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!
Portland, Ore., is the land of microbreweries, indie bands, bicyclists and rose gardens. Pittsburgh is often reviled by outsiders for its abrasive-sounding accent and rabid football fans. 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. “Pittsburgh is reasonable-rents, nice scenery, nice downtown, and the people are, in general, just far less insufferable.”
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 beards, Pabst 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.
The natural life span of the hipster has come to an end. What was a lifestyle adopted to make fun of the mainstream has now become the mainstream. There are no more [expletive] hipsters to be looked at (The blog “Look at this [expletive] Hipster” hasn’t been updated since September), and jokes about them — much like every skit on Portlandia — have started to feel a minute or a paragraph too long.
Pittsburgh is poised to offer a new type of lifestyle. And the Steel City has its own bike routes, microbreweries, organic food markets, art and lush scenery. Pittsburgh was named one of the world’s 20 must-see destinations by National Geographic Traveler in 2011 (Only one other place in the United States, Sonoma, Calif., made the list). And with its dramatic merging of two rivers, it has one of the best skylines in America. And don’t forget that it has one of the country’s weirdest and most delicious sandwiches.
It might be a cliche to say that Portland’s 15 minutes are up, but not in an article about Pittsburgh. The man who first uttered that phrase — Andy Warhol — was a native son.