Today is the third annual Pittsburgh blog exchange event that my pal Alex dreamt up and organizes each year with panache, patience, and maybe a secret flick of a magic wand. It’s so much fun to participate in and this year it has grown exponentially!
I’m excited to be hosting Alex from A Body of One’s Own! Every Pittsburgher has their own personal collection of local gems, and today Alex has curated her own list! And if you would like to read my guest post, a fictional account of Mr. Rogers’ day in the neighborhood, please see your way to Ya Jagoff!
Before I lead you to thinking I’m some sort of yoga-master, green-juice drinking, Buddhist type person, let me clarify by saying I’m not. I often wish that I were, but the parameters of my daily life in addition to my own personal human condition really get in the way of this. That doesn’t mean I don’t strive to be calm and centered, it’s just not always in the works that day. The best that I could do? Redefine what it means to meditate. Years ago, I recall sitting in the dead center of my parents’ backyard with my legs criss-crossed and my hands raised toward either side of my head. I did some “Ohm’s” like I knew how to shut my brain off. Not only was I interrupted by my father who began shouting, “What the hell are you doing up there?” but I realized that shutting my brain off was not going to happen. I didn’t give up, though. Instead of putting extraneous amounts of effort into not forming thoughts, I sought out a way to fine-tune my thoughts.
A few months into year 22 on this earth, and I’m realizing all the things you do when you get there. What it all boils down to is being an adult kind of sucks. I won’t settle for that. I’ve managed to do some pretty cool things that were never on my agenda. I’ve crafted a life for myself that makes no sense at all on paper. I live all alone, I work mostly under the table with no security, I write for a living despite thinking I can’t write at all (you can be the judge…), and I opted not to go to school. I have all the freedom in the world, but it’s lacking security. I tell people with real lives and careers and babies what I do and their immediate response is skeptical. I am happy, sure, but there’s a lot of pressure to do a bunch of things I don’t want to do. Ya know, for the future or whatever.
On this journey I had from failing, flailing teenager to almost-functioning adult with a kinda-sorta career underway, Pittsburgh has stayed just about the same. And thank goodness. I realized in my mission to experience the ultimate sense of clarity that nothing can put me back in my happy place better than the appreciation I have for this city can. When I find the opportunity to take time to myself, I know exactly where to go to get my zen on. These are the places that are like home to me, which in turn allows me to breathe, sit (or sweat!), and think. That’s my meditative state – a place that lets me really live in the moment.
1. Primal Fitness Pittsburgh
So, I was on the hunt for a new fitness routine as usual. I used to kinda-sorta be a runner, but my heart wasn’t in it anymore. It no longer felt like a time I could meditate, rather running had become an obligation. I decided that I wanted to lift heavy things instead. As a certified Instagram stalker, I had my eye on Janelle (@primalburgher) who was always posting pictures of her kettlebell gym. I got in touch with her because I thought we probably had a few things in common. Turns out I was right. Upon first meeting her, I signed over my life and money to her. I’ll admit, I was afraid. I had no idea what I was doing, not that she expected me to. Over the past couple of months, I’ve grown stronger and more in touch with my body and mind each day I train with her and the amazing staff and clients she has. She focuses on functional movement and strengthening the entire body. The studio also offers calisthenics courses which are generally high-intensity bodyweight circuits. Janelle has not only made me SUPER BUFF (see photos below), but she has offered me a kindness and compassion that is irreplaceable. I feel lucky to work with her. Bonus: we have the weirdest crew ever. Seriously, these people are insane (in the best way possible), and sometimes we go on group outings. I’m so happy to call them my friends. 10/10 would recommend this gym to anyone from a beginner to someone who has a background in strength training.
2. Zeke’s Coffee Pittsburgh
This place is the key to my success. If I didn’t have Zeke’s, I’d probably be far too sleepy to do much else with my time. I started going here before they moved across the street where they’re set up now. The shop was teeny-tiny, but I fell in love with the coffee (small-batch roasts!) and their incredible staff. I dog-sit about a mile down the road, so I tend to walk here with the pup. I quickly befriended the baristas, and all the regulars quickly befriended the malamute. While the coffee has always delivered, the renovations and new location are my go-to place when I want to just sit and take a breather. It’s a glorious, quiet moment in my daily routine. I feel at home when I go here. I look forward to seeing my baristas and sometimes getting free coffee. Bonus: all the pastries are baked in-house, and they always have a selection of local goodies including Gluten-Free Goat for those of you with a long list of dietary restrictions like me.
3. North Shore Riverfront Park and Trail
Despite no longer identifying as a “runner,” I still like to run sometimes because it does wonders to clear my head. The aforementioned gym I attend is conveniently located right on this trail, so now that the sun is making more frequent appearances, I like to take advantage. I like that this segment is pretty long and scenic, and it also leads straight to Point State Park if you go far enough. My favorite detour to take is into downtown to Wood Street Galleries for double the zen action. The selling point for me is the opportunity to run across a bridge or two. Then again, where can’t you do that in Pittsburgh?
4. Stage AE
Nothing helps me get centered like live music. I grew up going to concerts. Besides the Backstreet Boys (every girl of the 90’s first concert), my first “rock show” was Incubus way back in 2004. I thought the lead singer was hot, and my mom couldn’t stop laughing at the way he danced. I also met Steven Tyler from Aerosmith in the fourth grade. I didn’t have the same affinity for his looks the way my mother did. My horizons have thankfully expanded since. I spent my middle school days chasing around emo bands on tour, having them sign my glittery skull t-shirts from Hot Topic. In high school, I became a total festival junkie after my first year at Lollapalooza. There is something that has never changed about the way I feel submerged in a sweaty pool of people and very loud guitar. It’s almost like an out-of-body experience. I love all the little venues around Pittsburgh, but the most recent show I went to was Sleater-Kinney at Stage AE. I left feeling empowered. It was a very special evening. Since they opened this venue, I’ve attended some of the best concerts of my life.
5. Riding Meadows Dog Park
If you have a dog, GO HERE. Even if you don’t, you should go here. I mention this place to everyone I meet, and nearly nobody has heard of it. Consider it a hidden gem amongst the field club and strip mall of Fox Chapel. The hiking is good and mildly challenging, which is something Frick Park lacks. As a native yinzer, I have grown to love the hills. I get confused without them. Both parks are beautiful and fantastic for dogs, but at Riding Meadows, the entire area is off-leash. This means no grumpy people screaming about your dog the size of a wolf frightening their shih-tzu. Bonus: Burgatory is a totally valid lunch option right down the road.
6. Highway Robbery Vintage
When all else fails, I go shopping. Try as I might, some bad days just cannot be healed without a little retail therapy. Kate at Highway Robbery is curating the most whimsical vintage collection of clothing I have ever seen. Every time I pop in to the shop, I find multiple things that I can’t leave without. This can either be good or bad depending on your financial situation, but nothing says “living in the moment” like a funky impulse buy. She posts highlights on her Instagram page (@highwayrobberyvintage) where you can give her a call and tell her to reserve it for you. She carries both men’s and women’s clothing. Bonus: if your dog is friendly, her store is too. This list is slowly but surely becoming “Places You Can Take Your Dog,” but everything is arguably more worthwhile with a fuzzy companion in tow.
There ya have it. These are a few of my favorite things. I find my solace in these places in one way or another. I focused mainly on places you can go all alone and have a good time. Today’s society shuns solitude, and we are conditioned to feel lonely and awkward when we venture into the hustle and bustle by ourselves. From the city to the forest, Pittsburgh has a lot of places that diminished this preconceived notion from my mind entirely. It’s good to be alone sometimes, and it’s good to seek out an environment where you can make an escape – if only for an hour or two.
Thank you, Alex! Please check out more of Alex’s writing over at A Body Of One’s Own and feel free to click through the below collection of links to read more guest posts! It’s a great lineup.