Have It Your Way, 'Burgher Kings (and Queens)
Living. Working. In the 'Burgh.
Illustration by Patrick Neil
As the formerly anonymous PittGirl, writing The Burgh Blog,that phrase was actually a large portion of my extremely brief bio. Being anonymous, I couldn't reveal much - that I had children, that I was married, or who my employer was. Instead I went with a general description designed to give away nothing of importance.
Living. Working. In the 'Burgh.
Not long after revealing my identity roughly a year ago, I saw a comment on Twitter that basically said, "Call me crazy, but I thinkPittGirl should at least live in Pittsburgh."
And that's where it began for me. That was the first time I realized that there are some 'Burghers who don't feel as if I can really consider myself a Pittsburgher if I'm not living within the city limits, or at the very least, inside the county line. That I certainly can't call myself a 'Burgher while living (gasp!) 5 miles from the county line (horrifying zombie-movie scream.)
I brushed that Tweet off and carried on. You are a 'Burgher, I told myself:
You have never worked anywhere but downtown Pittsburgh, except for that summer stint in high school when you worked in (gasp!) Monroeville (horrifiying prom-massacre-movie scream.) You own a restaurant in the heart of downtown Pittsburgh. You can name every bridge. You can give out-of-towners directions to their desired destinations in a way that allows them to completely avoid the sight of an orange cone-and that takes serious 'Burgh-smarts. You have kicked enough 'Burgh pigeons that they know your name in the pigeon-hood, and they call you 'Burgh-Satan.
But that little Tweet didn't end it. Here and there, small comments appeared on my blog hinting that I shouldn't care about Pittsburgh's mayor if I can't even vote for him.
Then, following his medical scares, Poison singer Bret Michaels appeared on "The Oprah Winfrey Show," the Holy Grail of worldwide awareness, and proudly called himself a "Pittsburghian." OK, give him half a gold star for that word, but a million more gold stars for considering himself a 'Burgher! Yes! (Opening chord to Poison's "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" rock-concert scream.)
But some readers of my blog begged to differ. "He's not a 'Burgher; he was born in (gasp!) Butler." ("The call is coming from inside the house!" movie scream.)
Just a few weeks later, I referred to Quaker Valley High School graduate and Hollywood actor Wentworth Miller, who still visits the city once a year as "Pittsburgh's own." In a post I was immediately reprimanded me with, "He was born in England, raised in Brooklyn and spent one year in Pittsburgh. Bit of a stretch to call him a 'Burgher."
Then I mentioned on my Pittsburgh magazine blog that I just discovered a Thai restaurant and was criticized by, "It's been open for three years. I suppose it is hard to keep your finger on the culinary pulse of the city when you live in Westmoreland County."
And that's when I was all, "Forehead, meet desk."
When did Pittsburgh become elitist? When did we start having rules for the classification of a 'Burgher?
You can't be a 'Burgher if you live outside Allegheny County, the haters say.
You can't be a 'Burgher if you lived here two years but then moved to Arizona.
You can't be a 'Burgher if you lived here for 20 years and then moved to California 15 years ago and have never set a toenail in the city since.
You can't be a 'Burgher if you reside more than 1 mile outside the county line.
I beg to differ.
You, Bret Michaels, are a 'Burgher. You, Wentworth Miller, are a 'Burgher—who should call me.
I'm a 'Burgher; they're 'Burghers. Would you like to be a 'Burgher, too? Wish granted.
I have long said that being a 'Burgher isn't about real estate; it is a state of mind. Regardless of where you live, whether it is right smack in the center of the 15222 ZIP code or on the outskirts of the 15235, if you've been shaped by the city of Pittsburgh-its culture, its sports teams, its employers, its universities or its rivers-you have my permission to call yourself a 'Burgher.
If you sleep in 15146 but work in 15219: 'Burgher.
If your child goes to school in 15642 but you own a business in 15213: 'Burgher.
If you live and work in 90210, but live and die by the score of the Steelers' game: 'Burgher.
If you live in 75703 but left your heart in 15222: 'Burgher.
Now don't get me wrong. If Prince Charles wakes up tomorrow, throws on a Troy Polamalu jersey and holds a press conference to say, "I ahm a Pittsburgh-ah, n'at," I'm going to call shenanigans on him.
But otherwise, it pleases me that people want to associate themselves with this wonderful city. I'm not going to slam the door on Bret Michaels or Wentworth Miller or Dennis Miller, and I'm not going to slam the door on you.
Not even if you live in (gasp!) Philadelphia. ("Oh, sweet Lord, he's got a chainsaw!" movie scream.)