Part 1 — A Visit to Pittsburgh’s Famous Penn Brewery
Part 2 — Dining With the Weinstocks (Grand Concourse Restaurant)
This week, I’m visiting Pittsburgh.
This city was pretty much a hellhole a century ago. Once cloistered with gritty steel mills and coal depots, giant smokestacks barreled out a toxic blanket of blackness, gradually turning day into night, transforming any human lung within breathing distance into something that resembled a charred Brillo pad.
Today, Pittsburgh is a very different city. A much cleaner city. A city completely transformed. Virtually unrecognizable in many ways from its early heyday as a buckle on the rust belt, what once was an industrial junction of steel, coal, and railroads is now a major center for banking, medicine, and higher education.
Yet even now Pittsburgh retains a core toughness about it, rooted in the rocky cliffs towering over the city’s three rivers and picturesque downtown, capped with fresh snow in early December. It’s a city of contrasts — of tradition and innovation, of rivers and bridges, of long drives and short walks.
Pittsburgh’s also home to countless local breweries. One of the oldest is the famous Penn Brewery, perched atop a hill in the historic working-class district of Deutschtown, once the home to thousands of struggling steel mill workers which ultimately helped spark the formation and eventual power of trade unions in America.
A stadium hasn’t been constructed yet that can keep me out.
Well, maybe one. More on that later.
This week, I’m visiting Pittsburgh. The hotel and casino where I’m staying are adjacent to the stadium where the Pittsburgh Steelers play their home games. I’d mention the actual name of the stadium, except that the ketchup company which pimped the naming rights isn’t sending me a royalty check, so you’ll just have to try and guess the official name of the place.
I have a fetish for stadiums. Like some kind of sick pervert. Some guys like tits and ass. I get a rise out of triple-deck overhangs and natural grass. As far back as I can remember, I’ve made pilgrimages to every stadium humanly possible whenever I visited a new city. Seeing stadiums up close in person are not only impressive as the architectural marvels they are, they’re also part of history. Exciting things happen in stadiums, especially for us sports fans.
Moreover, visiting a stadium adds a much greater sense of perspective. Watching a football game on television gives the average fan no sense of the actual experience of attending a game. Sure, I’d rather stay at home too, and flip my Direct TV channels back and forth along with everyone else. I also don’t fancy forking over $300 for seats in the end zone. But there’s also a rite of passage of going to games when you can — parking, walking to the gate, taking a seat, tasting the shitty food, freezing your ass off, getting into fist-fights, and witnessing everything first-hand. Otherwise, you really don’t “get it.” It’s the difference between seeing your favorite band live in concert versus listening to a studio recording. Sure, the sound quality is much better on your the iPod. But which is the better “experience?”
Steve Dannenmann (Republican-Maryland) with Nolan Dalla (Socialist-Nevada) in Pittsburgh
I almost never watch NFL games in public. Too much drama.
But today was an exception.
On assignment for the latest “Poker Night in America” event taking at the Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh, we football fans couldn’t help ourselves. We had to find a bank of televisions in order to watch all the games that were played on Sunday.
Lucky us. We found the perfect spot at Jerome Bettis’ sports bar, which just so happens to be across the street from the west end zone of the Pittsburgh Steelers stadium.
The guest list started off small, and then grew steadily as the day lengthened and the winners started rolling in. Cha-ching! I don’t want to crow. Let’s just say it was a good day.
Of all the places I’ve run, higher elevations are always the most challenging.
They higher up you go, the less oxygen there is to breath. While “sea level” versus “5,000 feet” might not seem like a big difference, it really is — especially when you’re working out and gasping for air. This becomes critical after a few miles, because there’s just not enough oxygen to breath without getting a bit light-headed.
In sports, we often hear about visiting teams playing in cities like Denver and Salt Lake City, and getting winded late in the game. I think it’s the same for amateur athletes and recreational runners, too — like me. Probably even more so for someone a bit older, since we’re not in nearly as good physical condition as younger people used to this elevation.
I’m visiting Reno over the next week, staying at the famous Peppermill, which is located in the center of the city. In fact, there’s a small lake nearby. From the vantage point of my hotel room window, this seemed like the perfect place for my daily run.
I like exercising at high altitude (Reno is perched at 4,400 feet). But it’s admittedly challenging. A few weeks ago, I visited South Lake Tahoe which is a heart-melting 6,200 feet in elevation. That’s always been the most difficult of my many runs over the years (sea level is by far the easiest). It’s also much colder there, too. In fact, each time at Lake Tahoe I had to scale back my distances to just three miles or so, because I’m simply not used to the thin air.