time super-hero! Greetings from Switzerland 😉

  2. Love that you drove cross-country packing a .38. If I haven’t said it before, I’ll say it now: You are da bomb!

  3. I have learnt so much from that, thanks Iris. I just wish my computer had sound so I could hear the accent.

    That sandwich had me baffled though. I could see it was edible, and possibly a sandwich, but couldn’t tell you what it was. Thanks for the description, I do love the idea of chips in a sandwich. Squirrel the unhealthy food into the normal food so you can’t see it, but can taste it. It’s then not your fault you ate it because you didn’t see it, although you got the benefits because it was so good. Makes perfect sense to me.

    And you traveled the country with a gun and a fanny pack? Priceless. (We had an exchange student from the US at our school, years ago – obviously. The poor girl once asked if anyone had seen her fanny pack and the entire class fell on the floor laughing. I’m assuming you know what a fanny is in other parts of the world…?)

  4. Undeclared minor in beer drinking, table dancing, and Greek mating habits?? Honey, ME TOO!!! With that much in common, how could we not combine our efforts and come up with a business where we could make millions??

  5. Hey. Yinz guyz wanna go spray paint some bridges. N’at? Den we’ll go dahn Donnie Iris!

  6. My mother puts her gun under the front seat of her car—much safer. Our best family friends hailed from Pittsburg…its a great place!

  7. You had me at that sandwich, goddamn.

    Where’s the .38 now?

    • In an ankle holster snuggled up against my left shin. Kidding. Sold it a long time ago. Was afraid I’d shoot my foot off. These days I’m armed with a mildly psychotic black lab.

      • And three kiddos. I mean, really…if three kiddos don’t say “crazy pyschotic bitch” ain’t nothin’ does!

  8. Right on sista, ‘burgh can’t be beat. Brought me many good things. Still waitin on that delivery of mocha brownies…

    • You have to pick them up in person when you hit the road this fall! I’ll make a fresh batch when you call me and say you are a few hours away.

  9. Did you put cheese and tomato on PASTRAMI? I love you, Iris, but you just broke my black, shrivelled little NYer heart.

    • I know! It sounds so wrong, but it tastes SO right. At least I didn’t put mayo on it. And the coleslaw is vinagrette based, not creamy. Does that excuse it a little? You have to try it to believe it.

      Hey, if it helps, I only eat my hot dogs “New York style” (sour kraut, mustard, onions). Even though I grew up in Pgh and we as a rule put Heinz ketchup on EVERYTHING.

  10. Iris. IRIS. I have email subscribed to your blog three times, and haven’t gotten a single email. So I come here, and BAM, there are like seven new posts.

    Do your posts show up on Twitter/Facebook? Cause I’m sad now.

    • OMG – thank you so much for telling me! I will go investigate that right now! As for Twitter, yes – there is always an auto Tweet when I publish a new post, but only one (I should do a repeat or two but I usually forget). And on FB, I usually do a status update on the fan page or my profile page (Iris Beard), but yesterday it was giving me trouble and wouldn’t let me post a link. Weird!

      I was wondering where you were! Missed you!

  11. Ha! I live on that same Highway 80 you travelled, in the middle of nowhere in GA. Nice to know someone went somewhere interesting on it!

  12. A Pistol?!?!?! And on your person?!?!?! What up, badazzzz! Well, now I can see how you ended up in the South though. 😉

    • BADAZZZZ! Love it! Kinda true though; can’t deny. That was back in the day… I’m don’t carry anymore. The pen is mightier than the sword. Or like Sean Connery on Celebrity Jeopardy would say: “The penis mightier than the sword.”

  13. I’m glad you left…so you could make purdy babies. But it’s great that you got to take your daughter and have such an amazing time sharing it with her.

    I’ve had the opportunity to hear the accent from friends. Unfortunately, I can’t make fun of them because most of my family is still in Boston…pawking their caws or something.

    P.S. That sandwich looks SO good!

  14. I’ve only had the pleasure of the Pittsburgh airport; now I have MORE wanderlust.

    Nice post.

    • The airport IS pretty nice. But next time schedule a longer stop over and take a cab into the city. The view when you come through the Ft. Pitt tunnel is AMAZING!!! Thanks for reading!

  15. Anyone ever tell you you tawk funny? I grew up in New Hampsha where we spend time at the sto-ah, ayuh. Now I live in NC and ah caint understand a thang you’uns* say.

    *According to Urban Dictionary:
    you’uns = A term used in southern and central Appalachia and adjacent areas to address a group of people. Is pronounced a number of ways varying from you’uns and yuns in rural Appalachia to yins in the Pittsburgh area. Supposedly originated from the phrase “you ones” used by Scots-Irish immigrants.

  16. So much to say…just love it. You found your heart in San Francisco….I didn’t know. I do now. You drove cross country with a gun in a fanny pack…my daughter drove from Reno to South Carolina with one in her car glove compartment!

    I am sure DH has seen the sandwich since he watches Food Network constantly….and you wonder why I am overweight??…..

    Have a wonderful 4th with the rest of your lucky brood!

  17. Seriously, that sandwich had me. I cannot even share this post with Hubby. Because then it will have him. And then we will no longer be satisfied anymore. Now, I’m lusting after a frickin’ sandwich! Seriously! You are sooooo bad for me! Why is it that Hubby lets me be friends with you? Oh yeah, it’s because he enjoys the tears and belly aches I get from reading your blog. We will have to meet up sometime when you go there. I think we may travel there JUST for the sandwich! Looks awesome. And I’m glad to know that you no longer have the pistol. Crazy psychotic bitches don’t need guns. Love ya! 😉

    (And P.S. remember – I’ve got FOUR kids, THREE dogs, a guinea pig, a mouse and a husband. I don’t know where that puts me but I am sure it’s somewhere beyond crazy psychotic bitch)

  18. Great post, and thanks for the shout out. I got all teary-eyed, to be honest. (Though not enough to want to move back to the ‘Burgh just yet…) Those were the days, stinky room and all…

    • OMG, you read it! Such good memories of you, your house, your roomies, Rockridge, East Bay, hanging in SF with Jon K. and Lacey et al, seders, etc., etc.! Those were the days, my friend.

  19. I think I am going to have to add Pittsburg to my must go to list. That sammich has me drooling all over myself at 6 in the morning. I think it’s great that you were able to have a girls trip with your daughter. That’s special. Hope she enjoyed it as much as you did. If not, next time you go. You can detour at the Kansas City or St. Louis airport and pick me up I’d be happy to enjoy one of those Sammiches. Just sayin’. 🙂

  20. Bernie Bickers

    July 5, 2011 at 10:10 am

    Pistol.Packin’.Mama.

  21. And the inclines! Don’t forget the inclines!

  22. oh hilarious! I can hear you talkin’ now. And the Primanti Bros sandwich was one of the best I ever had. Thanks Iris!!

  23. You had me at the “sammich”!!! I drooled, I’ll admit it!!!

    We want to take the kids there, and it’s not that far away it’s a doable long weekend, thank you!

    • Great place to take the kids!! You have to go to the original one in “The Strip District.” (No strippers, I swear. That’s just what they call the warehouse wholesale district.) It’s a chain now, but the original is the BEST! Great shopping while you are down there too! Have a great time!!

  24. Wow- all this time I didn’t realize you were from Pitt. I live an hour north- but went to school at Pitt around the same time as you. I hit a few CMU parties and who knows we may have actually hung out together!!

    I just took my daughter to the Primanti’s in Grove City- restaraunt- not like the dirty one in Oakland but still tasted good!!

    • WOW, Rochelle! Small world! Oh that one in Oakland is gross. I like the Primanti’s in the Strip better. But the hotdogs and fries at the Dirty O? Insane. Thanks for outing yourself, my yinzer sister!

  25. From Pittsburgh really? Another reason to love you. My mom is originally from the ‘burgh and I lived there only until I was 10 but used to love our visits back (haven’t been in a long time). Now, we live just south of Chicago off of I-80 and to this day, my mom still says jag off on a semi-regular basis!

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