Pittsburgh is officially our favorite city of the trip. Today, we experienced a wide variety of distinctly Pittsburgh things. Our first stop was Bicycle Heaven, which is one of the most insane things I have ever seen. It is a family-owned collection of bicycles that took decades to acquire and curate. Many of them are for sale, but you can spend hours here just looking around and taking photos.
For lunch, we drove over to the Shadyside neighborhood and had some awesome grilled cheese sandwiches at The Yard. Next up was the lovely Phipps Conservatory, which happens to be free on Mondays and is a great way to spend an afternoon.
No visit to Pittsburgh is complete without a trip up and down the historic Duquesne Incline. People still use it every day as part of their normal routine, but it’s the views from the top that attract tourists and travelers. Once at the top, you can also get a behind-the-scenes peek at how the technology of the incline works. It’s worth the extra couple of quarters they charge for entry.
We finished the day with a brief hike in the hills and a walk along the recently redone waterfront where the three rivers meet. Dinner was at Sharp Edge in the Cultural District, which is a fine example of why you shouldn’t necessarily judge a restaurant by its decor. Try the Belgian Burger!
We are finally north of the Mason-Dixon and the landscape is starting to look like home. We’re still about 6 hours west of New York, but we are clearly back in the northeastern United States. After spending the morning on the road, we drove through the 279 tunnel and as we emerged on the other side, Pittsburgh came into full view. It was a very dramatic reveal. You could see the entire city tucked in the hills, but also the more suburban areas around and above the downtown area. I have never been to Pittsburgh before, but I liked it immediately.
Our first stop in Pittsburgh was, of course, the Andy Warhol Museum. Although I have an enormous appreciation for his contribution to art history, other than his screen printing work, I am not overly enamored with him. It was interesting to see where he came from and how he evolved as an artist. The museum was slightly underwhelming and I was really annoyed to find out they have a “No Photography” policy. I found this to be more than a bit ironic, given that Andy Warhol made his fame and fortune by taking pictures of celebrities and appropriating other people’s work.
After we checked in to our hotel — which was filled with people who were obviously in town for Sunday’s Steelers/Niners game — we walked around the Strip District in the rain and stopped at Primanti Bros. for a Pittsburgher. Yes, that sandwich with french fries on it that you’ve always heard about. It’s ridiculous.
A lot has been written lately about how inaccessible San Diego Comic-Con has become to the average fan. Between the ridiculous ticket situation and $700 per night hotel rooms, I am inclined to agree. The cost and logistics involved in attending SDCC put it out of reach for most who aren’t industry insiders or friends of industry insiders.
I was able to attend the event for the first time this year, only because I am a member of the latter group. Friends in weird places. Or something. Badges were secured at the last minute, along with a hotel room and parking at the Manchester Grand Hyatt, all gratis. My girlfriend and I left Los Angeles on Thursday morning and a mere two and a half hours later, we were smack dab in the middle of Nerdville, USA.
When we first pulled into town, I was blown away by how much SDCC is embraced by the city of San Diego. Obviously, it brings in hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue for the local economy each year, but residents and businesses really get into it. The valets at our hotel were all wearing Batman t-shirts and the front desk folks were decked out in Captain America apparel. Buses, trains and entire buildings were wrapped with giant advertisements for movies and TV shows. Restaurant employees, cab drivers and security guards all seemed genuinely happy to have us there.
Yes, it gets crowded. 130,000+ people invaded downtown San Diego this year. And yes, it’s a giant marketing opportunity for movie studios, publishers and toy manufacturers. That’s okay. These are the people who make the things we love.
A little patience goes a long way at Comic-Con. Two of my friends were almost trampled to death by rabid Game Of Thrones fans when the cast walked onto the convention center floor. Although my previous statement is a slight exaggeration of the truth, that is the only negative thing I heard about all weekend.
Spoiler alert: I had a great time! Everyone was smiling. People were excited to be there and generally polite. Whenever I did accidentally bump into someone, or got bumped into, the exchange of apologies was cordial and enthusiastic.
Having fun at Comic-Con doesn’t require waiting in line for three days to get into Hall H or getting up at the crack of dawn to try and snag every single exclusive item from every single booth. I bought a couple of cool toys and some awesome t-shirts, ate really good food at local restaurants, hung out with friends and even got to meet a few artists and celebrities.
A lot of creativity and hard work goes into this event every year and seeing it all come together will absolutely blow your mind. San Diego Comic-Con made me feel like a kid again. If you are unable to enjoy yourself in this environment, you are either lost or you’re trying way too hard.