Tagged: Pittsburgh

A love letter to Squirrel Hill

I loved Pittsburgh from the moment I stepped out of my parents’ mini-van for a tour of Pitt 13 years ago. The sun shone bright and high in the sky, and the Cathedral of Learning (still covered in soot back then), reached up to it as if in prayer. It felt like home already, though I’d only just arrived.

When I graduated four years later, the decision to stay was easy. By then I’d learned how precious those few sunny days were, how inadequate and frustrating the public transit was, how the neighborhoods were divided—segregated, essentially—by race. I stayed because, despite the negatives, despite the downsides, it still felt like home. I was young and thought, too, that maybe I could make things better. Not just in Pittsburgh, but the world.

I’ve never lived in Squirrel Hill, but I did and still do spend a lot of time there. As a student I spent countless Friday nights at the now-closed Barnes & Noble, spending what little money I had on books and more books. I wrote endless pages of terrible novels at the 61C Cafe, smoking clove cigarettes on the patio and watching the bright sunflowers nod in the breeze. And on late nights, studying or just escaping from the pain of a bad breakup or another rejection, I sat with my friends in Eat ‘n’ Park, drinking stale coffee and eating pie that tasted like cardboard, but the taste wasn’t the point anyway.

My favorite tea shop is in Squirrel Hill (Margaret’s), my favorite diner (Pamela’s—specifically the Squirrel Hill one), the best gaming store (Games Unlimited). I always find something delightful at The Exchange (the Star Wars soundtrack on 8 track, for example). My friends live there, and when out-of-town friends visit we meet up at 61C or Common Place. I spent two and a half years at Chatham, heading to the Squirrel Cage with friends after class for a stiff drink and literary dreaming.

In my boring adult life, I spend one Sunday a month in Squill (as we affectionately call it) pretending to be an X-Man with my nerd friends. We usually go out for a post-gaming dinner at Cafe 33, which is arguably the best Asian restaurant in the whole damn city. The Barnes & Noble is gone, but we have two indies in its place: Classic Lines and Amazing Books. 61C is still one of my go-to writer hangouts, especially in summer. I don’t visit Eat ‘n’ Park as much, but it’s tradition to kick off NaNoWriMo there at midnight on November 1 every year, and I plan to be there tonight.

D.J. and I often head to Pamela’s for a weekend brunch after a run. When we miss the North Side’s Friday farmer’s market, we stop by the Squirrel Hill market on Sunday for our local produce. I go out of my way to use the Post Office there, because the clerks are always smiling.

In short, I love Squirrel Hill.

On Saturday, a racist Nazi murderer walked into the Tree of Life Synagogue and massacred 11 people gathered for worship and community. The signs were there—after all, we elected a blatantly racist president who called literal Nazis “some fine people,” and just last year another racist Nazi spread anti-Semitic flyers all over the neighborhood.

My heart is broken, and it cracks anew every time I open the news or social media and see the world over talking about what happened here. I want the world to know and love the Squirrel Hill I know. The multicultural neighborhood full of love and such a vibrant community. I didn’t directly know anyone involved in the shooting. But I know people who do. They are my friends, they are my neighbors. They are my community. Every act of horrific mass violence like this cuts me to the quick, but this one hurts more because Pittsburgh is my home.

I’m a white woman. I’m almost always “safe.” And if I feel as if the world is stuttering to a stand still a thousand times a day, I cannot imagine the pain and grief my Jewish friends and the local and global Jewish community is going through. And what’s more, this was not the only shooting this weekend. This was not the only recent Pittsburgh tragedy. This the way things are, but this is not the way things have to be. It starts with me. It starts with you.

Together, we are stronger than hate. Love alone is not enough. We must stand whenever and wherever injustice strikes in this city we call home, whether against our Jewish neighbors, our Black neighbors, our immigrant neighbors, our refugee neighbors.

Stand for Antwon Rose.

Stand for Irving Younger.

Stand for Melvin Wax.

Stand for Bernice and Sylvan Simon.

Stand for Jerry Rabinowitz.

Stand for Joyce Feinberg.

Stand for Richard Gottfried.

Stand for Daniel Stein.

Stand for Cecil and David Rosenthal.

Stand.

Photo Friday: Urban wildlife in Spring Hill

One of my favorite things about the City of Pittsburgh is how much green space we have, especially up in the hillier neighborhoods. We have a resident herd of deer we see at least once a week while we’re out walking, a nesting pair of hawks that probably had some babies this year (they were guarding their nest something fierce!), at least a few species of snakes, and new this year, a ton of monarch butterflies!

Here are a few photos I’ve taken throughout the summer. They’re not the highest quality because I used my cell phone, but they give you an idea of the animal friends who live on the hill with us.

Three bucks.

Our three bucks. There’s a fourth baby buck hiding just out of frame.

 

monarch caterpillar on milkweed

A monarch caterpillar chomping away at the milkweed I planted last year. I saw a monarch flying around my yard a few days ago–maybe it was the same one! I have yet to snag a successful photo of a monarch butterfly, but I’ll keep trying. I’ve also seen some tiger swallowtails and a few smaller species hanging around.

 

a German shepherd with a big blue ball

It’s the rare German shepherd dog! Okay, so Jaina isn’t exactly wild life, but how could I not throw in a photo of her?

 

He’s pretty hard to make out, but this is what I believe to be a baby milk snake! We encountered him on a walk a few days ago. It was already dark, and his camouflage was in full effect, but we had the power of a flash light on our side. Milk snakes are great because they eat insects when they’re young and rodents when they are older. You can’t tell from this photo, but his markings were bright red.

Miss Migraine: The trouble with migraines in college part 3: A solution

Banner that says "The Adventures of Miss Migraine"

The Adventures of Miss Migraine is an ongoing column about my life with chronic migraine. A version of this post appeared first on my blog of the same name on September 1, 2012. I wanted to re-post this series now, in hopes that it will help anyone getting ready to head off to college for the first time, or going back to college. College is hard enough without migraines! Read part one and part two.

The trouble with migraines in college: A solution

After failing to get recognition or respect for the serious health condition that was affecting my school work, I felt angry, drained, and frustrated. I mentioned my frustrations to my neurologist, and she said to me, quite simply, “Go through your school’s disability services.”

Out loud, I believe I said something like, “Oh, that makes sense, I hadn’t thought of that.”

But internally, my reaction was more along the lines of, “I CAN DO THAT?! I QUALIFY FOR SPECIAL ACCOMMODATIONS?!”

The next day, I approached disability services to get the process started. I happened to know the disability services coordinator well. She was aware of my condition, and when I told her I wanted to apply, she said, “You should have done this much sooner!”

If only I had known I could! The thought never once crossed my mind before my doctor suggested it. None of my other doctors had mentioned the possibility, even when I’d told them about my problems. (In my opinion, that’s another reason to see an actual headache and migraine specialist, because he or she will know and understand how serious the condition actually is, and be able to help you get services and accommodations you may need outside of the doctor’s office.)

The moment my disability paperwork was processed and approved, and letters were delivered to my professors, I felt a relief so powerful I almost cried at work. Now, finally, someone had recognized how much pain I exist in every day. Someone had recognized that what I do is not easy for me to do, because I have to do it through this cloud of pulsing, aching, and often confusion. Someone had recognized that I wasn’t making any of this up, that I wasn’t trying to get out of homework or class, that I simply wanted to get through my classes, learn as much as possible, and not ruin my health in the process.

My particular accommodations call for flexibility with deadlines. That doesn’t mean I can hand work in whenever I feel like. I have to communicate with my professors. I have to tell them what I need, and when I’m not feeling well. I have to be open and honest with myself about what I can and cannot accomplish within a given time period. That’s the most difficult part for me.

I do not like admitting weakness. I do not like asking for help. Nor do I like handing in sloppy work. I’m paying a lot for this degree in writing, and I want to get my money’s worth out of it. That means that when I hand a piece of my writing to one of these talented and skilled people whom I am indirectly paying a large sum of money, I want it to be as good as I can make it, so that they can help me make it better. I get nothing out of handing them a slip-shod story with many problems that I could fix myself given more time.

So I’m learning that asking for help isn’t a weakness, but a sign of self-awareness and strength. I’m not weak at all. I’ve accomplished incredible things with migraine hanging over my life, and I will continue to do so. But there’s simply no reason for me to struggle against disbelief, misunderstanding, and the bad or lazy intentions of students who’ve come before me. So I don’t, and I’m grateful that there’s an easier way.

How do you handle your migraines in college, graduate school, work, or another stressful environment?

%d bloggers like this: