I will have lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for four years this fall. It’s great except for the fact that most of its inhabitants–myself included–actually can’t afford to live here. But there are loads of advantages and unique flavor, like being able to claim an NBA franchise and an official city instrument (the accordion). But I’d be remiss not to mention the things I really miss during the summer months in Pittsburgh:
1. Actual humidity: I know it sounds crazy to miss humidity, but there is nothing worse than stepping out into what you think is a beautifully sunny day, only to be smacked in the face by defiant, inland winds. It was erroneously documented that Mark Twain once said “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” Regardless of who actually said it, it’s not necessarily far from the truth. What’s the point of summer if you still have to wear layers? I now appreciate that summers in Pittsburgh require packing away winter clothes.
2. Cool, finished basements: The BEST way to recover when it’s a little too humid. Many of the houses in the surrounding SF suburbs are ranch-style, so basements are hard to come by. There’s nothing like leaving the arid humidity and blistering sun to descend into a cool, subterranean bunker with a perfectly worn-in old couch. Even better is that most of these refreshing oases feature refrigerators filled with Pittsburgh’s own summer sugar-water trifecta: pop, Hugs (a.k.a. Huggies) and popsicles.
3. Islay’s chip-chopped BBQ: This rivals Primanti’s as Pittsburgh’s most famous sandwich in my humble opinion. Even though I’ve recently stopped eating meat, I dream of lifting the top of a steamy crock pot and inhaling the sweet, bubbling goodness that is BBQ ham and slathering it on fresh Mancini’s italian bread. I have yet to find this delicacy outside of Pittsburgh.
4. Kennywood: Growing up in Pittsburgh will ruin you for multi-site amusement parks like Six Flags. There’s nothing like an amusement park that personally invites you 2-3 times per summer between school picnics, neighborhood days and ethnic celebrations. Selecting pre- and post-Raging Rapids/Log Jammer outfits and mapping the best food sequence are memories that span generations. Insider information (i.e., the Jack Rabbit “jumps” the track and you get squished going around the bend of the Thunder Bolt when you sit on the left side), oral histories (e.g., Garfield’s Nightmare used to be The Old Mill and Phantom’s Revenge used to be the Steel Phantom which used to be the Laser Loop) and urban myths (e.g., The skull and crossbones warning is on the Racers because a child stood up and subsequently died), are passed down among families and communities like ham BBQ recipes.
5. Ethnic/Church festivals: What’s summer without a sun-drenched celebration at the local Sons of Italy, Greek Orthodox Church, or Insert-your-catholic-saint here Church? So hot that you expect the delightful seniors citizens who wait all year to cook and serve thousands of people to slump over from heat stroke but praise Saint _______ they never do. So hot that everyone fans themselves with the stiffest piece of paper they can find until night fall when the winner of the 50/50 raffle is finally announced, they can grab their take-home dessert and go.
6. Dairy Queen: I watched the Pittsburgh Dad “Little League” video because I was 1000% sure DQ would be mentioned; I wasn’t disappointed. Its an after-sport tradition for children who engage in intramural sports and the parents forced to watch. While DQ is a national chain, out here in health conscious and wealthy SF, the fast food places I grew up with are few and far between. Sure, I can get a hot fudge sundae with peanuts elsewhere, but it’s a sad excuse for the real deal–the one and only Peanut Buster Parfait.
Shanna K Houser Contributor/Freelance Writer