Well, are we all moving to Pittsburgh?

It is now officially the best place in the United States to live, according to Rand McNally's latest "Places Rated Almanac."

Yes, we knew Steel City had been getting rid of its grimy image, tearing down the smokestacks and putting up glass towers, blowing away the famous smog that used to get your sheets dirty while they were still on the line.

People are calling it the San Francisco of the East. People in Pittsburgh, that is.

Okay, it's a nice town, it's got character and the two rivers and all those bridges and all. But the San Francisco of the East?

San Francisco only ranks fourth.

Come on.

And Yuba City, Calif., comes in dead last, the 329th most livable city in the country.

At the moment Yuba City is mainly known for being the place where mass murderer Juan Corona put 25 dead people in the ground 14 years ago. Still, it is rather a cheery town, with nut orchards and clear skies and a chamber of commerce that is dancing up and down in rage.

Yuba City is worse than Knoxville, Tenn. (No. 14)? Worse than Scranton, Pa. (64)? Than Utica-Rome, N.Y. (104)?

Knoxville is a bewildering tangle of elevated highways and stacks of old tires. Scranton's greatest sight is a mile-long junkyard, a hillside glittering with wrecked cars that have been there since forever. You can see it when you fly over at 30,000 feet. And Utica -- anyone who was born there can tell you Genesee Street has been boarded up for years. True, there is a sprinkling of those little specialty shops that seem to be covering the whole country like freckles. Like freckles, they tend to disappear in the winter.

Utica (forget about Rome; nobody knows why they are always hyphenated) used to be such a Mafia town that Al Capone would visit his cousins there and hold court in the lobby of the Hotel Utica when something was happening in Chicago. Time magazine once said, "If you want to kill somebody, go to Utica. But don't double-park."

Where were we? Pittsburgh.

And if you don't like Pittsburgh, you can always go to Boston. That's No. 2.


The second best city in the United States!

Did you ever try to drive through it?

In the summer?

Come on. Hey.

Atlanta, which was No. 1 in the last ranking, 1981, is now No. 11. What could have happened to make that eager city suddenly worse than Pittsburgh, Boston, Raleigh-Durham, N.C., San Francisco, Philadelphia, Nassau-Suffolk, N.Y., St. Louis, Louisville, Norwalk, Conn., and Seattle?

Maybe it was the same thing that happened to Tulsa, which won praise last time for its low unemployment rate. People started pouring in by the busload three days after the report came out.

Tulsa is 100 this year, down from 78.

Thanks a lot, Rand McNally.

And Washington. Oh, yes, Washington is 15th, tied with Baltimore and down from second place. Washington is worse than Knoxville. Which in turn is worse than Buffalo.

Buffalo is the 13th most delightful city in the U.S.A.

We saw Buffalo in that movie with Goldie Hawn and Burt Reynolds. The snow was up to their ears, and it wasn't even Christmas yet.

The rankings are broken down into nine categories: Education, Transportation, Economics, Recreation, Housing Costs, Crime, Climate, Arts, and Health Care and Environment. Get this: What city is No. 1 for health care and environment?

Would you stand still for New York?

Nothing works in New York. The public phones don't work, the garbage system doesn't work, the commuter trains don't work, the public toilets . . . you wouldn't want to try to find out. And would you like to take an evening stroll in Central Park? This is an environment?

New York also rates best on transportation and arts and worst on crime, averaging out to an overall rank of 25th, between Providence and San Jose.

Only a computer would be silly enough to stack up, side by side, gray old Providence, slurby San Jose . . . and one of the world's great unlivable metropolises.

Only a computer would bring Wilmington, Del., up from 109th to 34th. That's 75 slots! Something astounding must have happened there, but it still looks like Wilmington from the train.

Only a computer would find San Francisco's climate second best in all the 50 states (after Oakland). What does a computer know about eternal fog and chill winds in August? Computers stay indoors in nice clean office buildings.

Redwood City, some 25 miles south, used to have a sign across the highway -- "Climate Best by Government Test" -- and Redwood City isn't even on the list.

Maybe it's just as well. Sharon, Pa., made the rankings for the first time this year, breaking in at No. 246 in a tie with Provo, Utah. Sharon has a population of 19,000. (Redwood City has 55,000, f.y.i. Mr. McNally.) So what does it get for its trouble?

Sharon is declared the Number One Worst Horrible Example in the arts category.

Now, there are a lot of dumb towns in this country. A lot of places where you wince to think about intelligent, sensitive, life-hungry young kids growing up. But what did Sharon ever do to be ranked beneath Texarkana, Kankakee, Ill., and Joplin, Mo.? As Red Skelton used to say of Congress, "Why blame us? . . . [count one, two, three, four] . . . We ain't done nuthin'!"

You can move to Pittsburgh if you want. Me, I'm staying right here.